During the Second World War, the British submarine HMS – P311 (class T) departed from Malta on a mission against the Italian Navy. She sank in January 1943 after hitting the antisubmarine mines located to protect the port of La Maddalena.
Shipping documents confirm the presence on board of 17 British service members. It was the sub’s first mission. The state of the vehicle, damaged by a possible explosion, but without visible holes, reveals that the crew was possibly killed because of lack of air.
The Genovese diver Massimo Bondone, expert Underwater Technical Operator and passionate of wreck diving and recreational sailing, found the submarine after 73 years.
We’ve got in touch with Massimo who has kindly agreed to exchange a few words in between dives.
Nico de Corato: Hello Massimo. In addition to the congratulations for the discovery, we join you in dedicating a thought to the crew and the families that for many years have had no news of their loved ones. How long did it take you to complete this feat?
Massimo Bondone: I started being actively interested in the P311 in 2015, although I was aware of its possible presence in Sardinian waters thanks to the information given on www.relitti.it. Many times a research lasts years; it remains dormant waiting for something to push it forward; sometimes all it takes is a name, a number or just a little luck.
Thanks to the web, researching is much easier than once, even if you have to be very careful in assessing what you find online. Fortunately, there are subject matter experts for any subjects, be it a submarine or surface vessel.
It is very important to find a testimony of both parties to make an objective assessment; in the case of the P311, news reported of a massive explosion off the coast of Tavolara, in the days in which the attack was to take place at the base of La Maddalena. Knowing that there were minefields and of the enemy attack attempt, it is quite easy to think of a sinking due to a mine.
Also, no bodies and floating wreckage was found; this made me think that the P311 could possibly lie intact or near the bottom … and that is how I saw it for the first time after 73 years.
NdC: When you are looking for a wreck, is there a time when you say “that’s enough; it can’t be found, I abandon the feat?” What brings a team not to continue a search?
MB: There is a point of no return in these efforts and you get close to it when difficulties appear insurmountable. Adverse weather, difficult operating conditions, excessive expenses (there is no economic return).
Then, at the last minute, something changes and the result is the P311. In my case, the trigger was the assistant Luca Magliacca that pressed me not to give up, in addition to the very few people that know of this research. To get valuable results, a team or an individual must be deeply motivated, in such a way as to resist to the inevitable disappointments.
If the target is seen only as a peak to climb, once it is reached, it quickly loses its charm. Instead in wreck diving, the diving does outweigh everything else, but not quite.
If a wreck reveals itself not as beautiful as expected, there is still the satisfaction of having found and identified it; luckily for me, the P311 is gorgeous; great was the satisfaction for the discovery, the identification and the reaction of the relatives of the crew.
The world’s media hype has certainly not disappointed me. The news was presented as accurately as possible.
NdC: What is the most delicate or complex moment in an effort of this kind?
MB: The psychological aspect is the most complex moment; the rest are things I’ve been used to for years. Everything that characterizes diving in deep water can be dealt with the necessary experience and equipment. It is more difficult to control the urge to go “beyond” through cold reasoning; in a nutshell you have to understand when it’s time to stop.
NdC: Which feats have given you the greatest satisfaction?
MB: Many; recently the discovery and identification / documentation of the Kreta at a depth of 170 mt in Tuscany. It was a diving of a great sports and documentary value; the Kreta is the only wreck of its kind found in the Mediterranean.
NdC: What advice would you give to lovers / experts who want to approach the wrecks’ world?
MB: The only advice I can give is … never give up, the wreck hunting is a marathon, only those who resist for a long time, reach the bottom.
NdC: Are you in favor of projects considering the controlled sinking of wrecks to enhance certain areas?
MB: Absolutely in favor of controlled sinkings; they promote tourism, fish re-stocking and spread the passion for wreck diving.
NdC: One last question. Have you ever been to Dubai? Have you ever dived in that area?
MB: No, I came through in transit when I worked on the boats of an Italian company in those areas; I never dived there; I do not know those areas.