Maritime Mystery Solved - Investigator Locates & Films WWII Wreck

Photo: Australian War Memorial

The wreck of a ship sunk by Japanese aircraft 74 years ago has finally been located, mapped and filmed by Australia's Marine National Facility ship RV Investigator operating in the Arafura Sea off the Northern Australian coast. The NT Government had requested the drive-by wreck search as the ship re-positioned between Australia's East and West coasts.

According to CSIRO voyage manager Hugh Barker, the 2,500 ton SS Macumba was found in the nick of time in 40 meters of water using the ships multi-beam sonar. Only 2 hours of the allocated 12 hours search window remained before the ship would have had to move on. The identity of the wreck could be confirmed by features on the detailed sonar images and underwater video camera footage.

Sixteen people survived the attack by Japanese aircraft in 1943. Three of the crew died. The body of Chief Engineer William Alfred Lane was never found.

Multiple previous attempts by other researchers to pinpoint the wreck have been unsuccessful. This fact, coupled with the rapid success of Investigator's mission is testament to the skills of the CSIRO team, and to the capability of the equipment on the state of the art vessel. Thanks to the ship's dual Cobham C-band marine VSAT system, video and stills from the search were available immediately following the find and can be seen on CSIRO's website.

About the author

Jonathan is a professional engineer with a background in maritime communications and electronics. He founded Acutec Systems in 2004 and is managing director of the company.

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