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WWII Shipwreck Discovered Off Victorian Coast After 77 Years Missing

Archaeologists have discovered a ship sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II off the coast of Victoria. 

The SS Iron Crown, a 100-metre ore freighter, was hit by a torpedo from a Japanese sub on June 4, 1942, while travelling through Bass Strait.

The ship -- heavily loaded with a cargo of manganese ore, with 43 people onboard -- sank within 60 seconds. In total, 38 people died.

After 77 years, the shipwreck was discovered by archaeologists on board CSIRO research vessel Investigator about 100km off the coastline of Victoria, south of the border with NSW.

The SS Iron Crown. Image: Supplied (South Australian Maritime Museum)

Heritage Victoria's Peter Harvey said the "historically significant" discovery would bring closure for the families of those lost at sea.

"The Iron Crown is historically significant as one of only four World War II shipwrecks in Victorian waters and is the only ship to have been torpedoed by a submarine in Victorian waters," Harvey said.

"Locating the wreck after 77 years of not knowing its final resting place will bring closure for relatives and families of those that were lost at sea, as well as for Australia's maritime community."

READ MORE: 'Oldest Intact Shipwreck Known To Mankind' Found In Black Sea

Drop camera vision shows the shipwreck relatively intact after 77 years. Image: CSIRO

Iron Crown was located using multibeam sonar equipment and a special camera.

Emily Jateff, Voyage Chief Scientist from the Australian National Maritime Museum, said the wreck was found sitting upright on the seafloor relatively intact.

“We have mapped the site and surrounding seafloor using sonar but have also taken a lot of close up vision of the ship structure using a drop camera," she said.

"This will allow us to create a composite image of the whole site to assist in follow up surveys for its conservation and management.”

Chief Scientist Emily Jateff. Image: CSIRO

Images from the drop camera show an intact bow of the ship with railings, anchor chains and both anchors sill in position.

Jateff said the discovery was an exciting yet solemn moment.

“The fact that so many lives were lost in the sinking of Iron Crown was something that hit home with all scientists, staff and ship crew working on board Investigator," she said.

Volunteers from the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria were also involved in work leading up to the search.

A memorial service will now be planned for the site.

Featured image: CSIRO