Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

Archived media releases and speeches


Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

5 August 2006

World War II shipwreck discovered

The wreck of the SS Iron Knight, sunk in Australian waters during the Second World War will be protected as an historic shipwreck due to its maritime heritage significance, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said today.

As part of a wartime convoy, the Australian cargo steamer SS Iron Knight was en route from Whyalla to Newcastle with a load of iron ore when it was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in the early hours of 8 February 1943.

Senator Campbell said the discovery of the wreck near Montague Island off the NSW coast is a reminder of the proximity of the Second World War to Australian shores.

"Of the 50 crew on board only 14 survived. Although historic shipwrecks in Australian waters are usually at least 75 years old, the SS Iron Knight deserves our protection as a war grave of the lost crew," Senator Campbell said.

"I consider vessels such as SS Iron Knight, sunk during enemy action in the Second World War, to be a significant part of Australia's maritime heritage and so I have declared the vessel a historic shipwreck to ensure its protection now and for future generations."

Senator Campbell said he made the declaration to ensure the vessel and its contents were protected from possible interference or damage by visitors.

"It is important that we respect our underwater heritage. Shipwrecks hold valuable information that needs to be protected for the benefit of all Australians - both now and in the future."

The discovery of the wreck of the SS Iron Knight was made by a team of specialist divers from The Sydney Project dive team 22 miles south of Montague Island, of the coast of NSW, in 125 metres of water.

"The discovery highlights yet again our fascinating and ever-changing coastal and maritime heritage - the Australian Government's 2006 national heritage theme," Senator Campbell said.

Under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, historic shipwrecks are protected and preserved by the Australian Government.

The Act aims to protect maritime archaeological sites, while encouraging public access to them. The Act prohibits damage, interference or removal of historic shipwrecks and their associated relics.

For further information visit

Media contact:
Rob Broadfield 02 6277 7640 or 0409 493 902

Commonwealth of Australia