Divers ransack 80m-deep historic wreck

historic wreck was looted by what they say were technical divers.

Also read: Ship held in connection with British war-grave looting 

The sinking of the Alert, a 19th-century coastal-trader, is regarded as one of the worst losses in the state's history in terms of fatalities. The 52m iron steamship was built in Scotland in 1877 and ran general cargo between Melbourne and Geelong.

She met her end in a storm on 28 December, 1893 off Jubilee Point, south of Melbourne, while carrying a cargo of wattle bark, used in the extraction of tannin. Of the 16 crew, only the ship’s cook survived.

When the wreck was found in 2007 it still contained the crew’s personal effects and was designated as being of archaeological interest, with the area around it declared a Commonwealth Protected Zone.

This status has been applied to only nine of Victoria's 600-plus historic shipwrecks. Entering a CPZ without a permit or damaging the wreck risks fines of up to Aus $168,000 (about £95,000) or a five-year prison term.

Divers undertaking a routine inspection found that artefacts including navigation lights, bottles, crockery and a lampshade had been removed, according to Heritage Victoria, which is working with the Commonwealth Department of the Environment & Energy to investigate the incident.

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