Wreck of the first American vessel sunk during World War II has been found

  • U.S. WWII shipwreck found off Australia’s coast
    Freighter struck a German mine a year before the U.S. entered the war
    updated 9:07 a.m. PT, Tues., April 7, 2009
    MELBOURNE, Australia - The rusting wreck of the first American vessel sunk during World War II has been found off Australia’s southeastern coast, ocean researchers said Thursday.

    The MV City of Rayville, a freighter carrying a cargo of lead, wool and copper from Australia to New York, sank in the Bass Strait after striking a German mine on Nov. 8, 1940, a year before the United States entered the war.

    One seaman drowned while trying to recover personal items from the sinking vessel but the 37 other crew survived.
    The approximate location of the wreck — about 8.5 miles from Cape Otway in the strait that separates mainland Australia from the island state of Tasmania — had been known since 2002 but it was too deep to be precisely located.

    Researchers at Deakin University found the vessel 230 feet underwater by using state-of-the-art sonar equipment during a research project to map the seabed off the state of Victoria.

    “It was very exciting to see the City of Rayville for the first time,” research leader Daniel Ierodiaconou said in a statement.

    The merchant vessel, owned by the International Mercantile Marine Company in New York, was under charter to the United States Maritime Commission during its journey to Australia.

    The freighter was found upright on its keel, with a slight list, and has become an artificial reef for marine life, researchers said.

    Maritime archaeologist Cassandra Philippou of Heritage Victoria, which oversees historic sites in Victoria state, said that a hatch cover near the stern was missing, consistent with reports that covers were blown off by the explosion.

    Heritage Victoria was not involved in the research but provided the vessel’s approximate coordinates to the Deakin team and said the discovery will help develop a plan for maintaining the wreck site.

    The Rayville was the second ship to be sunk by one of 100 German mines laid in Bass Strait. The British steamer SS Cambridge was destroyed nearby a day earlier.

  • … a german mine? … off the southern coast of australia? how odd

  • Germany was actively involved in the Southern Hemisphere: and here is another interesting tidbit involving Kerguelen Island:

    In the past, a number of expeditions briefly visited the islands, including that of Captain James Cook in 1776. In 1874–75, British, German and US expeditions visited Kerguelen to observe the transit of Venus.[2]

    The German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis called at Kerguelen during December 1940. During their stay the crew performed maintenance and replenished their water supplies. This ship’s first fatality of the war occurred when a sailor fell while painting the funnel. He is buried in what is sometimes referred to as “the most southerly German grave” of the Second World War.

    Kerguelen has been continually occupied since 1950 by scientific research teams, with a population of fifty to one hundred frequently present.[1] There is also a French satellite tracking station.

  • Was anyone else aware of the most Southerly German grave?

  • i’d heard of the grave site a few times before now

    i did a little research, and found that the ship that laid the mines was a captured norwegian tanker. the germans changed the name of the boat from ‘storstad’ to ‘passat’. sneaky germans

  • @Raunchy:

    Was anyone else aware of the most Southerly German grave?

    I wrote about it in the “favorite WWII ship post”. The commerce raider Atlantis is my favorite WWII ship.

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