Media Reporting of Salvage Activity on the Wreck of HMAS Perth I
14 December 2013
Recent reporting of allegations of salvage activity being conducted on the wreck of HMAS Perth (I) off Java have claimed there is little evidence of formal action being taken.
Since September reports have been circulating that potential systematic salvage of the PERTH wreck may be occurring. This is of considerable concern to all members of the Royal Australian Navy given the sacrifice that occurred on the night of 28 February and the early hours of 1 March 1942 when over 1,000 RAN and US Navy sailors from HMAS PERTH and USS HOUSTON lost their lives in the Battle of the Sunda Strait.
Further allegations also indicated that salvage activity may be occurring on British, Dutch and American warship wrecks throughout the South East Asian region.
In the case of PERTH there has been considerable speculation about whether what was being observed was due to natural collapse of parts of the wreck or salvage activities. Navy’s priority was to understand exactly what had occurred.
Following some very good comparative analysis of 2009 and 2013 imagery of the wreck by Dr Andrew Fock, who has dived not only on the wreck of PERTH but several other warship and submarine wrecks, Navy was convinced that the allegations of systematic salvage had some basis.
The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs has written to his counterpart the Chief of the Indonesian Navy, Admiral Dr. Marsetio on this issue. The Australian embassy Defence staff in Jakarta continues to work on this with Indonesian officials.
Media reporting claims Defence has tried to keep the story quiet. Navy has consistently maintained that due to the complexity of the issues and the cooperative approach required, the matter was better dealt with through formal channels. In a matter like this where there is a legitimate mix of issues of deep emotion, sovereignty and legal complexity, this approach is the most effective way to achieve the outcome we all seek.
Australians can be proud of their Naval heritage and men and women who tirelessly serve the nation today. As modern custodians of that heritage no one is more passionate than Navy in preserving the sites where our war dead still lie.
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999