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The wreckage of an Australian freight ship torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II has been uncovered by archaeologists off the coast of Victoria, Australia.

The SS Iron Crown was hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on June 4, 1942 while traveling through Bass Strait with a cargo of manganese ore. The heavily loaded freighter sank within 60 seconds, and the attack killed 38 members of the 43-strong crew.

SS Iron Crown (left) alongside SS Hagen. (Photo Credit: National Library of Australia).

Experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) located the wreck using multi-beam sonar equipment and a special drop camera on the research vessel Investigator.

“The Iron Crown is historically significant as one of only four World War II shipwrecks in Victorian waters and is the only ship to have been torpedoed by a submarine in Victorian waters,” Peter Harvey, a maritime archaeologist with Heritage Victoria, said in a statement. “Locating the wreck after 77 years of not knowing its final resting place will bring closure for relatives and family of those that were lost at sea, as well as for Australia’s maritime community.”

Bathymetric map showing Iron Crown on sea floor, bow on right. (Photo Credit: CSIRO)

The wreck of the Iron Crown appears to be relatively intact and the ship is sitting upright on the seafloor in about 2,296 feet of water about 62 miles off the Victorian coastline south of the border with New South Wales, according to Australia National Martime Museum’s Emily Jateff, who led the search.

“We have mapped the site and surrounding seafloor using sonar but have also taken a lot of close up vision of the ship structure using a drop camera,” said Jateff. “This will allow us to create a composite image of the whole site to assist in follow up surveys for its conservation and management.”

Drop camera used to investigate the wreck of the SS Iron Crown. (Photo Credit: CSIRO)

Imagery from the camera survey clearly shows the intact bow of the ship, with railings, anchor chains, and both anchors still in position, as well as other structures on the deck.

According to Jateff, it was an exciting but solemn moment for the crew on board when they realized that the wreck had been located. “This is an important discovery for Australia and all on board feel honoured to have been involved in this successful search,” she said.

CSIRO research vessel RV Investigator has discovered a number of historic shipwrecks in recent years. (Photo Credit: CSIRO / Owen Foley)

The discovery of Iron Crown has been reported to the Victorian and Australian Governments, and a memorial service is being planned for the site.

CSIRO research vessel Investigator has discovered a number of historic shipwrecks in recent years, including solving a 74-year mystery in 2017 when it located the wreck of SS Macumba, an Australian merchant ship sunk in World War II during a Japanese air attack in Northern Territory waters.

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