For 80 years it lay at the bottom of the Aegean without anyone knowing its exact location. But the inspection of a submarine fiber optic cable by the team of Costas Thoctaridis, brought to light another shipwreck: that of the Italian submarine Jantina, which sank on July 5, 1941 from the torpedoes of the British submarine HMS Torbay.
“We located Jantina at a depth of 103 meters, off Mykonos,” Costas Thoktaridis told APE-MPE. “We knew he was in this area, but we did not know exactly where.” The detection was made possible thanks to the submarine remote-controlled vehicles available to Mr. Thoktaridis’s company in the context of inspections of underwater projects, such as pipelines and cables. More than an “underwater inspector”, however, Mr. Thoktaridis is a fan of naval history – a passion that has not left him since he was twenty.
Almost three decades later, Costas Thoktaridis counts the location of four modern shipwrecks. The most recent, which was located in collaboration with the Navy, was the Katsonis submarine. His discoveries cover the whole of Greece – Mykonos, Skiathos, Kefalonia, Saronic Gulf. But how many shipwrecks lie at the bottom of the Greek seas? “My estimate is that a quarter has been identified in total,” he said, based on his shipwreck record after years of study. “Greece is a country with a very important naval history. “There is historical wealth in every region,” he added.
Costas Thoktaridis does, in all respects, a rare job. It has nine submarine remote-controlled vehicles, called ROVs, which can reach a depth of 1000 meters to collect images and information. Such vehicles have been used to inspect historic shipwrecks, such as the Titanic. But how does he experience this relationship with the seabed? “It’s fascinating, you don’t meet a submarine every day, it’s a journey through history,” he replies.
The author of six books, including “Shipwrecks on the Greek Seabed” which includes the story of twenty shipwrecks and is almost sold out, Costas Thoktaridis, is now thinking of capturing the story of Jantina and locating him in a documentary.
The Italian submarine, informs us Costas Thoctaridis, was launched in 1932 in La Spezia, Italy and was of the Argonauta class. Its length was 61,5 meters, width 5,65 meters and its diving displacement was 810 tons. On the surface it had a maximum cruising speed of 14 knots, while in diving 8. Its maximum operational depth was 80 meters. Its armament consisted of 4 torpedo tubes in the bow and 2 in the stern. It also had a naval cannon 102/35.
On his last voyage he had sailed from Leros. The submarine was carrying 48 people. On the afternoon of July 5, 1941, it sailed to the surface, south of Mykonos, heading west. In the wider sea area was the British submarine HMS Torbay, which had sailed from Alexandria, Egypt and was conducting its 3rd offensive patrol in the Aegean.
“The confrontation of two submarines is a rare naval event,” says Mr. Thoktaridis. The HMS Torbay, according to the war diary compiled by its commander immediately after the attack, located Jantina from a distance of 4 nautical miles, sounded the alarm and, being at a periscope depth, took the attack position. At 20:16 he launched a torpedo attack with a bunch of 6 torpedoes from a distance of 1500 yards. It was too late for the Jantina crew to hear the special and sharp sound of torpedoes running through the water.
The first two torpedoes passed in front of the Italian submarine without finding a target. At 20:17, however, the second group of torpedoes found a target and created a very strong explosion. The result was the rapid sinking of the Italian submarine. From the JANTINA crew, finally only six people managed to escape by swimming under difficult conditions to Delos.
The vehicle spotted by the Italian submarine is called Super Achille. As it turned out, the submarine lies on the bottom with the left side, and the turret and the 102 mm deck cannon can be seen. The periscopes are lowered and the manhole of the turret is open. Part of the bow has been cut off from the rest of the submarine.
And the next mission? “She wants her time,” replies Costas Thoktaridis. Mr. Thoktaridis’ specially equipped boat, “Oceanis”, is already ready. His daughter, who has been a member of the research team for the last few years, is also ready. Her name is Oceanis and she inherited the passion from her father.