Other episodes and events

Robinsub 1- Robinsub 2

Ferraro organised “Robinsub 1” and “Robinsub 2”, the first Italian experiments on the survival of individuals underwater, and the subject of these experiments was his son, Italo. On this occasion he was preceded by the Americans and the French who had powerful means and facilities thanks to governmental funding. Instead, the Italian authorities and institutions always used the excuse that it would be impossible for them to cover the significant costs involved in experiments of that type.
Ferraro wanted to prove, provocatively, that it was possible to prepare an interesting experiment from a technical and scientific point of view even with investments amounting to only a mere ten thousand lira: spirit of initiative, commitment, passion and pride often go further than money.
He designed a "bell" of 2 x 2 x 2.5 metres, which was made of wire netting and internally lined with a plastic sheet. This was done to hold in the air that entered from the surface.
“Robinsub 1” took place on July 4th 1968 in Ustica on occasion of the X International Exhibition of Underwater Activities. The bell was anchored at 10 metres depth in front of the Grotta Azzurra, just below the hotel that bears the same name. Italo resided in it for fifty successive hours.
The “Robinsub 2” experiment took place on February 7th 1969 in Genoa and was performed during the Nautical Show at a temperature that was much lower than the one applied in Ustica during the month of July. The Italian newspaper “Il Secolo XIX” made a telephone and line available so that it could publish the first interview performed underwater by an envoy equipped with mask, fins and rebreather, who descended to find Ferraro's son in his winter residence under the sea. The father, Ferraro, received a congratulating telegram from the presidential palace on behalf of the president Giuseppe Saragat: "I would like to congratulate you and your collaborators on your daring underwater achievement, which your son is bravely concluding successfully. "
Italo re-emerged, frozen cold, on the morning of February 7th 1969, after eight days and six nights spent alone. (2)

IMAGES

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Italo Ferraro inside the submerged bell during a medical check
Italo Ferraro inside the submerged bell during a medical check


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The village of Portofino 1975

During the week between July 6th and July 13th 1975, Ferraro built an underwater village on the seabed facing the promontory of Portofino in order to prove that even with the minimum resources, it is possible to deal with the problem posed by extended underwater permanence to the extent of fulfilling the financial limits that make the work profitable while still remaining within adequate safety levels. He was supported by the superior fire fighter authorities, who mobilised approximately 60 men, from Officials, Instructors and Trainees from the VIII Diving Course as well as a significant number of nautical resources. The village comprised of three buildings, of different types and structures, which were placed at a depth that ranged between 10 and 30 metres, anchored to seabed rocks using steel chains and cables. They were equipped with systems allowing the exchange of air, lighting and interphone.
Besides fire fighters, representatives from the diving forces of the Carabinieri, the Police, the Financial Police and Technisub technicians also took part in this experiment. The company Saipem sent its "Ragno" (Spider) ship. Representatives from the university science departments were also present and they included Professors Paolo Colantoni, Damiano Zannini, Angelo Stefanon, Francesco Cinelli, Lamberto Ferri-Ricchi, Beppe de Renzi and many others. Duilio Marcante worked in the farm yard of the "submerged village" using a seaweed mower of his invention. Eng. Pucciarini, who was a colleague of Ferrero since the days of the X Mas, piloted an SLC in person, which was commonly known as "maiale" in the version built by his company, Cosmos. The Italian Public Broadcasting Service (RAI) was present with Paolo Valenti, who broadcast live for over three hours from a platform built by fire fighters on the reef of Portofino.
The operation was also defined as "TWENTY THOUSAND HOURS (OF WORK) UNDERSEA", with reference to the large number of hours spent by all divers for the preparation and implementation of the project.
The realization of "Portofino's Underwater Village", proved that it was possible to create and use an authentic residential unit, at a depth of 50 metres, equipped with everything required for long permanence.

IMAGES

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Ferraro, typically without a wetsuit,  checking the anchorages during the building of the Village
Ferraro, typically without a wetsuit, checking the anchorages during the building of the Village
Eng.Pucciarini driving a civilian version of SLC
Eng.Pucciarini driving a civilian version of SLC


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Finding of G. Marelli's body

On April 18th 1960, two brothers Ercole and Giuseppe Marelli, university students, and a friend of theirs were hunting ducks on Lake Trasimeno when their boat suddenly sank. There was no way out for the three boys: weighed down, they plunged to the bed of the lake without even being able to manage a few strokes.
The tragedy left the whole Italian nation in shock: because of the young age of the victims and because the Marelli family was well known, being involved in the manufacture of radios.
Fire fighter divers intervened in great numbers, together with Carabinieri divers, as the incident could have been of criminal relevance. Not long after, they found two bodies but they still could not find the corpse of Giuseppe Marelli. Tens of boats explored the bed of the lake dragging cables and grappling hooks by the stern. Petrified with pain and immobile on the pontoon of Monte del Lago, the father of the two victims, Engineer Fermo Marelli, watched, his heart torn by anguish and horror. On April 19th, the fire fighters, in agreement, decided to ask Ferraro to intervene in person. Ferraro rushed to the small village on the eastern coast of the Trasimeno. He jumped on a rubber dinghy with the Carabiniere diver Santamaria. The divers, who were connected to their support boats by a line, as required by safety procedures, searched the bed of the lake by touch little by little. At just over one hundred metres from the shore, at the exact point where the boat with the three young hunters sunk, seaweed formed a dense and intricate forest. Every few metres, divers were forced to remove the seaweed with their hand as it stuck to their mask. Ferraro's first suggestion was: "When you stop to remove the seaweed from the glass of your mask, move back one meter and feel all around with your hands: your support boat could drift from its course, if so you might just miss the right spot."
Then he decided to dive in, in person, together with the fire fighter diver.
And what he predicted occurred, exactly in the same way: as he stopped to remove the slushy seaweed from his mask, he found himself shifted off the course of his underwater itinerary. So he moved back a little, just one meter, and his sensitive fingers felt the unmistakable corduroy of the hunting trousers worn by Giuseppe Marelli. With the help of Santamaria, the dead body was freed from the weeds that concealed and enveloped it. Ferraro and the Carabiniere's gestures were delicate and pitiful. As they returned to land, with the body of the young man laying on his face at the bottom of the boat, Santamaria said: "If we didn't find him today, you would have kept us here until we found him... »
"That's right. Have you seen his dad's face? Would you have even thought about going? About leaving that man alone in his desperation?"
Still immobile on the pontoon, Engineer Fermo Marelli waited for the body of his second son, killed by the lake on Resurrection Day. He would never forget what Ferraro did: he wanted him to accept a material expression of his gratitude. He would send a trusted person to his house to insist, to convince him: "it is not about paying you, professor, do not mistake me... But the engineer would really like you to... " Ferraro is decisive and firm in his answer: "Tell Engineer Marelli that the tragedy he just went through was unimaginable. I have only done my duty. For me it is more than enough to be able to count on his friendship."
Since then and for many years to come, Fermo Marelli sent Luigi Ferraro a postcard with his greetings, each time he went travelling. (2)

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Finding of the mini submarine - Locarno

Ferraro also contributed to another recovery, which was linked to another tragic event. This was the finding of the mini submarine known as "Tiger Shark", which disappeared with two men on board on January 16th 1965 in front of Locarno, in the Swiss area of Lake Maggiore. Even in this case, the tragedy had a great impact on the public as it happened in front of a great crowd that was waiting for the submarine to re-emerge after about half an hour, as planned. The crowd gradually became more and more anguished and desperate. The overwhelming effect on the public was also due to the fact that the submarine could not be found after searching for months and months, which gave rise to all kinds of rumours and inferences. The authorities suspended the search so citizens and relatives established a committee to prolong them with the use of private funds.
As there were no results, the town asked for the collaboration of Genoa's Diving Carabinieri unit, which sent two of its best men, Cozzolino and Bellarmino, who were lead by Ferraro and Marcante. After 15 days spent patiently reconstructing the sequence of events and diving, the mini submarine was found and brought to land. There was such a crowd that the police had to use hydrants to operate safely. The following enquiries and investigations never completely clarified the reasons behind the sinking of the submarine, for which there is still no explanation. But at least, even on this occasion, the efforts of the Italian divers provided the families of the victims with the comfort of a worthy burial.

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80 years: a birthday underwater

On November 3rd 1994, Luigi Ferraro turned 80. When birthdays get to these round numbers and when they involve important people, they are no longer just birthdays, they become real events. And Ferraro's eightieth birthday was memorable because of its location, the participation it received and the interest it provoked.
It was celebrated on the 19th, a few weeks later due to administrative reasons, between the statue of "Christ of the Abyss" in San Fruttuoso and the water mirror of Portofino's small harbour.
The Italian Navy sent a detachment of the Comsubin, lead by the Admiral Filippo Pascali in person, Commander of the Comsubin. The Coastguard was present with different means of transport coordinated by Admiral Renato Ferraro (bearing the same name), the Maritime Director of Ligury and Commander of the Port of Genoa and the Fire fighters Diving Units lead by the National Manager Eng. Chimenti. The Carabinieri, the National Police and the Financial Police were also there.
Among the Authorities were the Prefect of Genoa Dr. Marino, the Police Commissioner Dr. Pagnozzi, General Greco, Regional Commander of the Carabinieri, General Pochesci, Commander of Regional Operations and the Warship Captain Spanio, Commander of the Institute of Hydrography. The representatives of various National and International Underwater Federations were also present.
The Italian Public Broadcasting Service (RAI) devoted over half an hour of the program Linea Blu, which at the time was directed by Puccio Corona, to broadcast and follow the event live and played an essential part in coordinating institutional organisations.
In San Fruttuoso, Ferraro dived together with tens of scuba divers representing all the Armed Forces and Government Authorities as well as Fire fighters who are specialised in underwater activities, sporting associations and simple friends. After laying a crown at the feet of the Statue of Christ in memory of the fallen, Ferraro was given a memory plaque underwater by Admiral Pascali and by his vice T.V. Kuciz, as his trusted Fire fighters unrolled a long black banner with all their signatures in front of him, at the feet of the Statue of Christ.
Soon after, an enormous cake appeared, lit by 80 torches, which Ferrero blew out remarkably after removing the regulator from his mouth. All the divers gathered around him, removed the regulators from their mouths and through the control of outgoing air, created an enormous column made of millions of bubbles moving up towards the surface. It was a suggestive and intense show. It should be noted that three generations of the Ferraro family were present in that submersion: with Luigi were his sons Italo and Paolo who dived with his daughter Emanuela, who was 9 years old, Luigi's niece.
The underwater ceremony was broadcast at the surface to all the guests on the ferry anchored above using a closed circuit TV system. After the divers re-emerged at the surface, the program continued showing parachute launches, demonstrative operations carried out by commandos, jets of water from the motorboat and the fire fighters' pump and brass bands.
At the end of the day they celebrated the evening in the historic Grand Hotel Miramare in S. Margherita Ligure, where Ferraro, who was very moved, ended the party in his honour by thanking everyone and by recounting with simplicity and irony, which were typical of his character, some anecdotes relating to his exploits.
Giulio Melegari, Manager of the Underwater Activities in Saipem and Technisub, helped to organise this memorable birthday, Drafinsub, of Dino Passeri, was responsible for the closed circuit TV shoots and Arcos, owned by Gaetano Tappino, provided the logistic support.

The deployment of so many means of transport for an essentially futile purpose, such as a birthday, may seem excessive. In reality, that day, all those involved in military diving activities wanted to celebrate the person who, with his exploits, contributed to transforming the Italian underwater commandos into a Legendary force. While sporting and civil divers in Italy and abroad wanted to pay tribute to a man who dedicated all his life to inventing and developing underwater activities.
Ferraro, a withdrawn and modest person, was not informed about the celebration organised in his honour, otherwise he would have never authorised it. He only realised on the morning of the 19th, when he saw the craft he was aboard together with another 200 guests, which was escorted by tens of military and civil ships and a couple of helicopters.
He would have wanted to look daggers at his son Paulo, responsible for all that fuss, but he never managed to catch him alone.
During the evening, at the end of the event, as he returned home in his car, he drove past a platoon of commandos who were loading a lorry with a rubber dinghy, as they prepared their return to Varignano. He stopped, asked who their commander was and said to him: "I am sorry that you were mobilised only to assist this old man who dived just a few meters deep..." and the Commander, inflexible and standing to attention, answered "Commander, to have dived behind you today was an honour that I will never forget".

IMAGES

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Some guests near  the Coast Guard CP 406 Scialoja
Some guests near the Coast Guard CP 406 Scialoja
The VF 681 Fire Brigade Naval Unit in Portofino during the event
The VF 681 Fire Brigade Naval Unit in Portofino during the event
The splashdown of a parachutist in the middle of Portofino harbour
The splashdown of a parachutist in the middle of Portofino harbour
LUIGI FERRARO and his grandchild Emanuela before diving together
LUIGI FERRARO and his grandchild Emanuela before diving together


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State funeral

On January 5th 2006, in Genoa (Italy) Luigi Ferraro died in the arms of his siblings. His wife Orietta had already passed away two years before. The President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, on hearing the news of the death of the Lieutenant Commander Luigi Ferraro, who earned the Gold Medal for Military Valour, sent a message expressing his sorrow and condolence to his relatives and to the President of the Gold Medals of Military Valour C.C. M.O.V.M. Umberto Rocca. The state funeral took place on January 9th. The procession moved from S.Francesco d’Assisi square, along via Corsica up to the church Chiesa del Sacro Cuore, in Carignano. The casket, laid on a gun mount and enveloped in the Italian flag, was escorted by seven commandos, one of whom held the cushion featuring his medals and military ranks. Gonfaloni and Bandiere were present along with a large crowd of civil and military authorities. Honours were paid by the armed forces and by the Italian Navy, especially by the platoon Divers and commandos Group "Teseo Tesei". At the entrance of the church, the Italian Navy's Band played the Funeral March. Representatives from the Italian Navy were present at the funeral as well as everyone involved in underwater activities Departments: the Carabinieri, the Police, Fire fighters, the Financial Police, etc. and all Military Combatant Associations of Genoa and La Spezia. The official honours were paid by the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral DI PAOLA together with the Chief of Staff, Admiral BIRAGHI in the presence of the Commander of the Maritime Division of La Spezia, Admiral LERTORA, the Commander of the commandos, Admiral PAPERINI, the Prefect of Genoa, Dr. Giuseppe ROMANO, the Mayor of Genoa Prof. Pericu, representatives from the Council, from Provincial and Regional administrations and from the local police headquarters. The Military Ordinary, Monsignor BAGNASCO celebrated the Holy Mass surrounded by a large crowd that filled the church Chiesa del Sacro Cuore and of San Giacomo in Carignano and the large churchyard. His relatives requested that his remains be buried in the Pantheon of Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa, where all the influential people from Genoa are laid to rest. However, for political reasons, the municipal council declared the request inadmissible because of the "fascist" connotations of their relative. In this respect, the conclusion of a story by Giovannino Guareschi springs to mind. The Mayor Peppone listened to the debate in which the municipal consultative council decided not to grant the request of an old teacher from the village, who was on the verge of death and asked to be buried with "her flag", the one featuring her coat of arms. Then he affirmed that the teacher's wish should be fulfilled anyway "as I have more respect for her as a dead woman than I have for all of you alive". Ferraro's remains were taken by Trieste, where he rests in peace with his wife Orietta Romano, in her Family's Grave, within the cemetery of S. Anna, field No. 11.

IMAGES

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The casket, laid on a gun mount escorted by six Carabiniers, seven Commandos and Gonfaloni
The casket, laid on a gun mount escorted by six Carabiniers, seven Commandos and Gonfaloni
Blue color of the uniforms of the Navy, Green of the commandos, Red of the numerous Fire Brigade Divers
Blue color of the uniforms of the Navy, Green of the commandos, Red of the numerous Fire Brigade Divers
The casket enveloped in the Navy Italian flag, on the cushion his medals and military ranks
The casket enveloped in the Navy Italian flag, on the cushion his medals and military ranks
Amm. Di Paola, the highest Italian Military Authority and other high Military authorities
Amm. Di Paola, the highest Italian Military Authority and other high Military authorities


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