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Article: The SS Macumba

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    The SS Macumba

    3 Comments by Brian Probetts (Site Admin) Published on 6th October 2017 12:10 AM

    Lauren Moss
    Minister for Tourism and Culture

    75 year maritime mystery solved - SS Macumba shipwreck found

    5 October 2017
    After lying hidden on the seabed for 75 years SS Macumba, sunk in WWII by a Japanese air attack has finally been located off the Northern Coast of Arnhem Land in the Arafura Sea by CSIRO’s RV Investigator as it transited from Sydney to Broome.
    Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss praised the work of the Heritage Branch at the Department of Tourism and Culture and CSIRO who have led the joint investigation searching for the SS Macumba.
    “The story of SS Macumba is another reminder that the northern coast of Australia was in the frontline in World War II, and ships, both naval and merchant, were in constant danger from enemy attack”, Ms Moss said.
    The Department of Tourism and Culture’s Senior Heritage Officer and maritime archaeologist, David Steinberg has been the principal investigator for the search for SS Macumba for many years with the CSIRO finally locating this highly significant historic shipwreck, which is also the resting place of one of the three seamen killed in the attack.
    “On 6 August 1943, whilst transporting a cargo of supplies from Sydney to Darwin the 2,540 ton merchant ship Macumba was attacked by two Japanese ‘Jake’ floatplanes,” Mr Steinberg said.

    “Despite return fire from both SS Macumba and her escort, the corvette HMAS Cootamundra, the Japanese bombers made a direct hit on SS Macumba’s engine room and the vessel sank.”

    Chief Engineer William Alfred Lane was lost during the attack and his body was not recovered. His name is recorded at the Adelaide River War Cemetery alongside those with no known grave. Second Engineer Harold Keller and Donkeyman George Dew both died of their injuries in the following days, and were buried at the Adelaide River War Cemetery. The Captain and 36 crewmen survived.
    The Department of Tourism and Culture’s Heritage Branch had been searching for SS Macumba for many years with historic archives defining a large search area, which was far from the coast and distant from Darwin.
    ‘We knew SS Macumba was out there, working with different collaborators over the years we have eliminated locations, and refined our search area and are so pleased the search with CSIRO has uncovered the wreck,” Mr Steinberg added.
    “SS Macumba is a highly significant historic shipwreck and archaeological site with the Australian Government planning to declare it a Historic Shipwreck which will protect the site under the Commonwealth’s Historic Shipwrecks Act.”
    CSIRO Hydrographic Surveyor Stuart Edwards who is on board RV Investigator confirmed they had located the wreck of the SS Macumba early yesterday off the Northern Coast of Arnhem Land in the Arafura Sea.

    “She is lying upright in approximately 40m water depth in an area of heavily pockmarked seabed,” Mr Edwards said.

    “The survey team and crew on-board RV Investigator are delighted to be able to finally solve the mystery as to her final resting place.”

    To learn more about maritime heritage in the Northern Territory visit
    Attached Images:

    1. SS Macumba
    2. SS Macumba AWM 303559
    3. SS Macumba sinking with crew in life boat NTRS 1389
    4. Clipping from Sydney Morning Herald, 1943 ‘Survivors of Bombed Ship arrive in Port’
    5. Burials taking place at Adelaide River War Cemetery AWM 055130
    6. Image 1 of the discovered wreck on the sea bottom courtesy of CSIRO
    7. Image 2 of the discovered wreck on the sea bottom courtesy of CSIRO
    8. Multi-beam image
    9. backscatter image (aka sidescan image) of wreck

    Media Contact: Trish Grimshaw 0401 119 242
    Media interviews:
    Senior Heritage Officer Department of Tourism and Culture, David Steinberg - 0404 302 015
    CSIRO Hydrographic Surveyor Stuart Edwards – contact Matt Marrison, Communications Advisor, CSIRO Marine Laboratories – 0438 785 399

    1 SS Macumba
    2 SS Macumba AWM303559
    3 SS Macumba NTRS1389
    4 Sydney morning Herald 1943
    5 Adelaide River Cemetry AWM055130
    6 wreck image 1 CSIRO
    7 wreck image 2 CSIRO
    8 Multi-beam image
    9 Backscatter image
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 6th October 2017 at 02:55 AM. Reason: Resize Picture
    Brian Probetts (site admin)

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    Default Re: The SS Macumba

    Hi Brian.
    A friend of mine who's father died two years ago, was only telling me last week that during the war her father joined a ship in Sydney in the morning, sailed the same day was torpedoed off Malabar just along the coast and slept at home that night .
    Cheers Des
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 6th October 2017 at 02:55 AM.

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    Default Re: The SS Macumba

    It nearly always amazes me when I see stories when I see long lost ship or aircraft found after many years searching for. Who do you believe if they had been searching for many years and knew the area they sank, they cannot have spent all those years searching a small area as would have found. I was involved in many bottom searches, most knew. Approx where they were and a lot were German U-boats sunk or scuttled one I particularly remember off the top end off Ireland. Numerous listening devices off the sea bed on the approaches to the Clyde. Shortly after they were laid. A prototype Tornado aircraft that came down in the Irish Sea about 1979. Looked that one up on google a few years ago and the story did not match up with what I knew and I was there and assisting in the recovery. As what I continuously say do not believe the press and that includes google. The media will never change a story as is bad for business, so a lot goes into history books incorrect. Present day journalists are not writers of truth, that's not what they get paid for, they want Mickey Spillaine stories with all the gory parts , and if can't get will make it up. I even looked up google not too long back about causes and actions taken before during and after the piper alpha disaster and most taken from the official enquiry and the questionable facts in the book written immediately after and written by a person with extreme questionable knowledge of the true facts , and to me would have questioned his own acts which note a remarked similarity to a child with that problem when they get over excited and have to have special Tuition. To even quote as true shows how unperturbed about the truth reporters are interested in. JWS
    Last edited by j.sabourn; 6th October 2017 at 02:35 AM.

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    Default Re: The SS Macumba

    According to our news last night she was found on the last search of the day before changing tides meant the search vessel had to return to port.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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