The Silentworld Foundation, an underwater archaeology society, has announced that the wreckage of a Japanese ship Montevideo Maru torpedoed during World War II with more than 1,000 people on board, many of them Australian prisoners, has been found off the coast of the Philippines.
A torpedo is a self-powered weapon that can move through water and is used to sink targets on the surface or underwater. The first known torpedo was invented around 1270-1280 by Hasan Al Rammah, an Arab engineer and inventor working in Syria during the Mamluk period.
On July 1, 1942, the merchant ship Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by the allied USA submarine USS Sturgeon, unaware that she was carrying prisoners of war. There were 979 Australian soldiers and civilian prisoners of war on board the ship, which sank in 10 minutes with 4 torpedoes, and the incident went down in Australian history as ‘the worst maritime accident of all time’.
According to the Silentworld Foundation, 1,060 people of 14 nationalities died in the sinking, including 979 Australians, at least 850 soldiers captured during the Battle of Rabaul in New Guinea.
The wreckage was found in April this year at a depth of more than 4,000 meters in the South China Sea, 110 km off the Philippine island of Luzon. It was found after twelve days of searching using a submarine drone equipped with sonar.
According to the Silentworld Foundation, it took more than five years to plan the mission to find the ship, whose whereabouts have remained a mystery for nearly 81 years.
“The resting place of the lost souls of the Montevideo Maru has finally been found,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement. “We hope this news will bring some comfort to the families of the victims who have been waiting for so long.”
This sinking remains one of the greatest maritime tragedies in Australian history. “The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in military and maritime history,” said John Mullen, director of Silentworld, which conducted the search in conjunction with Dutch firm Fugro, which specializes in deep-water research, and the Australian Army.
According to the news of Ansa it Mondo, the Silentworld Foundation said that the wreck of the Montevideo Maru, which is deeper than the Titanic, will not be recovered. Out of respect for the victims and their families, no objects or human remains will be removed.