An expedition to survey the historic World War II shipwrecks of HMAS Sydney (II) and the German raider HSK Kormoran has produced new photographic evidence which appears to confirm why Sydney was so quickly disabled, leading to catastrophic damage and the devastating loss of everyone on board.
New high resolution images taken two days ago by Curtin University on board DOF Subsea's vessel Skandi Protector clearly shows, for the first time, a 15cm shell hole through the bridge at the compass platform.
Western Australian Museum CEO Alec Coles said it was a remarkable early discovery for the expedition, and provided support for the theory that within the first 30 seconds of the battle Sydney's bridge was destroyed, her command structure lost, and her ability to effectively fight back severely disabled.
"This also supports the German captain Theodor Detmers' account of the battle which states the first salvo to hit Sydney was a direct hit to the bridge," Mr Coles said.
"It would appear we now have photographic evidence to support that, thanks to Curtin University's technology."
When the wrecks were found in 2008 the shell hole was not obvious, presenting as a shadow in the photographs taken at the time. The new imaging technology developed by Curtin University is throwing new light on the historic site.
"Curtin University is collaborating with the WA Museum to provide the technology needed to properly capture the unique heritage value of these ships so they can be investigated, managed and interpreted for future generations," Curtin's Director of Strategic Projects, Paul Nicholls, said.
"We are extremely pleased with these early results and look forward to more new and significant information coming to light over the next few days."
The wrecks lie in 2,500 metres of water, 20km apart, about 200km west of Steep Point (Shark Bay). The $2.4 million survey expedition is supported by the Australian Government, Curtin University, DOF Subsea, the WA Museum Foundation, GMA Garnet Group and the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in WA Torsten Ketelsen, and Prospero Productions.
The project has the support of the Royal Australian Navy and the Naval Association of Australia, representing veterans' interests.