Secret or not, locals living on the French Riviera between Cannes and Cap d’Antibes and tourists to the region may be surprised to know there is an abandoned underwater city lurking just off the coast.
If you look from the port of Golfe Juan towards Île Saint-Marguerite you will see a small striped lighthouse, La Pierre Fourmigue, mid-way in the bay.
Pierre Fourmigue lighthouse (La Fourmigue) off the coast of Golfe Juan
Thirty metres underwater near this lighthouse, lie the remains of a 1000 m2 French town complete with remparts, church, hotel, hairdressers, town square and amphitheatre.
Why it was built
The miniature maritime city was constructed by French filmmakers in the 1960’s who wanted to shoot parts of their movie, L’Enfant et la Sirène (The Child and the Mermaid) on a real underwater film set.
Old photos of the underwater film set near Pierre Fourmigue lighthouse
The ambitious underwater filming approach was eventually abandoned in favour of an animation studio based in Paris, and the French Riviera film set was left to the elements.
What remains of the city today
In 2007, a local diving company formed a restoration project and have been maintaining the many buildings including restoring tiny ceramic tiles and bridges.
Underwater city near Pierre Fourmigue lighthouse
Today, the only visitors to this underwater city are shoals of fish and keen divers.
Another interesting dive site nearby
Near the Fourmigue lighthouse is another dive site with an interesting link to diving history – Le Sec de Miro (Le Grotte de Miro) which has a bust of Commandant Yves Le Prieur, who was an officer in the French Navy.
It seems Monsieur Le Prieur had many talents as he was the first Frenchman to earn a black belt in judo, and invented many things including a rocket launcher to take down observation balloons and the first self-contained underwater breathing apparatus – or scuba, as the world knows it today.
Commandant Yves Le Prieur and his 1934 French patent for scuba apparatus
The concrete bust of Le Prieur was created by an artist called Amaryllis, is 80cm high and weighs 100kg. It was submerged at this location in 1985. So, why does the site have the name Miro attached to it? It seems that this sculptor had put one of his artworks here originally and that some thieves stole it.
Is it possible to visit these dive sites
Yes – both sites can be visited. You can book dive tours with either of these companies below:
Diamond Diving http://www.diamonddiving.fr/
Golfe Plongee http://www.golfe-plongee.com
Sources: MessyNessy, golfe-juan.fr, BuzzFeed
Images : Michal Krysztofowicz – colour images. Golfe-juan.fr – lighthouse image (disclaimer: I have tried to source who took the old photos to no avail but will duly credit them and ask permission if I find out).