Japanese pearling wreck protection

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Photo: The Sanyo Maru wreck is now protected Photo: Northern Territory Government, Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment

The shipwreck of the only known Japanese pearling mother ship in Australia will be protected by a new 200 hectare Protected Zone says the Australian ministry.

The wreck of the Sanyo Maru, which sank in July 1937, in stormy conditions, sits at a depth of 27 metres 60km off the coast of Central Arnhem Land.

Ministers say it’s the only known shipwreck of its type in Australia and is a significant archaeological relic because it’s in a well preserved condition on the seabed.

It has been said to give an unparalleled insight into the operation and technology of the pearl shell trade during the 1930s.

Protected Zone status for the wreck site has been awarded under the Australian Government’s Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

Sanyo Maru was used to support a fleet of Japanese pearling luggers in the sea off the Central Arnhem Land in the 1930s. At the height of the pearl industry, 190 pearling luggers were operating in the Arafura Sea, each with a crew of around 14.

The pearling motherships provided food, diesel fuel, wood and fresh water to the pearling luggers, but no crew were permitted to make landfall.