Wreck-hunters find sunken hospital ship

Image: Claus Lunau

After more than 65 years on the seafloor, the Centaur, a World War II Australian hospital ship, has been found nestled in the narrow channel of a canyon more than a kilometre below the ocean’s surface.

A Japanese submarine torpedoed the vessel on May 14, 1943 — 52 nautical miles (96 km) off the Australian coast, near Brisbane. Of the 332 people aboard, only 64 survived. The Australian government hired well-known shipwreck-hunter David Mearns to find the Centaur. After just nine days at sea, on December 20, 2009, Mearns and the rest of his crew located the sunken vessel using sonar.

Three weeks later, the team sent a remote-controlled minisub to film the first images of the wreck. Though still intact, the ship’s bow is almost entirely severed from the rest of the hull at the spot where the torpedo hit. Centaur’s large red crosses on both sides of the ship and the identifying number “47” on the bow are still visible after nearly seven decades underwater.

Mearns and Australian government officials hope the discovery of the wreck will provide some comfort to survivors and relatives of the deceased. In March, the government held a national memorial service in Brisbane.

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