By Jewel Topsfield - WA Today
Australia and Indonesia will conduct a joint dive of the World War II shipwreck HMAS Perth off the coast of Java next month amid fears the vessel, which is believed to hold the remains of 40 to 60 men, is being destroyed by illegal salvagers.
Efforts to protect the wreck comes as three Japanese ships that sunk off the coast of Borneo during the 1944 Pacific War by US forces have reportedly been torn apart for scrap.
The research dive on HMAS Perth will be the first detailed survey of the wreck since 2014, following the shock discovery the previous year that the cruiser and other WWII wrecks in the vicinity had been looted for scrap metal.
A sonar survey of the HMAS Perth carried out by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Indonesian National Research Centre of Archaeology in December was inconclusive as poor weather conditions impacted on the quality of the images taken.
The museum's director, Kevin Sumption said the dive would confirm the condition of the wreck, if it had been recently interfered with by salvagers, its corrosion and its historical and archeological significance.
"We are very aware that there are concerns in the community and we are doing everything we can, working in close partnership with our Indonesian partners, to secure formal protection of the site," Mr Sumption said.