New York Times - Ships and Shipping

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

MV Limerick found in ocean grave off NSW

  • News Limited Network
  • February 06, 201312:00AM

MV Limerick
The MV Limerick, which went down after being torpedoed by the Japanese. Source: Supplied

AN enduring World War II maritime mystery has been solved with the discovery of the wreck of a merchant ship torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off NSW in 1943.
The 8700-tonne New Zealand owned freighter MV Limerick was sunk off Australia's most easterly point, Cape Byron, on the NSW north coast by the Japanese submarine I-177.
The hulk was identified late last year by fishermen in 100m of water about 18km east of Ballina.
Two crewmen, the third and fourth engineers, went down with the ship and 70 more were rescued by the navy minesweeper escorts HMAS Colac and HMAS Ballarat.
The largest ship in the convoy, the Limerick became separated from the other vessels due to engine trouble before the submarine pounced.
The Limerick was travelling in a convoy of five merchant ships bound for Brisbane from Sydney and at 1am on April 26 a Japanese torpedo slammed into the port side of the ship. She slipped beneath the waves at 6.30am.
It was a grim year for shipping along the east coast, as Japanese submarines roamed the sea lanes hunting vulnerable merchant vessels.
In April alone ,five ships, 87 people and 25,000 tonnes of valuable wartime supplies were lost.
On the night of May 14, the I-177 sank the well-lit hospital ship Centaur with the loss of 268 lives in one of thr worst atrocities of the Pacific war.
NSW Water Police and the state Office of Environment and Heritage conducted an initial survey of the site with a side-scan sonar, but were hampered by bad weather.
NSW authorities then approached Australia's Marine National Facility, which operates the CSIRO's ocean-going research vessel, the 66-metre Southern Surveyor, to try locate the wreck.
The vessel was already engaged in geological research between Yamba and Fraser Island and under University of Sydney geologist Tom Hubble it was able to create a 3-D image of the wreck.
"Confirming the wreck as MV Limerick is in the national interest. We were already in the area, we had the necessary technology and technical expertise and in the end it didn't take long to create a 3-D image of the wreck," Dr Hubble said.
While the wreck lies in Commonwealth waters, the NSW Government will ensure that the Limerick is properly protected under the provisions of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.
NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker said the OEH was consulting with the Office of Veterans' Affairs to notify next of kin of the two men who died in the Limerick.
Source: Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia.

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