photograph from the Netherlands Institute of Military History
NOTE: In case you're considering the wisdom of stealing a wrecked battleship owned by a country's navy, it is against international law to desecrate naval war wrecks. As the final resting places of soldiers killed in battle, they are seen as war graves and desecrating them is a serious offense.
A departure from my usual "what happened this week" or "I have to share this with you" blog topics because I haven't been able to stop thinking about the disappearance of these ships. I ask you, how does a 6,545 ton (HNLMS De Ruyter), and a 6,670 ton (HMLMS Java) and a 1,316 ton (HMLMS Kortenaer) ship "disappear" without anyone seeing it being taken away? You'd think some over-sized equipment such as, oh, I don't know, the world's tallest crane, might have been put to use and someone would notice, get curious enough to putter out in a skiff for a look-see. Could it be that their remote, uninhabited by human beings oceanic location, made it easier to...carry them off? The questions that arise from this trio of missing ships are many:
1) HOW could this been done? If not hoisted out of the ocean with cranes, a zillion hours dismantling these ships had to have been put in. And then what? Transport the ship pieces by barges? (the hoisting out of the ocean scenario, if you think about it, is a pretty great visual. Too bad I couldn't find an image to pop in here, but seeing this image of a barge crane, imagine a wrecked military destroyer dangling from its hooked jaws):
3) WHY take them? This is the one that baffles me the most but then I know little to nothing about the value of nearly 15,000 tons of ship wreckage that's been languishing on the ocean floor for 75 years.
The same day this discovery of the missing Dutch ships was announced, two weeks ago tomorrow, news broadcasters reported that the wrecks of two British ships, the 8,390-ton cruiser HMS Exeter and the 1,405-ton destroyer HMS Encounter, and one US Navy submarine had also gone missing. A British destroyer, the 1,405 ton HMS Electra, had been scavenged, presumably by illegal scrap metal scavengers, though a chunk of that wreck still remains. 3D maps of the seabed showed large holes where the missing ships used to be.
Sounds like there's a band of greedy metal thieves merrily helping themselves to what they deem as easy money. Where are the underwater police when you need them?!
The seas around Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are a graveyard for hundreds of ships and submarines sunk during WWII. Salvage operators say that the illegal salvaging of the wrecks for steel, aluminum and brass has become commonplace. But the three missing Dutch wreck sites were located 60 miles off the coast of Indonesia, at a depth of 70m.
If you've had experience in salvaging ship wrecks, please share your knowledge. If not, any theories about what happened to them?