The second world war ship SS Iron Crown sank after it was torpedoed, killing 38 of its 43 crew
An Australian second world war freighter has been discovered 77 years after it was sunk in a deadly Japanese submarine attack.
The SS Iron Crown was carrying a cargo of manganese ore through Bass Strait when torpedoed and sunk within 60 seconds, killing 38 of its 43 crew on 4 June 1942.
The ship was found about 100km off the Victorian coast south of the border with New South Wales. It was located using multibeam sonar technology and a special drop camera, researchers announced on Tuesday.
Heritage Victoria maritime archaeologist Peter Harvey said the shipwreck was one of Victoria’s deadliest, and a memorial service would be planned for the site.
“The Iron Crown is historically significant as one of only four world war two shipwrecks in Victorian waters and is the only ship to have been torpedoed by a submarine in Victorian waters,” he said.
“Locating the wreck after 77 years of not knowing its final resting place will bring closure for relatives and family of those that were lost at sea, as well as for Australia’s maritime community,” he said.
The chief scientist on the voyage, Emily Jateff from the Australian National Maritime museum, said it was an exciting yet solemn discovery.
“The fact that so many lives were lost … hit home with all scientists, staff and ship crew working on [the project],” she said.
Divers cannot reach the ship, which sits almost 700m down on the sea floor, so the CSIRO research vessel Investigator used its technology to capture close-up vision of the ship structure and map the site when it was discovered last week.
“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,” Jateff said.
The ship, which is sitting upright, appears relatively intact, with cameras showing the bow with railings, anchor chains and both anchors still in position, as well as other structures on the deck.
Volunteers from the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria spent hours narrowing down the ship’s location.
The Victorian and federal governments have been notified and the ship will be protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.