Over half of World War II shipwreck stolen by illegal metal salvage

Scientists discovered that about 60 percent of a World War 2 shipwreck of HMAS Perth located off the coast of Java has vanished due to large-scale illegal salvaging for scrap metal at the site.

Divers at HMAS Perth (by Australian National Maritime Museum)

Australian warship HMAS Perth was sunk by the Japanese in the Battle of Sunda Strait, that lasted between the night of 28 February and 1 March 1942. It was a naval battle which occurred between the islands of Java and Sumatra. During the battle Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and the American heavy cruiser USS Houston faced a major Imperial Japanese Navy task force and both were sunk after several hours of battle. More than 350 navy personnel and civilians from HMAS Perth died and another 328 escaped with their lives but more than 100 later died as prisoners of war after they were taken captive by the Japanese.

HMAS Perth (by Australian National Maritime Museum)

The scientists estimate, basing on research dives and remote sensing surveys, that only 40 percent of the vessel remains. Researchers found signs of removal of material due to salvage operations, as well as some salvage equipment scattered around the site. Naval shipwrecks have huge amounts of scrap metal with an extremely high resale value. The scale of the underwater looting suggests a brazen and large-scale commercial salvaging enterprise in the Indonesian archipelago.

Chain hoist being evidence of salvage activities (by Australian National Maritime Museum)

Although survivors of the sinking state that some of the hatches between compartments on HMAS Perth had been jammed by the torpedo explosions 75 years ago and remains of people trapped inside them still remains within the ship, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does not consider Perth’s shipwreck to be a war grave.

The only steam turbine remaining out of a total of four (by Australian National Maritime Museum)

(after Australian National Maritime Museum & Stuff)

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