Thu, Apr 02, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Wreck of first US ship sunk in WWII viewed with sonar


The wreck of the first US ship sunk during World War II has been revealed in detail for the first time on the seabed off southeastern Australia, researchers said yesterday.

Images of the merchant vessel City of Rayville, which was sunk in 1940 by a German mine, were taken by state-of-the-art sonar technology and remotely operated vehicles, Deakin University scientists said.

“It was very exciting to see the City of Rayville for the first time,” lead researcher Daniel Ierodiaconou said. The wreck could possibly still contain the remains of the first US sailor to die in the war — more than a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into the conflict, Ierodiaconou said.

The City of Rayville was en route to Melbourne when it struck a mine in a newly laid German minefield in the Bass Strait on Nov. 8, 1940, going down in 70m of water off Cape Otway.

Just 24 hours earlier, the British steamer SS Cambridge was sunk after hitting a mine off the nearby Wilsons Promontory in Victoria state.

“The approximate location [of the City of Rayville] has been fairly well known for quite some time,” Ierodiaconou said.

But for the first time, the team used sonar technology to develop detailed three-dimensional models of the wreck and collected video using a remotely operated vehicle, he said.

All 38 crew managed to make it into lifeboats and were rescued, but one went back to gather his personal belongings and went down with the ship, meaning that his remains could still be in the wreck, Ierodiaconou said.

The wreck was uncovered as part of a wider project to map Victoria’s underwater environment.

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