Discovery of historic shipwreck SS Wollongbar II

A coastal freighter torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in WWII has been discovered off Crescent Head in the state’s Mid North Coast.

Wollongbar II steamship

Acting Minister for Veterans Geoff Lee said the SS Wollongbar II was confirmed by archaeologists from Heritage NSW after it was reported by the local community.

“In 1943 a Japanese submarine, the I-180, destroyed the freight vessel with two torpedos killing 32 people on board,” said Mr Lee.

“The ship sank in minutes with only five crew surviving the attack.”

The SS Wollongbar II was one of many vessels lost to enemy assault along the eastern coastline during WWII.

“We have just commemorated our brave veterans on Anzac Day but it’s also important to remember the toll of war for everyday Australians,” said Mr Lee.

“This secret has been hidden at the bottom of the deep sea for decades and the find will give some closure for descendants and relatives of the 32 people who lost their lives.”

Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey said a significant part of the Mid North Coast’s wartime history has been solved with the shipwreck’s discovery.

“The Crescent Head and Port Macquarie fishing industry cooperated brilliantly to help solve this mystery and I want to congratulate Heritage NSW for its important leadership,” said Ms Pavey.

When the vessel sank, it was carrying boxes of butter and bacon which eventually washed up on the shore resulting in a boom in cake making, which was normally restricted by wartime food rationing.  

Director of Heritage Operations at Heritage NSW Tim Smith OAM said the discovery will reveal some amazing stories.

“We want relatives of those who sailed on the SS Wollongbar II to get in contact, so we can share findings of the survey conducted by our archaeologists,” Mr Smith said.