Search begins for the wreckage of the Centaur hospital ship

Seahorse Spirit


By Sophie Tedmanson - Times Online


A UK-based shipwreck hunter is set to embark on a search for the wreckage of one of Australia’s biggest maritime disasters off the coast of Queensland this weekend.

The Australian hospital ship the Centaur was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Queensland on May 14, 1943. Of the 332 non-combatants on board, only 64 survived the attack, and were forced to spend another 35 hours clinging to life rafts in the water while being circled by sharks until they were found by rescuers.

David Mearns, the director of the Blue Water Recoveries in West Sussex, will lead the search on board The Seahorse Spirit, a 72-metre multi-purpose vessel which has been fitted with 65 tonnes of specialised sonar equipment.

Mr Mearns said the crew of scientists and experts hope to head out to sea by Sunday on the $AU4 million (£2.2 million) mission, which is being jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments.

The wreck of the Centaur, which was built in Scotland by the British Blue Funnel Line shipping company, has never been found. A ship thought to be the Centaur was discovered in the same area in 1995, however the wreck was later deemed to be too small to be the hospital ship.

Mr Mearns said the crew will cover a search area of 4,000 sq miles in the Pacific Ocean off Cape Moreton by initially using a deep tow sonar which will scan the sea sideways.

He said the budget will only finance the operation for approximately 35 days at sea and the search could be hampered by the underwater terrain, but the team was confident of finding the 3,200-tonne, steel shipwreck.


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Japanese Australian hospital ship Centaur David Mearns Moreton Island