Perth wreck targeted by scavengers

archive – Diving News

Perth wreck targeted by scavengers

Three-fifths of the World War Two warship wreck of HMAS Perth has been dismantled for scrap metal, according to a report from a team of Indonesian and Australian marine archaeologists.

Divers from the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia (ARKENAS) visited the wreck-site in mid-May for the first time since 2015, following up on multi-beam sonar scans last November, and have now reported on their findings. 

Perth, a 171m Leander-class light cruiser, was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 357 lives following a battle against the Imperial Japanese Navy. The action took place on the night of 28 February, 1942, in Banten Bay in north-west Java.

Having also seen action around the European theatre during the war, the ship had been regarded as a something of a national treasure in Australia.

“Interim reports indicate only approximately 40% of the vessel remaining,” reported ANMN Director Kevin Sumption, who said that the research team found evidence of large-scale salvage, including what appeared to be recent removal of material. Salvage equipment could be seen around the site.

Limited salvage was known to have taken place on Perth since the late 1970s, and in 2013 sports divers reported damage to the site by unidentified salvors.

The current research project is aimed at securing formal protection for the site and developing knowledge for the management of underwater cultural heritage in Indonesia.

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