giovedì, agosto 11, 2005

Dive, Dive, Dive!

On second thoughts, please don’t. There has been a very strange craft making its slow but steady voyage to the centre of Milan recently. A submarine. Not one of those cute little one-man ones that you can see so often in diver training centres all around the Mediterranean, but a dirty great big one. A genuine warship that cruised around the coasts of the Mediterranean looking for suitable prey into which it might fire its lethal cargo of high explosive torpedoes.

In fact the submarine Enrico Toti is the second Italian submarine to bear that illustrious name. The first Enrico Toti had the distinction of being the only Italian submarine in the Second World War to score a hit, sinking the British submarine, HMS Triad, in a rather bizarre incident in 1940 that is highly reminiscent of a medieval Joust. The two submarines attacked each other head on whilst surfaced, passing so close that sailors from each vessel fired machine guns at each other. So close, in fact, that one Italian sailor actually threw his boot at the British sailors on the deck of the Triad!

This incarnation of Enrico Toti has no such distinction, however. It does have the distinction of breaching the US defences during manoeuvres in the Mediterranean, causing the theoretical sinking of one of the US 6th Fleet aircraft carriers. Not such a bad claim to fame after all, perhaps.

The Enrico Toti II, a diesel-electric submarine designed to carry only wire-guided torpedos, has spent the last few years of its life based in Sicily, from where it sailed (or rather, was towed, as its three engines and all of its batteries were removed in Sicily before heading for Milan in 2001) for the River Po on its way to its final resting place, hopefully (as I write) in the Museo della Scienza, Milan. The trip has not been uneventful though. Even though the Enrico Toti II is, by submarine standards, a pretty small boat, with only 582 tonnes displacement, she is still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to driving along public roads.

Even with the removal of her engines and batteries, she still weighs in at around 350 tonnes and is a definite 46.20 metres in length – 4.70 mts wide. A big baby. To move this takes some serious machinery – to say nothing of some serious planning as well. As the Enrico Toti II is due to reach Milan in the early hours of tomorrow morning (as I write this), my fingers are crossed. Really. Let's hope it all goes to plan and that the army do their best job to ensure that the Enrico Toti II doesn't sink without trace into the streets of Milan, finding one of the many canals that were filled in during the 1950s and 1960s into which to make its final dive.

Fingers crossed, eh?

Well, I am pleased to say that the Toti made it without any further serious problem to the Museo Nazionale della Scienza. Bravi! You can find it on the website of the Museo now - sadly for the people that only speak English, it is in Italian. Perhaps this will be the motivation for you to start learning Italian now? Spero!