Wrecks of Kormoran and Sydney Found off Australia
At 1600 on 19 Nov 1941, Australian light cruiser Sydney came across the Dutch merchant ship Straat Malakka west of Shark Bay off the western coast of Australia. Sydney approached to investigate, only to find that the Dutch ship was in fact the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran in disguise, a merchant raider. The Germans fired guns and torpedoes at the range of 1,000 meters, sinking Sydney and killing all 645 men on board. Kormoran, badly damaged from the engagement, was scuttled shortly after. 317 of 397 men aboard Kormoran made their way to Australia via life boats and were promptly captured as prisoners of war.
On 15 Mar 2008, an Australian team discovered the wreck of the German raider while looking for the wreck of Sydney. The search team was overseen by The Finding Sydney Foundation; it began the search only two weeks prior to the discovery. Kormoran now rests about 500 miles north of Perth beneath 8,400 feet of water. "Finding the Kormoran is one big step forward", said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after hearing that Kormoran was found. "Of course that does not mean that the search has yet found the Sydney itself but it does play one significant step closer."
Then, at 1003 on 17 Mar, the crew identified another man-made object on the ocean floor 10 nautical miles away from the Kormoran wreck. David Mearns, a veteran wreck hunter credited with finding the the German battleship Bismarck, immediately realized he was onto something and gave the order for another sonar scan. It was not long before he confirmed that it was the light cruiser Sydney. Prime Minister Rudd noted that the discovery of Sydney would finally bring closure to the families of the 645 lives lost aboard the ship. "It's also a time for the nation to reflect on the bravery of all of those who gave their lives in defense of their country in this particularly bloody and brutal naval engagement", he said.
Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett declared the two wrecks historic sites based on the provisions of the Historic Shipwrecks Act of 1976. "Under the declaration, unauthorized intrusion into the sites of these final resting places is prohibited," he said in a statement. "This action will ensure respect for the war dead of both our nations."
For more information, please see:
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Kormoran wreck found off WA
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Sea 'detectives' end the agony
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943