Abandoned 1960s French Riviera Film set: A Miniature Underwater City Before & After

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24th Apr, 2013

A room with uninterrupted sea views? Admittedly, it might need a bit of work but this underwater hotel has become a bit of an institution with local fish who have been checking in since the 1960s. At 30 meters below sea level near a lighthouse called La Fourmigue, off the Cap d’Antibes, lies the remains of a 1000m² underwater miniature French town complete with houses and buildings up to a meter high, a church, town square, an amphitheatre and even a lawyer’s office.

Underwater city

(c) Michal Krzysztofowicz

 The aquatic town was built between 1963 and 1965 by French filmmakers who wanted to shoot parts of their movie, L’Enfant et la Sirène (The Child and the Mermaid) on a real underwater film set. The ambitious underwater filming approach was eventually abandoned in favor of an animation studio in Paris. Unfortunately, the film, a musical directed by Sylver Néjad Atzamba, never saw the light of day and the miniature underwater town was forgotten on the seabed and left to the elements.

I was content to leave the story there with a link to a local diving company that can take you to the underwater site, but then I thought: Hang on a minute! For such an ambitious project in its day, surely someone took pictures of it when it was completed. After trawling through websites with uncertain keywords, I finally struck gold on an obscure French diving online forum. A user going by the nickname “hyppoc” joined a discussion thread about the diving site, identifying himself as one of the men who actually participated in building the underwater film set. And luckily for us, he also had some old photos handy to back it up!

It turns out the miniature water world also had its own an épicerie (a small supermarket) and a below is what appears to be a hairdresser (coiffeur) for the fish!!

Below shows a photo of a diver installing the sunken city…

Above is what might be a photograph of the animated studio that was chosen in favor of the underwater set, and below, a newspaper clipping about the project. I can’t quite manage to read the small-print but the byline says: “Will the underwater town of 1000m² at 30 feet deep become pray to vandals again like last year?” I couldn’t find any information about the vandalism but this might explain why it was built over a two year period.

Today the submerged city is no longer neglected as it was for so many years after its abandonment. In 2007, the nearby seaside town of Vallauris Golfe-Juan was finally granted permission to embark on a renovation project which would see the restoration of some of the more badly decaying structures and even the addition of a few new buildings.

Underwater city

And here’s that link I promised for the diving company that will take you to this enchanting underwater site.

Finally, I found a short home video on Youtube that will no doubt make you want to go and get your diving license a.s.a.p!

YouTube Preview Image

Images thanks to Forum-MDP.com, Michal Krzysztofowicz, Plongeur.com

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