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Byline: By Steve Tucker South Wales Echo

An enduring Cold War mystery has been solved, thanks to a leading maritime expert from South Wales.

When the submarine Dakar vanished without trace on her maiden voyage from Portsmouth to Haifa, in Israel, in January 1968, conspiracy theories abounded.

It was said the vessel had been kidnapped by the Soviets and its crew imprisoned in the infamous Russian gulags, or that it had been destroyed by the Egyptians who, along with Syria and Jordan, had fought the Israelis in the previous year's Six-Day War.

But, in a documentary to be screened next week on the National Geographic Channel, a team led by Barry naval architect Robin Williams discovers the submarine vanished for a more prosaic reason.

After examining the wreck, 3,000 metres beneath the sea off the coast of Crete, Mr Williams concluded the Dakar, which had been sold to Israel by Britain, simply sprung a leak and imploded, killing all 69 crew members.

'It was absolutely fascinating and a very challenging expedition,' said Mr Williams, 64, a grandfather of three.

'After sending down remotely operated vehicles to the seabed I was able to discover what had gone on.

'We're not sure how it sprung a leak, but parts of the Dakar were crushed like a tin can. It would've taken milliseconds and the crew wouldn't have known what had hit them.'

As well as Mr Williams and his team, the documentary, entitled Mystery of the Dakar, features interviews with the families of the dead crewmen, including the widow and son of Captain Yaacov Ranaan.

It is the latest marine adventure for Mr Williams, who is regarded as one of the foremost naval architects in the world. After leaving Barry Grammar School in 1958, he studied engineering at Glasgow University.

While still a student, he spent time at John Brown's Shipyard, in Clydebank, where he helped design the QE2.

'It is a profession which has a certain magic to it, from the drawing board, or computer nowadays, we see things right the way through. It is incredibly satisfying.'

He is about to spend time in Norway and Poland overseeing the construction of his latest ship: the 300ft research ship, the James Cook.

'I plan to die with my boots on.'

Mystery of the Dakar is on the National Geographic Channel on Monday at 11pm and on Sunday, March 13, at 7pm. DARING CAREER: The Dakar is not the first famous wreck Robin Williams has found himself investigating.

In September 1980, the Derbyshire sank during a typhoon off the coast of Japan, killing 42 British crew members, and two wives who were also on board.

Mr Williams acted as chief scientist in the investigation into the wreck which lay two-and-a-half miles under water.

The investigation concluded that the ship, which was the length of three rugby pitches, had been ripped apart in minutes.

Mr Williams was also part of the team which investigated the sinking of the Gaul.

The trawler sank off the north of Norway in 1974.

All 36 crewmen were lost amid rumours the vessel was on a spying mission when she capsized.

One of the world's best known wrecks, that of the Titanic, in the North Atlantic, has also been examined by Mr Williams, pictured below.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 4, 2005
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