An archival image of SS Iron Crown.
An archival image of SS Iron Crown.

Sunken wreck of SS Iron Crown found after 77-year absence

AFTER being lost for 77 years, an Australian freighter sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II has been located by maritime archaeologists using CSIRO research vessel Investigator.

The SS Iron Crown, a 100m long ore freighter, was sunk by a Japanese submarine on June 4, 1942 while travelling through Bass Strait with a cargo of manganese ore. The heavily loaded freighter was hit by a torpedo from the submarine and sank within 60 seconds.

Peter Harvey, a maritime archaeologist with Heritage Victoria, said it was one of Victoria's worst shipwrecks in terms of loss of life.

 

A still image from a drop camera showing SS Iron Crown.
A still image from a drop camera showing SS Iron Crown. CSIRO

"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," Mr Harvey said.

"There were 43 crew from the Australian Merchant Navy on board the ship and 38 lost their lives in the attack. 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."

Iron Crown was located using multibeam sonar equipment and a special drop camera on research vessel Investigator, which returned to its home port of Hobart this morning.

Voyage Chief Scientist, Emily Jateff from the Australian National Maritime Museum, led the search and said the wreck was located about 100km off the Victorian coastline south of the border with New South Wales.

"The wreck of Iron Crown appears to be relatively intact and the ship is sitting upright on the seafloor in about 700m of water," Ms Jateff said.

Imagery from the camera survey clearly shows the intact bow of the ship, with railings, anchor chains and both anchors still in position, as well as other structures on the deck.

 

Chief Scientist Emily Jateff from the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Chief Scientist Emily Jateff from the Australian National Maritime Museum. Max McGuire - CSIRO

Ms Jateff said that it was an exciting but solemn moment for all on board when they realised that the wreck had been located.

"This is an important discovery for Australia and all on board feel honoured to have been involved in this successful search," shesaid.

"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."

Identifying the location of the wreck has also involved many hours of prior survey work from volunteers of the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria.

The discovery of Iron Crown is an event of national significance and has been reported to the Victorian and Australian Governments. A memorial service will be planned for the site.


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