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Sunday, January 10, 2010

First pictures of Australian hospital ship Centaur at bottom of the ocean

The bow of the Austr alain hospital ship Centaur torpedoed during Wolrd War IIwas seen for the first time in 66 years today after is was found at the bottom of the ocean.

The clearly-marked Centaur was lost on May 14, 1943 and only found off Australia's northeast coast last month when a high-tech search uncovered it at a depth of 2,059 metres (1.3 miles), according to news agency AFP.
Search director David Mearns said he hoped Sunday's photographic proof would remove all doubt and "hopefully end a 66-year quest for unanswered questions and bring comfort to many families across Australia and beyond".
Images of the wreck, more than 2km (1.3 miles) below the sea, were captured by a remote-controlled underwater camera.
"The wreck was found leaning over towards its port side at an angle of approximately 25 degrees and the bow is almost completely severed from the rest of the hull in the area where the single torpedo hit," Mr Mearns.

"Although the wreck is very badly damaged, characteristic markings and features that identify the wreck as the Centaur were clearly visible."
Australia believes the ship was struck without warning by a Japanese submarine but Japan says the circumstances around the sinking are unclear.
Among the distinctive features revealed Sunday by the remotely-operated submersible vehicle equipped with a camera are the large red cross on both sides of the bow and the number 47 that designated the vessel as Australian Hospital Ship 47.

Of the 332 people on the ship, only 64 survived. Eleven of the 12 nurses on board died.
Acting Premier Paul Lucas said the Remotely Operated Vehicle took the images, including an image of the Red Cross on the side of the Centaur at 2.50am this morning.

“The wreck is badly damaged but David Mearns and his team were able to identify key characteristics such as the green band painted on the hull of the boat and the Red Cross on the bow.
“The first ROV mission had to be cut short because of technical issues on the surface but search Director David Mearns will send the ROV down for more pictures today.
“It is incredible to think that these are the first images any human being has seen of this tragic ship in over six and a half decades.”
The wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres.
The ROV was launched from the Seahorse Spirit, the ship used to find the Centaur. Lights were used to illuminate the wreck on the sea bed so that high definition video can be recorded.
More on the search for the Centaur, including a diary from those on board the vessel can be found here

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