A recent discovery has shown how disruption of mining industry activity was the target of enemy actions during World War II.

The CSIRO research vessel Investigator has located the wreck of a freighter in Bass Strait carrying manganese ore.

The SS Iron Crown, a 100m-long ore freighter, was hit by a Japanese torpedo on June 4, 1942 and sank within 60 seconds, according to the CSIRO.

Peter Harvey, a maritime archaeologist with Heritage Victoria said it was one of Victoria’s worst shipwrecks in terms of loss of life.

“The Iron Crown is historically significant as one of only four World War II shipwrecks in Victorian waters and is the only ship to have been torpedoed by a submarine in Victorian waters,” Mr Harvey said.

“There were 43 crew from the Australian Merchant Navy on board the ship and 38 lost their lives in the attack. Locating the wreck after 77 years of not knowing its final resting place will bring closure for relatives and family of those that were lost at sea, as well as for Australia’s maritime community.”

Iron Crown was located using multibeam sonar equipment and a special drop camera on research vessel Investigator, which returned to its home port of Hobart this morning.

Voyage Chief Scientist, Emily Jateff  from the Australian National Maritime Museum, led the search and said the wreck was located about 100km off the Victorian coastline south of the border with New South Wales.

“The wreck of Iron Crown appears to be relatively intact and the ship is sitting upright on the seafloor in about 700m of water,” Ms Jateff said.

“We have mapped the site and surrounding seafloor using sonar but have also taken a lot of close up vision of the ship structure using a drop camera. This will allow us to create a composite image of the whole site to assist in follow up surveys for its conservation and management.”

Imagery from the camera survey clearly shows the intact bow of the ship, with railings, anchor chains and both anchors still in position, as well as other structures on the deck.

Ms Jateff said that it was an exciting but solemn moment for all on board when they realised that the wreck had been located.

“This is an important discovery for Australia and all on board feel honoured to have been involved in this successful search,” Ms Jateff said.

“The fact that so many lives were lost in the sinking of Iron Crown was something that hit home with all scientists, staff and ship crew working on board Investigator.”

Shipwreck find a sombre glimpse of WWII heritageShipwreck find a sombre glimpse of WWII heritage