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WWII Shipwrecks Vanish From Pacific Ocean: Sunken Dutch, British Warships, And A U.S. Submarine Mysteriously Disappear From Bottom Of Java Sea

Multiple shipwrecks from World War II have mysteriously vanished. The large sunken vessels had laid on the bottom of the Java Sea in the Pacific Ocean since 1942. Naval authorities have yet to come up with a plausible explanation about the missing warships.

The wreckage of six warships and a submarine that have been resting at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean have simply vanished. While the ships once belonged to the British and Dutch navies, the submarine belonged to the U.S. Navy. Needless to say, the abrupt disappearance has naval authorities of the respective nations scrambling to find where and how the sunken vessels vanished from the seabed.

The vessels, including three Dutch ships, six British ships, and a U.S. submarine, all sank during the Battle of the Java Sea in World War II. It was a terrible time for the allied forces battling against the Imperial Japanese Navy off the coast of Indonesia. Having a strategic advantage in their own waters, the Japanese Navy dealt a heavy blow, and the allied forces suffered a huge defeat. Nine hundred fifteen Dutch and 259 Indonesian sailors went down with the ships. Hence the shipwrecks are also considered a graveyard for the seamen.

For several decades after WWII, the wreckages of three Dutch warships — cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter (6,545 tons), HMLMS Java (6,670 tons), and destroyer HMLMS Kortenaer (1,316 tons) — remained lost to the world, lying somewhere on the bottom of the Java Sea. Then in 2002, a group of amateur divers discovered the wrecks, which were declared war graves of the sailors. However, it now appears that the wreckages might have been lost again, perhaps permanently.

Alongside the Dutch warships, two British ships, the heavy 8,390-ton cruiser HMS Exeter and the 1,405-ton destroyer HMS Encounter, as well as one U.S. Navy submarine, USS Perch, were also recently discovered to be missing. Additionally, a huge portion of 1,405-ton British destroyer the HMS Electra has also vanished. The discovery was made during an expedition to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Java in 2017, reported CNN. It was the Dutch defense ministry that first confirmed the disappearance.

The Indonesian Navy is currently investigating the disappearance of the shipwrecks, but hasn’t managed to find any clues. Naval researches began their investigation by drawing a detailed 3D map of the seabed where the shipwrecks once lay. Interestingly, while the wrecks are no longer present, the huge indentation they left on the sea floor is clearly visible.

The authorities haven’t come forth with a convincing explanation yet. However, the investigation hasn’t concluded. An international investigation jointly undertaken by multiple nations is likely to be launched soon. The authorities will surely use deep sea divers and Remotely Operated underwater Vehicles (ROVs) to confirm the SONAR readings, in addition to hunting for clues that might indicate who is responsible for the disappearance.

It was earlier believed that massive underwater movement of the tectonic plates or powerful sea currents might have moved the ships to a new location. But lack of such drag marks on the seabed dispelled the theory. Moreover, marine experts pointed out that these shipwrecks could have easily ingested several hundred tons of sand, and hence any movement would be near impossible.

Authorities strongly suspect the shipwrecks might have been stolen by scrap metal salvagers. The ships that sunk during WWII contain huge amounts of high quality steel, aluminum, and brass. Such materials in large concentration are a lucrative resource for scavengers.

Moving or raising entire shipwrecks will involve huge and bulky equipment mounted on multiple massive barges, and highly skilled divers. On the other hand, Indonesia has an extensive coastline, but lacks sufficient naval strength to keep an eye out for illegal activities, claim regional experts. Hence it is quite likely that small teams of local divers with crude equipment might have slowly but steadily stripped the wrecks in a piecemeal fashion. According to New Strait Times, such cases have been observed in the past.

The desecration of a war grave is a serious offense, reported The Guardian. What makes the disappearance an even graver crime is the fact that the shipwrecks were also the watery graves of hundreds of allied sailors.

[Featured Image by Borut Furlan/Getty Images]