A team of explorers announced that they had found a sunken Japanese ship transporting Allied prisoners when it was torpedoed off the coast of the Philippines in 1942, resulting in Australia’s largest naval loss in wartime totaling 1,080 lives.
The wreckage of the Montevideo Maru was found after 12 days of searching at a depth of more than 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) – deeper than the Titanic – off Luzon Island in the South China Sea, using an autonomous underwater vehicle with built-in sonar.
There will be no efforts to remove artifacts or human remains out of respect for the families of those who have died, said a statement on Saturday from the Sydney-based Silentworld Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to archeology and maritime history. It participated in the mission together with Dutch deep-sea survey specialists Fugro and the Australian Ministry of Defence.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “The extraordinary effort behind this discovery speaks to the enduring truth of Australia’s solemn national promise to remember and honor those who have served our country.” “This is the heart and soul of lest we forget.”
The Montevideo Maru was transporting prisoners and civilians captured after the fall of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. The ship was not marked as carrying prisoners of war, and on July 1, 1942, the American submarine Sturgeon, after chasing the ship all night, fired four torpedoes, found their target, and sank the ship in less than 10 minutes.
Among the dead were 1,080 people from 14 countries, including 979 Australians.
“Families had waited years for news of their missing loved ones, before learning of the tragic outcome of the drowning,” said John Mullen, director of Silentworld. “Some never accepted that their loved ones were among the victims. Today, by finding the Ark, we hope to bring closure to the many families devastated by this terrible disaster.”
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