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The Marine National Facility (MNF) offers Australia's maritime archaeologists and historians specialised capability, equipment and expertise to help discover, identify and protect our underwater cultural heritage. These projects can be delivered through grants of sea time (see Apply for sea time) as well as Piggyback Projects alongside other ocean exploration research being undertaken.

From lost shipwrecks to submerged cultural landscapes, we have been an important collaborator in many significant maritime heritage projects and discoveries along Australia's coastline. These projects have been delivered by both current and previous research vessels operated by the MNF.

Voyage participants gather for a memorial service after potentially locating the wreck of USS Neosho in the Coral Sea. Image: Huw Morgan.

Putting our underwater cultural heritage on the map

Since commissioning in 2014, research vessel (RV) Investigator has assisted with the both the identification of significant shipwrecks, as well as making several important shipwreck discoveries during voyages. These projects are highly collaborative endeavours and closely involve maritime heritage agencies, commercial operators, government and the wider community.

All underwater cultural heritage surveys by RV Investigator are conducted in accordance with a Standard Operating Procedure developed by the MNF in consultation with the maritime heritage community. 

The national impact of these discoveries is significant. They provide maritime heritage managers with data to inform site management and preservation, and can provide clues to assist in understanding the events that led up to the vessel sinking. Further, these discoveries give members of the community closure for the resting place of the vessel and, in some cases, the people who were on board.

Explore some of our significant projects and shipwreck discoveries below.

Maritime heritage discoveries

YEAR VOYAGE CATEGORY SHIPWRECK PARTNERS STATEMENT
2023 IN2023_E03 Investigation  SS Nemesis Heritage NSW CSIRO helps Heritage NSW solve 120-year maritime mystery of the SS Nemesis
2023 IN2023_V02 Investigation  MV Blythe Star CSIRO Wreck of MV Blythe Star located after 50 years
2022 IN2022_V05 Re-mapping MV Limerick Major Projects Foundation -
2019 IN2019_V04 Discovery USS Neosho  James Cook University Scientists think they’ve found Aussie defender’s last resting place
2019 IN2019_V07 Discovery SS Iron Crown
Australian National Maritime Museum,
Heritage Victoria
WWII shipwreck discovered - SS Iron Crown sunk by submarine in 1942
2019 IN2019_V07 Locate SS Federal Australian National Maritime Museum,
Heritage Victoria
SS Federal’s watery grave studied in bid to solve century-old mystery
2017 IN2017_T01 Discovery SS Macumba Northern Territory Government 74 year-old mystery solved: RV Investigator finds WWII shipwreck
2017 IN2017_C02 Discovery Barque Carlisle Heritage Victoria,
Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria
RV Investigator probe reveals Bass Strait shipwreck after 'chance encounter'

Shipwreck media

The following videos provide further details about some of the shipwreck investigations and discoveries made by RV Investigator.

SS Nemesis

Refer transcript in YouTube.

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MV Blythe Star

Refer transcript in YouTube.

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