Sunday, January 01, 2006

Probe fails to back midget sub claim


The Sidney Morning Herald
December 19, 2005

The NSW Heritage Office has almost certainly discredited claims by a TV documentary team to have found the resting place of a Japanese midget submarine that raided Sydney Harbour during World War II.

The sub, known as M24, was one of three Japanese midget submarines that entered the harbour on May 31, 1942.

Its two crewmen killed 21 Australian sailors when one of its torpedoes hit the converted Manly ferry HMAS Kuttabul.

The other two subs were both recovered from the bottom of Sydney Harbour, but mystery has surrounded the whereabouts of M24 after it was tracked leaving the harbour but failed to reach the mother sub.

Last month Australian filmmaker Damien Lay, a co-producer of the Foxtel TV documentary that attempted to trace the M24's last hours, claimed he had discovered the location of the sub near Broken Bay, north of Sydney.

Mr Lay said the results of a number of technical surveys, including sub-bottom profiling, magnometer readings and side scan sonar tests, showed an object with the same dimensions as M24 lying 20 metres underwater east of Lion Island.

He handed over his evidence to the NSW Heritage Office, which is responsible for the management of the state's underwater heritage, including historic shipwrecks.

But Planning Minister Frank Sartor reported today that a Heritage Office investigation had failed to unearth any evidence of a buried sub.

Mr Sartor said a remote sensing archaeological survey, carried out east of Lion Island, had no success.

"Unfortunately, one of Australia's great maritime mysteries will remain a puzzle, for now, with the sonar survey failing to unearth any evidence of a buried sub," Mr Sartor said."

This will undoubtedly be a disappointment to the families of the Japanese crew, along with Australia's veteran community, history buffs and locals."

Leading remote sensing sonar specialists conducted a side scan sonar survey to remotely image the seabed, as well as a sub-bottom profiling survey, the Heritage Office report said.

The sand column imaging technology found the site only had two to three metres of sand - not enough to conceal a midget submarine which has a hull circumference alone of almost two metres.

Mr Sartor said the Heritage Office would also carry out a magnetometer survey at the target site to confirm the findings, but there was little hope of finding the sub.

"The chances already are about 99 per cent that there is no buried midget submarine near Broken Bay," Mr Sartor said.



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