The final resting place of an Australian freighter torpedoed by a Japanese submarine more than seven decades ago has been discovered off the coast of Victoria.
The SS Iron Crown was sunk on 4 June 1942 while travelling through Bass Strait with a cargo of manganese ore. The 100m long ore freighter plummeted within 60 seconds.
There were 43 crew members from the Australian Merchant Navy on board the ship – 38 of them lost their lives in the World War II attack.
After seventy-seven years of not knowing its location, maritime archaeologists using CSIRO research vessel Investigator uncovered its wreck about 100km off the Victorian coastline south of the New South Wales border.
“The Iron Crown is historically significant as one of only four World War II shipwrecks in Victorian waters and is the only ship to have been torpedoed by a submarine in Victorian waters,” Heritage Victoria’s Peter Harvey said.
Mr Harvey said the discovery is one of Victoria’s worst shipwrecks in terms of loss of life.
In video footage from the camera survey the intact bow of the ship, with anchor chains, railings and other structures on the ship’s deck can be seen.
“The wreck of Iron Crown appears to be relatively intact and the ship is sitting upright on the seafloor in about 700m of water,” Australian National Maritime Museum voyage chief scientist Emily Jateff said.
“We have mapped the site and surrounding seafloor using sonar but have also taken a lot of close up vision of the ship structure using a drop camera. This will allow us to create a composite image of the whole site to assist in follow
up surveys for its conservation and management.”
Ms Jateff said while the discovery was exciting, it was also a solemn moment.
“The fact that so many lives were lost in the sinking of Iron Crown was something that hit home with all scientists, staff and ship crew working on board Investigator,” she said.
CSIRO research vessel Investigator has discovered a number of historic shipwrecks in recent years. This has included solving a 74-year mystery when it located the wreck of SS Macumba in 2017.
The SS Macumba was an Australian merchant ship sunk in World War II during a Japanese air attack in Northern Territory waters.
All shipwrecks greater than 75 years old found in Australian waters and any relics or artefacts from those wrecks are protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.