Friday, December 23, 2005

 

Scientists find sand on seafloor

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News.com.au
By D.D. McNicoll
December 20, 2005

A MONTH after a live television documentary "found" the missing Japanese midget submarine from the 1942 raid on Sydney Harbour, the 24m-long, 46 tonne sub is lost again.

NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor yesterday announced that NSW Heritage Office investigations found the sub-shaped lump of sand on the ocean floor off Lion Island, in Broken Bay just north of Sydney, was just that - a lump of sand.

But the doco maker remains unconvinced.

"There is no submarine," Mr Sartor said, "Just a pile of sand. We are 99.9 per cent positive there is nothing there."

Standing at the National Maritime Museum with a real submarine - the decommissioned HMAS Onslow - in the background, Mr Sartor said a final check, using a magnetometer, would be made at the site but that a sidescan sonar survey and a sub-bottom profiling survey had found no sign of the submarine.

The three surveys of the site will only cost NSW taxpayers $5000 because much of the work was done for free by the NSW Water Police and scientists interested in discovering if the submarine was really there.

"Filmmakers Damien Lay and Chris Berry are to be congratulated for reigniting interest in Australia's maritime heritage with their detailed investigation into this theory," Mr Sartor said.

"I directed the Heritage Office to immediate evaluate these claims and finally get to the bottom of the mystery - but initial findings show the sea is yet to yield this long-held secret."

The missing Japanese midget submarine, known as M24, disappeared after a raid by three submarines on Sydney Harbour on the night of May 31, 1942.

Lay yesterday said he believed there needed to be further exploration of the site identified in his documentary.

"I still firmly believe it is there," he said.

"We are pleased that the NSW Heritage Office has undertaken initial surveys. However, we believe that further exploration of the site needs to be done to determine whether this is the location of the missing M24 Japanese midget submarine."

Lay said he didn't believe the submarine was intact after more than 60 years on the seabed.

"The Heritage Office seem to think that the conning tower should be sticking up out of the sand," he said. "I believe the submarine would be extremely deteriorated. There is probably very little still in existence."

Lay said legislation covering war wrecks had prevented him from exploring the site.
"But we know there is more than sand in this location," he said. "The only way to solve the mystery is to do a dig and see what is there."

Two of the submarines which attacked Sydney Harbour were sunk during the raid and later recovered from the harbour floor, but no sign of M24 and its two-man crew has been found.
A torpedo from one of the submarines sank the depot ship HMAS Kuttabul, which was being used as a floating dormitory, and 21 sailors were killed.

Investigations by the Heritage Office found that previously located Japanese midget submarines in Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Hawaii were found upright on the sea floor and largely uncovered by sand.

The office also found that the natural depth of sand in Broken Bay was only 2m-3m, insufficient to totally bury a midget submarine with a hull circumference alone of almost 2m.


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