BRISBANE, Australia — After more than 60 years, the wreck of the doomed hospital ship AHS Centaur has been located.
The wreck, which was found by Bluewater Recoveries on December 20, lies due east of Moreton Island on a seabed approximately a mile and a half under water.
It is a grave to 268 medics and sailors who lost their lives when the Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on May 14, 1943, about 50 miles north-east of Brisbane.
Only 64 people survived the attack.
Acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the sinking of the AHS Centaur was a sad day in the nation’s history, which should always be remembered.
"The photographs of the Centaur resting peacefully on the ocean’s floor will help ensure the lives of the brave crew and nurses who died so tragically are never forgotten," she said. "I hope by locating the final resting place of the AHS Centaur, the family and friends of those men and women … find some resolution."
A commemorative plaque (which was laid at the starboard side of the fore deck) honors those who lost their lives in the service of the nation.
David Mearns, the principal director of Bluewater Recoveries, led the search for the wreck on board the Australian Defence Maritime Services support vessel, the Seahorse Spirit.
An approximate location, calculated by the Centaur’s navigator 40 minutes before the vessel was torpedoed, was used as a guide by the search team.
"While the wreck is intact, Centaur’s hull appears to be partially broken in at least one and possibly two locations. No doubt the torpedo strike would have caused one of these breaks," Mearns said. "Remarkably (the wreck) is less than one nautical mile from the dead reckoning position I calculated from (navigator) Gordon Rippon’s track. I can’t remember finding a wreck as close to the position reported by a primary source witness."
Mearns, whose team also helped lay the AHS Centaur’s commemorative plaque, said the wreck was approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island.
"Following the plaque laying we spent four hours filming individual pieces of wreckage found in the small debris field immediately adjacent to the wreck," he said. "Personal items were found including ankle boots (with the laces intact), a trunk of personal belongings and a felt slouch hat."
"I consider it one of the great privileges in my life to have led this important project,” he added.
The AHS Centaur has since been declared an historic shipwreck under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, meaning that the vessel cannot be interfered with in any way