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Hypotheses on the causes of the disappearance of the Minerva

The commission began by questioning many experts, commanders or former commanders of submarines of the same type as the Minerve, experts from the DCAN (former name of Naval Group).

These testimonials can be read in the pdf document to download.

The proposed version was voluntarily purged of a page of individual comments, more or less flattering on some of the crew members. The complete version can be consulted at the Defense archives in Vincennes.

First hypotheses were formulated 

  • Grounding following a technical incident

PDF témoignage
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La Minerve would have run aground on a shoal for some reason, technical failure, human error...  In such a case part of the crew could have survived and given signs of life through various devices at his disposal in such cases. It is also by imagining this scenario that the search operations were immediately triggered.

If this were the case, given the scope and scale of the research launched in 1968, the Minerva would surely have been located.

  • Collision by a ship

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This hypothesis is the one favored by the vast majority of naval officers who testified before the commission of inquiry.

When it surfaces, the submarine is "blind, it may not perceive the sound emitted by a moving ship. The area in which it detects an approaching ship is somewhat shaped like butterfly wings and therefore there is  a blind spot.  It is possible that he was hit by the bow of a ship at this precise moment.

Collisions happened like the one CC Dyèvre told the commission: "There may be a collision without the surface boat being aware of it. I have unfortunately experienced it, I was on the "MARSOIN" when it approached a freighter. The freighter never gave a sign of life and yet there was a piece of propeller blade in our bathtub. So it was indisputable that it was a freighter. Well, that freighter that lost a propeller blade never showed up."

At the time of the tragedy, La Minerve was flown over by a Bréguet-Atlantique, which did not see any ship in the immediate vicinity at the time of the tragedy.

All the captains of the identified ships cruising in the vicinity were questioned, even inspected. Nothing suspicious had been detected.

  • ​ Collided with a German mine from World War II

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In these cases, when they sink, the ships generally leave traces and debris rise to the surface.

Then the earthquake, recorded by the seismic recorders, would have had different characteristics. It's an implosion, not an explosion that was detected[see tab commission of inquiry events 6 and 7].


  • Hostile action by an opposing power 

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Fauve - Rumeurs

In 1968 France was not in a period of particular tension with the USSR. Given General de Gaulle's diplomatic positions, it had every interest in not rushing her. No military authority believed for a moment that this hypothesis was plausible.

The commission of inquiry inquired on the side of the American services and did not collect any clue that could lead it to validate such a hypothesis.

Moreover, the characteristics of an explosion differ from those of an implosion, but on January 27, 1968 it was an implosion that was recorded, not an explosion.


  • A torpedo would have exploded aboard the Minerve 


There was  on board neither torpedo nor explosive. There  there were many torpedoes at the start of the tests, but they had all been fired and there were no more on board on January 27.

There too we would have detected an explosion, not an implosion.

  • The commander would have ordered a maneuver that was too dangerous

The commander was experienced, he had sailed on several submarines including one de this type ( Flore), he is even qualified, in his military file, written before the accident, of an "outstanding" officer. 

Admiral Coatanéa who was his pasha on the Flora in 1964 testifies : “He was careful and very serious, he was not the type to want to do pirouettes with a submarine. »

The LV Fauve had been on the front line in 1966 when it was second in command  on the submarine Narval. While navigating on the surface off Lorient 4 men, including the captain, had been swept away by a wave. They  had drowned trying to carry out a repair. This tragedy had deeply marked LV Fauve and safety was an essential element in his eyes. 

Admiral Thierry d'Arbonneau, a young officer at the time of the accident, was one of the students of LV Fauve in 1967. "hyper-competent". "He was our maneuvering officer, he taught us how to navigate. He had an obvious aura, he was young, calm, poised", explains the admiral,   a "respected and recognized" officer.

  • The crew would have been incompetent

The hypothesis of a navigation error was examined, it was never retained in the Navy.

The crew, composed of young men, was however sufficiently experienced and knew the building. The crew of the Minerve was as experienced as that of other submarines of the same class. 

Here is what the previous commander of the Minerve, the LV BOUILLOT, who had left the Minerve on January 16, 1968, 10 days before the accident, said:

" The personnel had changed little since the last two commands. No comments to make about the staff. On the psychotechnical level, we make them all go to the SOP after volunteering. They are made to do an internship on the submarine for a month so that the submarine's second-in-command takes care of himself on the psychological and disciplinary level, if there is no remark_cc781905-5cde-3194- bb3b-136bad5cf58d_to do. 

Then they do an internship at the underwater navigation school, there they acquire a general knowledge of the submarine (2nd skimming). They are then actually embarked on a submarine. 

When they graduate, they take the senior submariner course (higher knowledge and skills). 

All staff were volunteers. It is absolutely impossible to forcibly embark an individual on a submarine. 


All the embarked had a submariner's certificate, with the exception of people in subsistence before assignment, trainee, electrician-ASM detectors, or people who hold a position of little importance with the security of the building (butler .. .)."

The commission nevertheless deplored that the training of the men is done by accompaniment and companionship once embarked and which could be insufficient in the domaine of the diving safety. We then relied on "common sense" to know how to react in the event of a problem.

In its conclusions, the commission will place great emphasis on the recruitment and training aspects.

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