A mystery shipwreck with an uncertain identity has been found in the fish-filled oceans near Australia.
The wreck was found last week 60 meters (197 feet) beneath the waves of the northwestern coast of Western Australia after the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) ship, the Solander, noted some strange activity on their sonar.
“The ship’s captain noticed the unusual formation on the echosounder while we were traveling between sites,” Miles Parsons, an AIMS Marine Acoustics researcher, told Business Insider. “We came back to take a closer look and were able to map it in incredible detail using enhanced multibeam survey technology onboard. It was pretty clear this was not a natural formation.”
From bow to stern, the ship measures around 37 meters (121 feet) long. The wreck remains unidentified as of yet, so AIMS have wrangled the help of maritime experts from the Western Australian Museum to identify it. Most unusually, there are no records suggesting that a ship of this size had sunk in these waters, but the researchers do have a certain number of other clues to work with.
For one thing, it’s in relatively good shape with an intact hull. The ship also appears to be relatively modern – this is certainly not a pirate ghost ship. It’s made of steel, with certain features suggesting it could have been a fishing vessel from around the 1970s or 1980s. However, the researchers still say it's too early to make any definitive statements.
Parsons added: "There was a lot of excitement going on as the object popped up on our screen, and then there were a lot of phone calls going back and forth trying to work out what it was – was it possibly a shipwreck?"
As you can see from the AIMS video footage of the discovery above, the shipwreck has since become a hub of marine life activity, becoming home to numerous different species of fish.
The researchers and authorities are keeping quiet about the location of the wreck, as it might be listed as a heritage site. Australia has a large number of historic shipwreck protected zones that are maintained for both recreational and scientific purposes. Divers are free to use these areas for recreational purposes, but no relics can be removed from the wreck site.
Equally, the waters around parts of Australia are no stranger to scavengers. Although primarily a concern in the Java Sea to Australia’s north, sea-faring scavengers are known to raise World War Two shipwrecks from the seabed in order to sell off the metal.