WATERY GRAVE: Denise and Rex Wythe, from Melbourne, learn about the Limerick.
WATERY GRAVE: Denise and Rex Wythe, from Melbourne, learn about the Limerick.

Limerick find celebrated

WHEN the early morning silence off the coast of Ballina was shattered by an explosion on the morning of April 26, 1943, it created a riddle that would not be solved till August 2013.

On that bright moon light morning, the TSMV Limerick was torpedoed off the coast of Ballina by a Japanese submarine I-177.

A refrigerated transport she was part of, convoy GP.48, escorted by to Australian naval vessels HMAS Ballarat and Colac.

Her crew of 70 were rescued from the water and subsequently landed at Brisbane.

The Pilot station in Ballina was alerted to the event by officers from Garden Island in Sydney towards dawn but unfortunately could not respond due to stormy and treacherous conditions on the bar.

The Limerick slipped below the waves, ending her 18 year career on the oceans.

Due to war time restrictions, details of her loss and the loss of the hospital ship Centaur were not released to the public until after the war.

Peace came to the world and time passed, the fate and location of the Limerick slipped from mind to become just another statistic among the many casualties of war.

She remained lost until local fisherman Neville Poynting made a fortuitous discovery in August 2012 which led to the Limerick's discovery and identification.

While fishing about twelve nautical miles (22km) off the Ballina, Neville noticed an oil slick in the water.

His interest being piqued, Neville dropped into the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, and with the assistance of staff and access to the Pilot Station records held at the museum, the location was confirmed as being the likely resting place of the Limerick.

The navy was contacted and the survey vessel Southern Surveyor which was at the time in transit from Brisbane to Sydney, was diverted to confirm the identity.

Side scan sonar revelled that it was indeed a vessel laying on its side in 107m of water.

After 69 years, the Limerick had finally been found.

In the following year, experienced diver Damien Siviero made a dive on Limerick's wreck and became the first to see her again since her untimely loss.

Visitors to the museum can see a display detailing the finding of TSMV Limerick as well as a scale model and prints of the original side scan radar images.

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