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March 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Three More Popular Wrecks Lost Forever

from the March, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Three more historic wrecks have been lost to illegal Chinese salvage operations. Three Japanese ships that sank off Borneo during the WW II have been destroyed. The sunken cargo transporters, the Kokusei Maru, Higane Maru and Hiyori Maru, were torpedoed in 1944 by U.S. forces in the South China Sea and may still hold the remains of dozens of crewmen.

Collectively, they were known to divers as the Usukan wrecks, and their near-pristine state and rich coral and marine life have attracted recreational divers to Malaysia's Sabah state. All three were within a kilometer of each other.

The looting of Australian, American, British, Dutch and Japanese warships for scrap metal in southeast Asian seas has already caused outrage, with veterans and governments arguing that the vessels must be preserved as underwater war graves for sailors. (Undercurrent, January)

Scuba diver Monica Chin said local fishermen called her last month to say workers on a large Chinese vessel were using a crane to tear apart the Japanese wrecks. Ship-tracking websites describe the vessel as a "grab dredger."

Chin arranged for divers to visit the site, which she said "was until last year in a beautiful condition. It was an underwater museum." When they surfaced, they showed her the photos. "It totally broke my heart," she said. "It made me cry. I just can't believe it."

Locally, the three wrecks are known as Rice Bowl Wreck -- named after its cargo of hundreds of bowls -- Upside Down Wreck and Usukan Wreck.

Another diver, Mark Hedger, who is an instructor and managing director of Diverse Borneo in Sabah's capital, Kota Kinabalu, used to make the 75-minute boat trip to the wreck sites with customers.

He wrote a statement on what he found during a recent dive, saying the Usukan and Upside Down wrecks were "98 per cent and 99 per cent gone."

There is an increasing demand for pre-nuclear-age steel for use in the manufacture of scientific instruments and with it a growing concern for the continuing existence of the wrecks of the HMS.Repulse and HMS.Prince of Wales.

(Source: The Guardian)

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