The wreck of the Japanese merchant ship Montevideo Maru has been found in the South China Sea near the Philippines. More than 1,000 prisoners of war and civilian internees, including 864 Australians, died aboard the vessel in 1942, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles said on Saturday.
The search for the wreck was carried out at a depth of over four thousand meters by specialists in the field of deep-sea research, including underwater archaeologists. The Ministry of Defense provided support for this mission Australia. The remains of the ship were found northwest of the Philippine island of Luzon, Marles said, quoted by Reuters.
The search mission was organized by the Australian foundation Silentworld, dealing with marine archaeology, with the help of the Dutch company Fugro specializing in deep-sea research.
The worst maritime disaster in Australian history
The unmarked Montevideo Maru, sailing from New Guinea towards the Chinese island of Hainan, was mistakenly torpedoed by an American submarine in July 1942. The sinking of the Montevideo Maru is considered Australia’s worst maritime disaster.
– Thus ends one of the most tragic chapters in the maritime history of our country. By identifying the wreck, we did something that we owed to the families of the victims of this disaster – emphasized the Australian deputy prime minister.
“It’s a grave to be treated with respect”
The Silentworld Foundation reports that about 1,060 prisoners of war died in the disaster, including both military and civilians. At least 850 Australian soldiers and 210 civilians from 14 countries were on board when the vessel sank. The youngest passenger was 15 and the oldest 60.
This is now a war grave. It’s a grave that needs to be treated with respect,” Captain Roger Turner, who was involved in the search for the wreck, told the BBC. For the study of the ship resting at the bottom, the scientists used so-called autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) with cameras attached, thanks to which they could get a close look at the vessel.
“I was touched when I saw the pictures of the ship,” Turner said.
The Silentworld Foundation reported that the wreck was not damaged, and no artifacts or corpses were removed from it.
The Montevideo Maru was at a depth of over four thousand meters, deeper than the famous Titanic (3780 meters), the BBC notes.
Main photo source: Reuters