Archaeology Underwater

Sanyo Maru pearling ship to be explored

Satellite Image of Boucaut Bay : Google

The wreck of a rare Japanese pearling mother ship off the Northern Territory coast is currently being explored in the northern territories of Australia.

Mr Mills (Environment Minister) said the expedition to the Sanyo Maru would add a significant chapter to the Territory’s history.

The wreck of the Sanyo Maru was discovered in 2001 but an expedition in 2002 was abandoned because of poor weather. Next week is the first opportunity to properly document the wreck.

The 36 metre long steel hulled vessel was the pride of the Japanese pearling fleet when it sank during a storm in Boucaut Bay, 60 kilometres off Maningrida in 1937.


Of 20 crew members on board, two died when the ship capsized. Its cargo of food, clothing and mother of pearl shells was too heavy in the rough seas. The wreck was partially salvaged after it sank, with much of the cargo removed. However, it is expected that personal belongings and other items of historic value may remain on the ship.

The expedition will include measurements, sketches and scans of the 75-year-old wreck. The data will be uploaded to the Australian National Shipwreck Database, which is accessible on the web.

Mr Mills said “The story of the Sanyo Maru shows the Territory’s relationship and ties with Japan run long and deep. The Japanese played a pivotal role in those early years of the Territory’s pearling industry; an industry that we are now renowned for today.

I look forward to seeing the results of next week’s expedition, which will bring the story of the Sanyo Maru to life for all Territorians to see.”

The wreckage of the Sanyo Maru is protected under the Commonwealth’s Historic Shipwrecks Act.

Contributing Source : NGT

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