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Australian WWII warship grave HMAS Perth stripped by salvagers

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Survivors, historians and Defence personnel have been horrified to discover that the wreck of HMAS Perth, which was sunk by the Japanese in 1942, is being destroyed by commercial salvagers in Indonesian waters.

Australian authorities have tried to keep the scandal a secret, fearing the issue might add fuel to the ongoing diplomatic tensions between Australia and Indonesia.

The warship, which sank in the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java, is the last resting place of as many as 355 Australian sailors who went down with the vessel after it was struck by multiple torpedoes.

But it has never been protected as an official war grave.

Australia and Indonesia are yet to ratify the UNESCO Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage, a binding national treaty which would oblige both countries to protect such sites.

Since at least September, scuba divers have made official reports of large-scale damage to the wreck from a massive floating crane equipped with a salvage claw.

These reports have been made to the Australian embassy in Jakarta and to local officials in the Department of Environment and Heritage, and the Department of Defence.

Several salvage barges have been spotted in the area, and one was photographed in October dredging up the carcass of a Dutch submarine – the O-16 – which sank off the coast of Malaysia.

Sam Collett, a professional diver based in the Philippines, told reporters he last visited the wreck in September.

“Compared to previous trips I had made, the extent of commercial-scale salvaging was immediately obvious,” he said.

“On the boat trip back to the marina in Anyer we passed a salvage barge with a crane and claw and a large pile of what appeared to be wreckage on the deck.”

Andrew Fock, an expedition diver with a keen interest in HMAS Perth, said there was “extensive damage”.

“As best we can tell from the video footage supplied, most of the superstructure – if not all of it – is gone, the guns from the forward turret, the A-turret are missing.

“The gun houses for the two front turrets are missing, and most of the upper deck… is missing.

“The catapult has been removed, the bridge has been removed, the crane has been removed.”

An official report was lodged with the Department of Defence in October detailing the damage. The report said there was a strong possibility that human remains still exist within sections of the ship and that they risk being disturbed.

It warned action must be urgently taken to prevent further mass salvaging.

“It is probable that unless action is taken the salvers will return and continue to pull apart the wreck, especially if their previous efforts have been remunerative,” the document said.

“It should be noted that any attempt to remove the exposed starboard armour belt would likely involve its supporting structure and prove catastrophic to the integrity of the remaining hull structure.”

There have been other reports of the use of explosives by salvagers to break up the ship and make it easier to dredge.

In September, an Indonesian-based diver wrote: “The mid section above deck, where the bridge was, has been completely removed, the bow guns have been damaged by what appears to be explosives with the barrels missing and the tops peeled of [sic], the bow has collapsed completely.”

“Although it is hard to be certain, but as the metal that was the superstructure is all missing and is not lying around as debris it looks although we could be wrong like purposeful attempt to salvage the steel.”

The Defence report also made specific mention of risks posed by the fuel oil and ordnance on board the Perth.

The Indonesian-based diver did a second dive in September to confirm his findings. In an email, he reported that the vessel is now too “unstable” to allow divers to penetrate the interior of the ship.

“She has been hammered and the once impressive six inch A1 and A2 turrets are gone, the bow is flat and… the wreck is more hazardous than before – even for general swimming around, with lots of live ordinance, wire and overhanging metal.”

“The explosions have unearthed a fair amount of WW2 live rounds and what look like modern explosives (plastic flare shaped things) I assume from the salvage also appear to be lying about, be very careful what you poke in the sand/silt.”

To read more on this story, click here.

 

Source: www.au.news.yahoo.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Komodo National Park found to be Manta Hotspot

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Through a collaborative effort between citizen divers, scientists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), and Murdoch University, a new study reports a large number of manta rays in the waters of Komodo National Park, Indonesian, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, suggesting the area may hold the key to regional recovery of the threatened species.

Reef mantas (Mobula alfredi), which grow up to 5m, tend to reside and feed in shallow, coastal habitats. They also visit ‘cleaning stations’ on coral reefs to have parasites, or dead skin picked off by small fish. Courtship ‘trains’ are also observed adjacent to cleaning stations. In Komodo National Park, manta rays are present year-round, challenging the famous Komodo dragon as the most sought-after megafauna for visitors.

Scientists teamed up with the dive operator community to source identification photographs of manta rays visiting the parks’ waters and submit them to MantaMatcher.org – a crowdsourced online database for mantas and other rays. Most of the photographs came from just four locations from over 20 commonly visited by tourism boats.

I was amazed by how receptive the local dive community was in helping collect much-needed data on these threatened animals,” said lead author Dr. Elitza Germanov. “With their support, we were able to identify over 1,000 individual manta rays from over 4,000 photographs.

People love manta rays—they are one of the most iconic animals in our oceans. The rise of the number of people engaging in SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and the advent of affordable underwater cameras meant that photos and videos taken by the public during their holidays could be used to quickly and affordably scale data collection,” said MMF co-founder and study co-author Dr. Andrea Marshall.

The photographs’ accompanying time and location data is used to construct sighting histories of individual manta rays, which can then be analyzed with statistical movement models. These models predict the likelihood that manta rays are inhabiting or traveling in between specific sites. The study’s results showed that some manta rays moved around the park and others as far as the Nusa Penida MPA (>450 km to the west), but overall, manta rays showed individual preferences for specific sites within the Park.

I found it very interesting how some manta rays appear to prefer spending their time in some sites more than others, even when sites are 5 km apart, which are short distances for manta rays,” said Dr. Elitza Germanov. “This means that manta rays which prefer sites where fishing activities continue to occur or that are more popular with tourism will endure greater impacts.”

Fishing activities have been prohibited in many coastal areas within Komodo NP since 1984, offering some protection to manta rays prior to the 2014 nationwide protection. However, due to illegal fishing activity and manta ray movements into heavily fished waters, manta rays continue to face a number of threats from fisheries. About 5% of Komodo’s manta rays have permanent injuries that are likely the result of encounters with fishing gear.

The popularity of tourism to these sites grew by 34% during the course of the study. An increase in human activity can negatively impact manta rays and their habitats. In 2019, the Komodo National Park Authority introduced limits on the number of boats and people that visit one of the most famous manta sites.

This study shows that the places where tourists commonly observe manta rays are important for the animals to feed, clean, and mate. This means that the Komodo National Park should create measures to limit the disturbance at these sites,” said Mr. Ande Kefi, an employee of the Komodo National Park involved with this study. “I hope that this study will encourage tourism operators to understand the need for the regulations already imposed and increase compliance.”

Despite Indonesia’s history with intensive manta ray fisheries, Komodo National Park still retains large manta ray aggregations that with careful ongoing management and threat reduction will benefit regional manta ray populations. The study highlights that marine protected areas that are large enough to host important manta ray habitats are a beneficial tool for manta ray conservation.

For more information about MMF visit their website here.

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Euro-Divers opens to guests at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives

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In celebration of Euro-Divers’ 50 Years of Diving with Friends in the Maldives, the team have opened a new PADI 5 Star Dive Center at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives.

Alila Kothaifaru Maldives retreat lies at the northern edge of the Maldives in the tranquil Raa Atoll, reached via a panoramic 45-minute seaplane voyage from Male. The island has 80 all-pool-villas, 36 of which are over water with a private pool for your enjoyment and 44 beachfront villas designed seamlessly to immerse guests in the natural surroundings. In support of sustainable tourism, Alila hotels adopt Earth Check operating standards, integrating their environments’ natural, physical, and cultural elements.

Raa Atoll is well-known for the excellent scuba diving it offers. The underwater landscape of Raa Atoll is characterized by a high number of thilas scattered inside the lagoons. These underwater coral mountains are magnets for marine life including huge schools of tropical reef fish, a generous splash of colour, iconic bucket-list-must-see marine creatures including sharks, mantas (appearing during the entire year), turtles, and uncrowded dive sites—a perfect diver’s heaven for beginners and experienced divers. We offer a full range of PADI courses for different levels. From November till March, the Manta cleaning station is located 15 minutes away by boat.

The team from Alila Kothaifaru Maldives look forward to welcoming you soon.

Find out more at: www.euro-divers.com/alila-kothaifaru-maldives

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A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.

The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.

All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.

Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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