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Lost Australian Merchant Ship Found 77 Years On

Photo: The Iron Crown moored behind the SS Hagen. (National Library of Australia via CSIRO)

 

Researchers have located the missing wreck of the SS Iron Crown, an Australian merchant vessel lost in 1942.

The Iron Crown was an ore carrier built in Victoria, launched in January 1922 as the Euroa and renamed Iron Crown in late 1923. On June 4, 1942 – when transiting between Whyalla, SA, and Newcastle, NSW, with a cargo of manganese ore – she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-27 some 44 miles southwest of Gabo Island.

A still showing the Iron Crown’s bow and anchor chains. (CSIRO)

Struck hard in her port side, Iron Crown sank in less than 60 seconds, so becoming the only Second World War ship to be sunk by a torpedo in Victorian waters and the first of I-27’s six victims. Of 43 on board, 38 died in the sinking with the remainder rescued by the British liner SS Mulbera.

The last survivor, George Fisher, died in 2012. He was 18 when the Iron Crown was sunk, but kept in close contact with other survivors and organised for a memorial plaque to be placed near Mallacoota’s cenotaph, in Victoria, to honour those who died.

In February 1944 – immediately after sinking the liner-turned-troopship SS Khedive Ismail – I-27 was hounded by the destroyers HMS Paladin and HMS Petard, which attacked with depth charges, torpedoes, gunfire and ramming. The I-27 deliberately hid beneath survivors, but her destruction took precedence. From the Khedive Ismail, 1,297 people died from more than 1,500 on board, and of I-27’s crew 99 were killed with one survivor picked up.

Iron Crown was found, sitting upright and relatively intact, around 700 metres down by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) research vessel RV Investigator. The marine archaeologists on board used multibeam sonar and cameras to find the sunken vessel, the location of which had not been known and remains secret to protect the site.

Bathymetric map showing the Iron Crown (bow right) on the seafloor. (CSIRO)

The Investigator surveyed the area and filmed the wreck to assist in potential conservation efforts and wreck management – including a possible digital reconstruction of the wreck-site – as part of a nationwide effort to improve navigational charts and enhance Australia’s maritime history.

A memorial service over the site is planned.

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