Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Wreck just a 'cruel beat-up'


By Paige Taylor
August 14, 2007

ONE of Australia's leading maritime archaeologists has joined a chorus of experts who have attacked media reports that the wreck of the HMAS Sydney had been found off the West Australian coast.

WA Museum Director of Maritime Archeology Mike McCarthy said he had "no faith at all" that the wreck was the Sydney.

In what has been described as a cruel beat-up that falsely raised the hopes of descendants of the 645 Australian sailors who perished, the Shire of Shark Bay yesterday confirmed it had been aware of the wreck for more than five years but had said nothing publicly because it had no conclusive proof it was the Sydney.

Former whaleboat engineer Bruce Teede, who has lived on the Gascoyne coast for 60 years, described as "rubbish" the latest claim that a bunch of amateur historians had found the war ship which sank somewhere off the WA coast in November 1941.

He reckons he has heard every possible theory about the fate of the Australian light cruiser, including that it was destroyed by a Japanese submarine.

Fairfax newspapers and The West Australian ran "exclusive" front-page reports on Saturday claiming that the Sydney had been found.

The latest find, 20 nautical miles off Dirk Hartog Island, is 100 nautical miles inshore from where survivors of the German cruiser Kormoran last saw the Sydney, on fire.

One of Dr McCarthy's many doubts is the size of the wreck, which at 30m is 140m shorter than the Sydney.

"About every six months I hear from someone who thinks they've found it," he said.

The Shire of Shark Bay claimed it has known about the wreck since 2001 when local fishermen dragged a copper bolt from the site using a fishing hook.

Dr McCarthy inspected the bolt and found it was not from the HMAS Sydney and passed on that information "years ago". He said the copper bolt taken from the site came from a wooden boat.

In October 2005, the Shire of Shark Bay conducted its own examination of the wreck site with grappling hooks and sonar equipment. It found the wreck was probably also just 30m long, 140m shorter than the Sydney.

There are hundreds of shipwrecks along the West Australian coast, many of them yet to be formally recorded.

The claims by enthusiast Phil Shepherd that his party had found the Sydney come as a Perth-based ocean surveying company Geo Subsea waits for data on a partial scan of 14,000 square nautical miles of seabed near where the battleship was last seen.


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