Technology first developed to locate the wreck of the Titanic is to be used in Normandy by divers seeking to locate boats, tanks, planes and other artefacts lost under the sea during the D-Day landings.
An international team is due to start work on a project in July that will not only map the sea bed off the beaches of Normandy where the landings took place but also reveal hidden historical treasures.
The â‚¬3 million project, called Operation Neptune after the codeword used for the landings in 1944, aims to shed new light on the sheer size of the event ahead of its 70th anniversary next year.
â€˜We already know the sites of several wrecks. Our aim is to record a definitive list of what is still down there at 30 meters. This will be a first,â€™ said Sylvain Pascaud, head of the team. He is a world renowned locator of wrecks, having worked on finding traces of the Air France plane which crashed off the coast of Brazil in 2009.
Preparation work was done last summer when the team mapped the currents and worked out the logistics needed for such a mammoth task. â€˜From the surveillance work already done we reckon there could be 100 to 200 wrecks,â€™ explained Mr Pascaud.
The team aim to concentrate on eight or nine specific sites off the coast where they hope to find the most interesting material. Mr Pascaud pointed out that in the run up to the landings lost of machines and engines were invented and modified. â€˜We will look for unique machines that will help us to further understand history,â€™ he added.
The next stage will be to send down robots to survey 450 square kilometres of the seabed off the D-Day beaches to create an underwater map. Then in August around 20 divers from various countries will explore the most interesting parts of the seabed.
They hope to find boats that sunk during the crossing on 06 June itself and also in subsequent crossings to ferry more men, arms and machines for the battle of Normandy that eventually led to the end of the war in France. The team are particularly interested in finding Shermans which were the iconic tank used by the Americans in the war.
Meanwhile, Dassault Systems, a French company that is a world leader in the production of three dimensional software is to work with television production company MC4 to recreate the harbour in Arromanches for a documentary to be shown next year.