Deep sea explorers have discovered the wreck of a Japanese transport ship that sank off the Philippines during World War II, killing almost 1,000 Australian soldiers and civilians.
It was Australia’s worst maritime disaster: a US submarine torpedoed the ship, unaware it was packed with prisoners captured in Papua New Guinea.
The Montevideo Maru sank in July 1942.
An estimated 979 Australians died, along with 33 Norwegian seamen and 20 Japanese guards and crew.
The Silentworld Foundation, an Australian marine archaeological organization, organized the mission with support from a Dutch deep-sea survey company called Fugro.
The wreck was located by an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) at a depth of more than 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), deeper than the wreck of the Titanic.
Captain Roger Turner, a technical expert on the search team, told the BBC that “it’s a war grave now and it’s a grave that needs to be treated with the respect it deserves”.
The closest the AUV came to the wreckage was 45 m, he said.
“It was an exciting time to see images of the ship, with the hatches closed, and images of prisoners being held under voyage.”
Silentworld said the wreck will not be disturbed – no human remains or artifacts will be removed.