The Montevideo Maru, Australia’s largest maritime loss in World War II, has finally been found after years of exhaustive search efforts. Silentworld Foundation, Fugro, and the Department of Defence have successfully located the shipwreck in the South China Sea, providing closure for the families of the 1,080 souls lost from 14 nations, including 979 Australians.
Search and Discovery
The sinking of the Montevideo Maru occurred on July 1, 1942, after the United States submarine Sturgeon fired four torpedoes at the unmarked vessel carrying Allied prisoners of war captured following the fall of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. The ship sank in less than 10 minutes, claiming the lives of those on board.
After 12 days at sea, the search team led by Silentworld Foundation, Fugro, and the Department of Defence spotted a potential wreck using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) equipped with sonar technology. A team of experts, including maritime archaeologists, conservators, operations and research specialists, and ex-naval officers, worked tirelessly to verify the wreck. The discovery marks the culmination of five years of planning from Silentworld Foundation and 20 years of dedication from the Montevideo Maru Society.
The Montevideo Maru lies in over 4,000 meters of water, deeper than the RMS Titanic. Out of respect for the families of those who perished, there will be no efforts to remove any artifacts or human remains from the site. The wreck will remain undisturbed, and any surveying and recording of the site will be non-invasive.
The discovery of the Montevideo Maru is a significant milestone for both the families of those who were lost and the broader historical community. It brings closure to the tragic event and honors the memory of the 1,080 souls who perished in Australia’s largest maritime loss during World War II.