SHIP NOTES: (Sources: Jordan, Gentile)
(previous name: Mary Ellen O'Neil [1929])
Type: Tanker
Built: 1928 by Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co Owner: The Texas Compay (Texaco)
Home Port: Wilmington, DE
Size (ft.): 509 x 70 x 39 Tonnage: 11,628 tons
Propulsion: Twin diesel engines, twin screws/speed 11 knots
Date Sunk: 3/16/42 Cause: Torpedoed by U-332
Location Cape Hatteras, NC GPS: N35° 07.377'/W75° 21.176'
M/V Australia (11)
M/V Australia (21)
SHIP HISTORY: (Sources: Gentile, Hickam, Moore)
The M/V AUSTRALIA was sailing from Port Arthur, Texas to New Haven, Connecticut loaded with fuel oil. The tanker was sailing alone and unarmed, zig-zagging at approximately 11 knots. It approached the Diamond Shoals area fully aware of the dangers as radio reports from the torpedoed ships Olean and Ario had been received. At approximately 1400 EWT, a single torpedo from the U-332 struck the engine room on the starboard side. Four men on watch in the engine room were killed. Survivors reported seeing the vessel with the stern resting on the bottom and the bow afloat. Survivors were picked up by SS WILLIAM J. SALMAN approximately 1.5 hours after abandoning ship. They were later delivered to the USS RUBY (PY-21) and landed in Southport, NC at 1430 EWT on March 17.

The Australia carried a crew of 40. There were 36 survivors; 4 killed. One of the dead crewman, William F. Johnson, Second Assistant, age 39, had his name later used for a liberty ship .

Australia post-torpeding (Gentile)
William J. Salman (L) and USS Ruby(R) picked up survivors from Australia (11,8)

The Australia settled by its stern, but its bow remained afloat and inspite of the torpedo damage, none of its cargo holds were ruptured. The USSGC Dione stayed in the area of the torpedo attack thinking that the u-boat would return to finish off its victim. The Dione soon got a contact and started it depth charge attack, but the U-332 escaped without damage. Because the bow and bridge of the AUSTRALIA were showing above water, a salvage tug, RELIEF (SP-2170) was dispatched to inspect the damage. She reported the wreck ship burned out and a total loss. It is unclear as to the source of the fire as the crew did not report the ship burning when they abandoned the vessel. The ship later broke apart and sunk.

The SS WILLIAM J. SALMAN was later torpedoed and sunk on 5/18/1942. The U-332 was sunk with loss of all hands on 4/26/1943.

Diving Depths: 90-110 ft.
Current: Slight to undiveable
Visibility: Highly variable, in my experience usually less than 40 feet and can be less than 10 ft.
Summer Temperature: mid to high 70s with thermocline
Points of Interest: Two boilers, engine, port and starboard bow anchors, rudder, intact bow section
Fish/Animal Life: While diving on the Australia, I have had a large manta ray swim over us as we were tying off the anchor line. Not a bad way to start a dive! Sandtiger sharks are usually numerous on the wreck. The other unique feature is the abundance of large white coral heads.
Description: The wreck of the Australia is in two pieces. I have dove the stern section several times but have never been on the bow. The stern section is small and can be easily circumnavigated several times in one dive. The extreme stern provides the highest relief on this portion of the wreck. I did spot a blade of a propeller underneath the stern wreckage. This wreck suffers the variety of conditions found on any wreck lying so close to the shoals. Current, visibility and temperature can all very significantly ... even during a single dive. The water is generally seems cooler and viz lower than surrounding wrecks.
Small sandtiger shark swims over wreckage forward of the stern
End of windlass
Base of the stern mast
Remains of engine
Sandtiger passes in front of small boiler
Bollards with stern rising the background
The curve of stern fantail still remains
Two blades of the starboard propeller are sometimes exposed

Unless specifically noted, all photos, text and content Copyright © 2005 by Paul M. Hudy

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