Meccaniche Veneziane pays homage to the glorious memory of extraordinary men who, aware of the imminent danger’s entity, with noble abnegation didn’t give up on defending the submarine Nereide, unhesitatingly sacrificing themselves for their country.
The Jugoslav salvage ship Splasilach stopped at 250 meters from the coast, gently sliding on the sea’s bleak surface. That day, the waves were saturated with blue and were elegantly overlapping each other, allowing the crew to peer through the rippling lather, searching for a blurred shadow in the deep. The divers plunged into the water on alternate shifts, eight per time, flanked by the TV’s cameras that had arrived with trepidation to document the historic event. They nimbly swam to the seabed, 37 meters below, opposing the impetuous current to unveil secrets that had been kept under a layer of obscurity for too long. Once they had reached their destination, for a moment, the scene seemed to crystalize. The divers’ figures were suspended in the Adriatic’s cold embrace, surrounded by the motionless enchantment of a bewitching underwater frame, their profiles were gracefully dancing in that forgotten corner of Mediterranean Sea. Under them was silently laying Nereide, abandoned on the sea floor’s deserted desolation.
Even though 57 years had passed, the submarine seemed to be in relatively good conditions. Perhaps the waves, with due regard for its tragic story, had renounced to rage on its defenseless body. Despite the absence of the first shell and the wooly glaze hiding the underlying metal, the submarine was unbelievably well-preserved. While drilling it, a dense column of bubbles rose from the Nereide, as if it had miraculously started to breathe again. It looked like the war hero had simply dozed off, waiting to be enlisted for a new mission. After the conclusion of the operations with the blow torch, the submarine was carefully lifted, and finally returned to the surface. After more than half a century of solitary captivity, the submarine gloriously reappeared like a legendary creature, boldly re-emerging from the obscure abysses of a lost world, celebrated by a nostalgic breeze.
Just five months before, in January, the Jugoslav government had decided to indulge the Italian Foreign Office’s insistent requirement to recover the submarine that sank in Pelagosa on 5th August 1915 and then exhume the corpses and give them a dignified burial. The Nereide, mysterious crypt, had lived paramount adventures before facing its inexorable destiny.
Commissioned to engineer De Bernardis and built in 1911-1913 at the Arsenal in Venice, it was the first Italian submarine to be charged with a mission during World War I. Nereide vaunted extraordinary proportions and unmatched peculiarities: it was 134 feet and 4 inches long and could reach a maximum of 13.2 knots when surfaced and 8 knots when submerged. After Italy joined the war, its armed forces occupied the island of Pelagosa in the central Adriatic. Unfortunately, on 5th August 1915, Nereide was on the surface, moored under a cliff in the island’s harbor. When the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-5, sent by the rival navy, surfaced just offshore, Nereide’s commanding officer, Carlo del Greco, cut off the lines and maneuvered to get a shot at the U-5. Nereide launched a torpedo at the enemy submarine but it missed, forcing del Greco to order his boat to submerge. Taking advantage of the propitious moment, U-5 lined up a shot and launched a single torpedo at the slowly submerging target immediately striking it and sending it to the bottom together with its courageous hands and its valiant captain, later awarded Gold Medal of Military Valour.
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