Monday, March 17, 2008

Australian WWII Ship Finally Found

The wreck of an Australian navy battle cruiser has been found off the nation's western coast, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced Monday, ending one of the country's most enduring maritime mysteries. The HMAS Sydney sank on Nov. 19, 1941, in a battle with a German vessel, the DKM Kormoran. All 645 men aboard the battle cruiser were lost and the ship's resting place had eluded searchers for decades. The German ship also sank in the fierce battle, but 317 members of the Kormoran's crew of 397 survived and rowed to the Australian coast, where they were taken prisoner. An Australian research team recently found the remains of the Kormoran, which was disguised as a Dutch merchant ship when it opened fire on the Sydney. At a news conference in Canberra, Rudd said the Sydney had been found about 14 miles from the wreckage of the Kormoran, some 500 miles north of Perth, the capital of Western Australia state.
The Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney.
The Sydney is at a depth of 8,100 feet and its hull is largely intact, Rudd said. Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Shalders, said the find would help determine exactly what happened to the Sydney. ``For 66 years, this nation has wondered where the Sydney was and what occurred to her, we've uncovered the first part of that mystery ... The next part of the mystery, of course, is what happened,'' said Shalders, speaking at the news conference with Rudd. Ted Graham, chairman of the Finding Sydney Foundation, the group carrying out the search, said a remote-operated vehicle would be used to examine the wreckage for clues about the battle. The $3.9 million search funded by the government began two weeks ago and was headed by U.S. shipwreck hunter David Mearns.
HMAS Sydney
Mearns was involved in finding the wrecks of the British battle cruiser the HMS Hood and the DKM Bismarck, the German battle ship that sank it in the North Atlantic in 1941. The Sydney weighed in at 7,300 tons, making it the largest vessel from any country to be lost with no survivors during the war. The fate of the ship and its crew has remained a mystery, though a parliament inquiry into the tragedy in 1999 accepted accounts by Kormoran survivors that they last saw the ship in flames and heading toward Perth. It was not immediately clear whether there are plans to raise the Sydney. Rudd said he had instructed the Defense Department to contact relatives of the sailors who died aboard the Sydney about the find and said the government extended its condolences. ``This is over 65 years ago, but pain and family loss even at 65 years removed, is still pain, and very deep pain,'' Rudd said.

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