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.
The Big Shark Pledge: Shark Trust’s new campaign kicks off with a call for support
With the ink still drying on last week’s landmark listing of nearly 100 species of sharks on Appendix II of CITES, the Shark Trust insists that this is not the time for shark conservation to take a break. The UK-based NGO this week launches its biggest-ever concerted campaign to tackle the overfishing of oceanic sharks. They are calling on people across the world to join the call for stricter controls on high seas fisheries.
The Big Shark Pledge is at the heart of an ambitious set of campaign actions. Working to secure science-based catch limits on all sharks and rays affected by the international high seas fishing fleet. The pledge will build the largest campaigning community in shark and ray conservation history to support a raft of policy actions over the vital years ahead.
Many of our best known and much-loved sharks make their home on the high seas. In our shared ocean, these oceanic sharks and rays face a very real threat from a huge international fleet of industrial-scale fishing vessels. Research published in early 2021 confirmed that over three-quarters of oceanic sharks and rays are now at risk of extinction due to the destructive impact of overfishing. They have declined by 71% over the last 50 years.
The Shark Trust is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and has a long history of securing positive changes for sharks, skates and rays. The Big Shark Pledge will build on the success of their NoLimits? campaign which underpinned landmark catch limits on Blue Sharks and Shortfin Mako in the North Atlantic.
“While the listing of so many species on the CITES trade agreement is certainly a positive step, there remains a huge challenge in ensuring that sustainable practices are embedded in international fisheries.” says Shark Trust Director of conservation, Ali Hood. “Sharks on the high seas face extraordinary pressure from excessive fishing practices. This has to be addressed through international agreements such as those secured for Blues and makos.”
There is hope and a feeling of momentum in the shark conservation community. Just last week, in addition to the new CITES listings, the Shark Trust, working with partners in the Shark League, secured the first-ever international quota for South Atlantic Mako at ICCAT meeting in Portugal. The new campaign from the Shark Trust aims to push forwards from here, engaging a wave of support through the Big Shark Pledge to bolster policy action.
This will be a long-term international and collaborative effort. Forging a pathway to rebuild populations of high-seas sharks and rays. By putting science at the heart of shark conservation and fisheries management. And making the vital changes needed to set populations on the road to recovery.
Shark Trust CEO Paul Cox says of the Big Shark Pledge “It’s designed to give everyone who cares about the future of sharks the chance to add their voice to effective and proven conservation action. By adding their name to the Pledge, supporters will be given opportunities to apply pressure at key moments to influence change.”
Jeff chats to… Craig Waller, Underwater Lighting Technician on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Watch Video)
In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Craig Waller, Underwater Lighting Technician on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Craig is a Key Grip and Lighting Director with 10,000s of hours of Set Experience.
In Craig’s own words:
I started my career when I was in my first year of college. I always had that creative side of the brain that needed to be followed as a career. I thought that would be in designing engineering pieces but wasn’t happy about the idea of an office cubicle and drafting table.
I accidentally found my way onto a big commercial job for a week and decided “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO”. I made it my career after that. This is a quick list of recent and big projects in my 35 yrs of TV / Film / Photography.
- “Black Panther 2” – UW Lighting Technician / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
- “Stranger Things” Season 4 – UW Lighting Technician / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
- “Suicide Squad 2” – UW Gaffer / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
- NASCAR / FOX Sports 1 – Network TV Lighting Director – 7 years / 700 races of Live BIG track TV shows
- 10,000s of commercials / music videos / tv shows
I started diving when I was 18 years old with my OW and then AOW with PADI. I was diving with lots of friends in the late 80s and early 90s and then moved onto Kayaking. I got my daughter into diving when she turned 14 and have picked up where I left off.
I have approx 5000 dives now and spend most of my free time diving.
Here are my certs:
- OW – AOW 1989
- Adv Nitrox / Deco 2020
- Cavern – Intro Cave 2021
- CCR Tech – Fathom – 2021
You can find out more at www.craigwaller.com
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
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