The First Operations


In 1984, Jacques Dumas, president of the Conféderation mondiale des activités subaquatiques, CMAS (World Confederation for Underwater Activities), sponsored by Prince Napoleon Bonaparte, launched a campaign of excavations devoted to "L'Orient", the flagship of Bonaparte's fleet, which sunk in the Bay of Abukir. Although the ship had lain twelve metres deep for nearly two centuries numerous artefacts were discovered in the wreck: gold objects (rings, spoons, etc.), tens of bronze chandeliers, pistols, sabres, a large number of silver coins struck under Louis XV and Louis XVI as well as bronze coins issued by the Mamelukes. In April 1986, an agreement on scientific and technical co-operation was signed by Ahmed Kadry, the then president of the Council of Antiquities and Marcel Boiteux, the then president of Electricité de France, EDF. A laboratory that treated for preservation the metallic objects discovered during the submarine archaeological excavations was set up at Kom el Dikka, in the centre of Alexandria. This process was carried out using the electrolyse techniques perfected by the EDF. The first restoration carried out in this laboratory focused on the objects discovered in the wreck of the "Patriote", the largest of the civilian ships in Bonaparte's fleet, which ran aground about fifteen kilometres west of Alexandria.