Deep-sea explorers said Saturday they had located the wreck of a World War II Japanese transport ship, the Montevideo Maru, which was torpedoed off the Philippines killing nearly 1,000 Australians aboard.
The ship -- sunk on July 1, 1942 by a US submarine whose crew did not realise it carried prisoners of war -- was found at a depth of more than four kilometres (2.5 miles), said the maritime archaeology group Silentworld Foundation, which organised the mission.
The sinking of the Montevideo Maru was Australia's worst maritime disaster, killing an estimated 979 Australian citizens including at least 850 troops. Civilians from 13 other countries were also aboard, the foundation said, bringing the total number of prisoners killed to about 1,060.
"At long last, the resting place of the lost souls of the Montevideo Maru has been found," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said. "Among the 1,060 prisoners on board were 850 Australian service members -- their lives cut short," he said in a statement on social media. "We hope today's news brings a measure of comfort to loved ones who have kept a long vigil."
Explorers began searching for the wreck on April 6 in the South China Sea northwest of the Philippines' main island of Luzon, and made a positive sighting just 12 days later, using high-tech equipment including an autonomous underwater vehicle with sonar. "The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in Australian military and maritime history," said John Mullen, director of Silentworld, which conducted the hunt with Dutch deep sea survey firm Fugro along with help from the Australian military.