Queensland Government media releases

Queensland Government

Media Releases

Search for the Centaur

Australia’s fastest currents add to Centaur search challenge: Lucas

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health

The Honourable Paul Lucas

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dealing with the Australian seaboard’s fastest currents and dramatic underwater depth variations in the search area are clear challenges for the AHS Centaur search team, Deputy Premier Paul Lucas said today.

Mr Lucas, representing Premier Anna Bligh, today introduced Centaur search project manager British-based David Mearns to a stakeholder group at Parliament House.

“Resolving the Centaur mystery is of great national significance,” said the Deputy Premier.

The Australian Hospital Ship Centaur was sunk by a Japanese submarine, east of Moreton Island on May 14, 1943. Of the 332 people on board, only 64 survived.

“The exact location remains a mystery and David Mearns’ Bluewater Recoveries is reviewing and reanalysing all available data before beginning the search proper.

“The search proper, dependent on vessel and equipment availability, is likely to take place over the coming summer; but that is yet to be confirmed,” said Mr Lucas.

Premier Anna Bligh wrote to the Prime Minister in May last year seeking his support to find the Centaur.

The Prime Minister agreed and as result the two governments have each committed $2 million to the search and, late in 2008, a Joint Government Steering Committee was formed to oversee the project.

One of the Committee’s first acts was to appoint the project manager.

Bluewater Recoveries was chosen from more than 10 national and international firms.

Mr Mearns’ past successes include the HMAS Sydney, HMS Hood and he holds the Guinness World Record for the deepest shipwreck ever found, the German Rio Grande, located at a depth of 5,762 metres.

Mr Lucas said that estimates are that AHS Centaur could rest at a depth of up to two to three kilometres.

“David’s intense studies have found that current flow off the South East Queensland coast is the quickest in Australia.

“The search area, built on the positions offered by Centaur’s Navigating officer Gordon Rippon, placed Centaur east-northeast of Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island.

“This, and all the best available information, has to be considered and reconsidered before putting to sea.

“As well the very latest bathymetry (study of underwater depths) released publicly for the first time today, shows just how dramatic the terrain is in the search area (image attached).

“All of this makes finding Centaur a real challenge and David and his team will give it their best shot,” he said.

The Prime Minister has said that if the search is successful, suitable memorial activities will be undertaken to acknowledge AHS Centaur’s resting place and it will be duly declared as an historic shipwreck under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 in recognition of its social and historical significance to all Australians.

Attendees at today’s briefing included the Committee, Centaur Association representatives, RSL and historian Captain Foley.

“This is an important part of Queensland and Australia’s history and for the sake of those who died, and their loved ones it is right that we try to find its last resting place,” Mr Lucas said.

Finding AHS Centaur takes another key step: Bligh

Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

Friday, August 28, 2009

Expressions of interests from suitably qualified operators to supply deep-water search equipment to help find the torpedoed Australian Hospital Ship Centaur take a key step forward this weekend.

“Advertisements calling for tenders from the operators to supply deep-tow side-scan sonar and remote-operated submersible vessels will be placed nationally this weekend,” said Premier Anna Bligh.

“This is a highly specialised area and it is expected to generate international bids. The tender is also for the crew to operate the equipment. Tenders close on 18 September.

“This is the next stage in the Queensland and Australian Governments $4 million project to locate the AHS Centaur,” she said.

The Centaur was sunk by a Japanese submarine off the South-East Queensland coast in 1943 with the loss of 268 lives (mainly medical and nursing personnel and civilian crew).

Project Manager and Search Director David Mearns told interested stakeholders and members of the public in July that he hoped to undertake the search later this year or early next year.

“At present exhaustive research is being finalised by Mr Mearns in order to determine the ultimate search area for the Centaur’s likely resting place,” said the Premier.

Internationals among AHS Centaur equipment search bids

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health

The Honourable Paul Lucas

Thursday, September 24, 2009

International expressions of interests are among a number received from operators to supply deep-water search equipment to help find the torpedoed Australian Hospital Ship Centaur, Acting Premier Paul Lucas said today.

“The expressions are for deep-water search equipment including deep-tow side-scan sonar, and a remote-operated submersible vessel capable of operating to at least 3,000 metres,” he said.

AHS Centaur was sunk by a Japanese submarine off the South-East Queensland coast in 1943 with the loss of 268 lives (mainly medical and nursing personnel and civilian crew).

“Resolving the Centaur mystery is of great national significance,” said the Acting Premier.

Meanwhile negotiations are being conducted with pre-qualified government-owned or leased vessels to secure an appropriate support vessel for the search.

“Securing the equipment and vessel are the next stages of the joint Queensland and Australian Governments Finding the Centaur project.

“We are hopeful that we will be in a position to announce the outcomes for the search equipment and for the vessel early next month,” said Mr Lucas.

At a Parliament House forum on 3 July 2009 Project Manager and Search Director, David Mearns, provided a detailed report regarding the progress of the project.

“At present, an exhaustive research is being finalised by Mr Mearns in order to determine the ultimate search area for Centaur’s likely resting place.

“Once these procurement and research processes are finalised, it is expected that details about the ability of the search to proceed and its likely timing will become clearer.

“It is hoped that the search will take place this year or early next year. This will be dependent upon vessel and equipment availability.”

“That sad morning on 14 May 1943 at about 4am, 268 Aussies lost their lives.

“It is right for them, and their kin, that we find Centaur’s last resting place and pay them the final honour they deserve,” said Mr Lucas.

Centaur search to begin next month, with equipment on way to Qld

 Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

 Monday, November 23, 2009

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier Anna Bligh today announced the deep-sea search equipment to be used in the hunt for the Centaur off Queensland’s coast is on its way to Australia.

The project team is now in the final stages of planning for the search, which is expected to begin in mid December.

Premier Bligh said this was a big step forward in the attempt to resolve the mystery of the Centaur.

“268 people lost their lives when the World War 2 Hospital ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine off the South-East Queensland coast in May 1943,” Ms Bligh said.

“The discovery of this vessel would allow us to honour those people who were killed, and hopefully better understand what happened on that very sad day.”

Prime Minister Rudd said the Centaur is an important part of the history of Queensland, and the history of the nation, and finding it would offer peace to the families and loved ones of those who were lost.

“The loss of a clearly marked hospital ship during World War 2 struck deeply at the heart of our nation, and became a symbol of our determination to fight on against a brutal enemy,” said Mr Rudd.

“I hope the search is successful, that all Australians may finally know and commemorate the resting place of the brave nurses and crew who died on that terrible day.”

Ms Bligh said the key platform for the search will be a Defence Maritime Services vessel, the Seahorse Spirit.

“This is an Australian owned and crewed vessel. The company has previous experience in similar operations, including the search for an Australian Black Hawk helicopter in 2007, on the seabed off the coast of Fiji,” Ms Bligh said.

“The other key search equipment includes deep-sea side-scan sonar equipment and a remotely operated submersible vessel capable of being operated at depths below 3,000 metres.

“This is highly specialised equipment operated by only a handful of companies world-wide, with the majority based in the USA.

“As the search is expected to be very challenging, with initial indications that the sub-sea terrain in the search area is steep and rugged, we need the best equipment and best people available to help us achieve success on this mission.”

Following an open market tender process, two experienced US-based firms have been selected as the preferred tenderers to provide this equipment, and it’s now on its way.

Williamson and Associates is a company specialising in the provision of deep-tow side-scan sonar. This company was previously involved in the successful search for HMAS Sydney II off the coast of Western Australia in 2008.

Their highly specialised detection equipment will be towed behind the search support vessel, scanning the ocean floor to determine the most likely position of the Centaur.

Phoenix International, a company with extensive international experience in the identification of shipwrecks at extreme depths, will then provide a remotely operated submersible vessel capable of operating at depths up to 6,000 metres.

This submersible vessel will be involved in the second phase of the project once the likely location of the Centaur is identified. This phase will seek to confirm the final resting place of the Centaur using high-resolution video equipment.

Project Manager and Search Director, David Mearns, has indicated that subject to weather and any other significant operational issues, the search is expected to commence mid December 2009 using the sonar at first.

In the event that the sonar search discloses the likely location of the Centaur, the remotely operated submersible vessel will be used to film the wreck in early January 2010.

Shipwreck hunter arrives for Centaur search

Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier Anna Bligh today announced the ship wreck hunter who found HMAS Sydney II had arrived in Australia to start the search for the Centaur.

David Mearns, principal of Bluewater Recoveries and the Director of the successful search for HMAS Sydney II, arrived in Brisbane yesterday to oversee final preparations for the search for Australian Hospital Ship Centaur.

Premier Bligh said that mobilisation of the search equipment, including special sonar equipment, onto the Defence Maritime Services support vessel Seahorse Spirit would start on Wednesday, 9 December 2009.

Ms Bligh said finding the Centaur could be a welcome Christmas gift for the families of relatives that perished on the ship.

“It is also exciting news for local historians and anyone who has an interest in what happened all those years ago,” she said.

The Prime Minister said that Queenslanders and all Australians would be following the search closely.

“I hope the search is successful and that all Australians may finally know and commemorate the resting place of the brave nurses and crew who died on that terrible day,” he said.

Mr Mearns said he expected to be able to start the first stage of the search within days.

“If all goes well and weather permitting, the search should be underway by the weekend,” Mr Mearns said.

Representatives from the Centaur Association, Centaur Nurses Association, RSL and other family and friends of the men and women lost in AHS Centaur, have been invited to a briefing on the search plans on Tuesday, 8 December 2009.

“When I proposed this project to the Prime Minister it was to confirm finally the resting place of the Centaur to give some sense of closure to the friends and family and the many other people affected by this great wartime tragedy that happened so close to shore”, Ms Bligh said.

The Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth Government was pleased to be able to support the search.

Mr Mearns who will direct the search from the Seahorse Spirit will set out the details of the search area, the equipment that will be used and how the search will be conducted at the stakeholders meeting.

The Queensland and Australian Governments have jointly committed $4 million for the project.

The search will be undertaken in December and January using specialised deep sea sonar equipment from the US-based Williamson and Associates as well as a remote operated submersible from Phoenix International (also US-based) capable of reaching depths below 3,000 metres.

Williamson and Associates were also involved, along with David Mearns, in the search for HMAS Sydney II.

Defence Maritime Services, which is supplying the search vessel Seahorse Spirit, has previously worked alongside Phoenix International in the project to locate the Australian Black Hawk helicopter in 3,000 metres of water off the coast of Fiji in 2007.

Wreck of AHS Centaur located

Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh today announced that the wreck of the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur had been located off the Queensland coast.

The AHS Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, about 50 miles east north-east of Brisbane. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived.

The Director of the Search for the Centaur, David L Mearns, this morning advised that the location of the Centaur wreck has been confirmed.

The search crew has under-taken five high-resolution sonar tracklines over the target site, and is now conducting a further run to obtain a clearer picture of the wreck.

The Acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard congratulated the search team and thanked all those who had contributed to the find over many years.

“The discovery of the AHS Centaur will ensure all Australians know and commemorate the 268 brave nurses and crew who died in the service of their nation.”

“I hope by locating the final resting place of the AHS Centaur, the family and friends of those men and women who were tragically lost find some resolution.”

Premier Bligh said representatives of the Centaur Association, Centaur Nurses Association, the RSL and the families and friends of those lost in AHS Centaur would be pleased to learn about the discovery after so many years of uncertainty.

“It is timely to take a moment to remember those lives lost on that tragic day in 1943, and the devastating effect this has had on their families,” Ms Bligh said.

“This morning’s confirmation that the wreck has been found will hopefully provide some peace to the loved ones of those killed.

“We will now use this momentum to finish this task and film the wreck site. In early January, a remotely operated submersible vehicle equipped with a high-definition camera will collect high quality imagery of the wreck and the surrounding area.”

David Mearns, the principal of Bluewater Recoveries, guided the search on board the Defence Maritime Services support vessel Seahorse Spirit.

The vessel carries deep-sea side-scan sonar equipment and a remotely operated submersible vehicle capable of being operated at depths below 3,000 metres.

Mr Mearns said the wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres.

The Australian and Queensland governments jointly committed $4 million to the search and officers from the Department of Defence and the Department of Premier and Cabinet provided oversight and technical assistance to the project.

Centaur commemoration taskforce

Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

Monday, December 21, 2009

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier Anna Bligh today announced a special taskforce will be established to determine the best way to commemorate the sinking of the Centaur.

The AHS Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, about 50 miles east north-east of Brisbane. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived.

The move to establish a taskforce comes just one day after shipwreck hunter David L Mearns advised that the location of the Centaur wreck has been confirmed.

“Following the discovery of the final resting place of the hospital ship Centaur on Sunday 20 December 2009, a Centaur commemoration task force will be established,” said the Premier.

“This will include representatives of the Centaur Association, the RSL, the Centaur Nurses Fund, other representatives of families and friends of the survivors and of course the survivors are elderly but so are many of the relatives who have spent many, many years waiting for the chance to say goodbye to those they lost.

“This taskforce will take into considerations all factors in working out the best way to commemorate the 268 souls who went down with this ship.”

The Prime Minister said the discovery of the Centaur yesterday marked a very important day for Australia.

“All Australians can now finally know and commemorate the resting place of the brave nurses and crew who died on that terrible day,” Mr Rudd said.

The taskforce will meet early in the New Year to begin consulting on how best to plan the commemorative activities for the Centaur.

“It is important that we appropriately recognise this historic discovery and remember its significance to so many Australians,” Mr Rudd said.

Many members of the task force have been contacted today and efforts will be made over the Christmas and New Year holidays to contact all stakeholders.

David Mearns, the principal of Bluewater Recoveries, guided the search on board the Defence Maritime Services support vessel Seahorse Spirit.

The wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres.

The Australian and Queensland governments jointly committed $4 million to the search and officers from the Department of Defence and the Department of Premier and Cabinet provided oversight and technical assistance to the project.

Robot submarine arrives to film Centaur wreck

 Deputy Premier and Minister for Health

The Honourable Paul Lucas

 Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The robot submarine that will film the wreck of the AHS Centaur over two kilometres underwater has arrived in Brisbane.

Acting Premier Paul Lucas inspected the Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV today.

“It was an unforgettable moment when the news came through that search Director David Mearns had found the Centaur early on the morning of December 20,” said Mr Lucas.

“It will be an extremely poignant time for the survivors and relatives of those that perished on this ship when this machine sends us images of the wreck on the seabed.”

The AHS Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, about 50 miles east north-east of Brisbane. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived.

The wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres.

The ROV will be launched from the Seahorse Spirit, the ship used to find the Centaur, and travel to the seabed after the ship leaves for the wreck site on Thursday or Friday this week.

The device will be controlled by operatives working in a specially equipped shipping container on the Seahorse Spirit.

Special lights will be used to illuminate the wreck on the sea bed so that high-definition video can be recorded. The images will be transmitted in real time to a separate control room on the ship and a photographer, print journalist and television cameraman will travel on the vessel.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government is pleased the wreck has been located and that Australians may soon be able to see the final resting place of those that died on that terrible day.

“The sinking of the Centaur was a dark day for our nation. This exploration will allow us to see what became of the AHS Centaur and honour those brave men and women that lost their lives,” Ms Gillard said.

Acting Premier Paul Lucas said the robot submarine, will also use one of its two ‘arms’ to place the specially fabricated bronze plaque created by The Centaur Association near the wreck.

“This will be a fitting memorial to those who perished in this terrible wartime incident,” he said.

“The Centaur Commemoration Taskforce met for the first time this week and they will meet again in the coming weeks and months to establish the most fitting memorial for the Centaur.

“We want the memorial service to take place at the earliest opportunity in consultation with the needs of the survivors and family members.”

Search Director David Mearns said mobilisation of the equipment onto the Seahorse Spirit was progressing well.

“I am looking forward to catching the first glimpse of the Centaur since she was lost on that tragic day in May of 1943,” he said.

“It is going to be a challenging operation to film the wreck where she lies at the bottom of a very narrow and steep gully, but I am still expecting to collect the highest quality video and photographs of the wreck possible even though we can’t be sure whether the hull is lying upright or on its side.

“The one moment I know the entire team will be looking forward to is when we can lay the specially fabricated bronze plaque entrusted to us by The Centaur Association near the wreck as a lasting memorial to the 268 who were lost during the sinking.”

Red cross clearly visible as first images of the Centaur returned

 Deputy Premier and Minister for Health

The Honourable Paul Lucas

 Sunday, January 10, 2010

The special robot submarine deployed to film the wreck of the AHS Centaur has returned the first images of the ship on the seabed over two kilometres underwater.

Acting Premier Paul Lucas said the Remotely Operated Vehicle took the images, including an image of the Red Cross on the side of the Centaur at 2.50am this morning.

“The pictures show that the wreck is lying to her portside 25 degrees. The bow is almost completely severed from the rest of the hull around the area where the torpedo hit,” he said.

“The wreck is badly damaged but David Mearns and his team were able to identify key characteristics such as the green band painted on the hull of the boat and the Red Cross on the bow.

“The first ROV mission had to be cut short because of technical issues on the surface but search Director David Mearns will send the ROV down for more pictures today.

“It is incredible to think that these are the first images any human being has seen of this tragic ship in over six and a half decades.”

The AHS Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, about 50 miles east north-east of Brisbane. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived.

The wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres.

The ROV was launched from the Seahorse Spirit, the ship used to find the Centaur, and travelled to the seabed.

The device is controlled by operatives working in a specially equipped shipping container on the Seahorse Spirit.

Special lights were used to illuminate the wreck on the sea bed so that high-definition video can be recorded.

Search Director David Mearns said he and his crew were delighted to see the first images of the AHS Centaur after so many months of research and searching.

“This my second day without sleep and I think I may have a few more before we are finished but it was very rewarding to see those first images,” he said.

“These first images are not as good as we would have liked because we only had two hours on this dive and then had to return to the surface.

“But these images confirm that this wreck is the Centaur and we are getting ready to go back down to get more.”

Mr Mearns said the specially fabricated bronze plaque created by The Centaur Association had not yet been placed beside the wreck.

“We carried out an experiment with a dummy plaque on this first dive and the mud on the seabed is so soft that the plaque would sink into the seabed,” he said.

“We need to place the plaque in an area where it will not simply disappear.”

Resting place for commemorative plaque

 Deputy Premier and Minister for Health

The Honourable Paul Lucas

 Monday, January 11, 2010

The Federal Government have agreed to issue a special permit under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 for a commemorative plaque to be placed on the Centaur.

The AHS Centaur has been declared an historic shipwreck under the Act meaning that the vessel should not be interfered with in any way.

The special permit means the specially fabricated bronze plaque created by The Centaur Association does not have to be placed in the mud beside the vessel.

The special permit was issued in record time after Federal Minister Peter Garrett’s Department pulled out all stops after he spoke to Acting Premier Paul Lucas about the matter last night.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the establishment of the memorial plaque was an important first step in commemorating the Centaur.

“All Australians can now know and remember the final resting place of the brave nurses and crew who tragically died so close to our shores on that terrible day,” he said.

“This announcement comes on top of the declaration of the site being made a historic shipwreck under Commonwealth legislation by the Heritage Minister Peter Garrett.”

Paul Lucas said the measure had the support of the Centaur Association and the RSL.

“This is a common sense solution,” said Mr Lucas.

“I spoke to the Federal Environment Minister last night and we agreed that we should try and get to this solution in time for the plaque to be placed today.

“What this means is that David Mearns is now in a position to place the memorial plaque on an appropriate position on the wreck where it will stay and act as a lasting memorial over 2 kilometres underwater.

“The plaque will not be bolted onto the wreck. It will be placed there gently and will not interfere with the vessel in any way.

“My advice is that the plaque will be placed this evening or early tomorrow morning.”

The AHS Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, about 50 miles east north-east of Brisbane. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived.

The wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres and was discovered on 20 December last year.

Mr Mearns wrote to Federal Minister Peter Garrett yesterday after a test run with a metal plate resulted in the object sinking into the mud on the sea bed.

“Despite the care taken by the ROV pilot controlling the manipulators in placing the metal plate it buried itself approximately half way into the mud,” wrote Mr Mearns.

“Seabed sediments in the area are primarily composed of extremely soft mud and were not firm enough to support the weight of the plate.

“I have concluded that if the Centaur Association plaque is laid on the seabed it too will become partially buried and the sediment that is kicked up in the process will settle on the face of the plaque.

“The section of the Centaur Association plaque that will be buried includes the memorial inscription from the Centaur Association members to their loved ones.”

Plaque placed on Centaur deck

 Deputy Premier and Minister for Health

The Honourable Paul Lucas

 Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The commemorative plaque was successfully placed on the wreck of the Centaur in the early hours of this morning.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Acting Premier Paul Lucas have welcomed the news and said attention would now turn to organising a fitting memorial service for survivors and relatives of those who died in the tragedy.

“This plaque was created by The Centaur Association and they supported placing the plaque on the deck of the boat along with the RSL in Queensland,” said Paul Lucas.

“We have all seen the amazing photographs of the perfectly preserved hat on the ocean floor and the conditions over 2 kilometres underwater mean the plaque will be just as well preserved.

“It will act as a lasting memorial to this terrible tragedy and once again I congratulate the search director David Mearns for the work he has done.

“The Centaur Commemoration Taskforce met earlier this month and there will be further meetings over the next few weeks to decide on what format the memorial services will take.

“This will be done in full consultation with the Centaur Association, the RSL, representatives of the Navy, Army and other interested parties.”

The plaque contains a CD with the names of everyone who served on the Centaur and personal notes from family members.

Search Director David Mearns said the plaque had been laid by the robot submarine or ROV at 5.55am this morning.

“It was laid just to the starboard side of the number one hatch on the fore deck,” he said.

The Acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the sinking of the AHS Centaur was a sad day in the nation’s history and it should always be remembered.

“The photographs of the Centaur resting peacefully on the ocean’s floor will help ensure the lives of the brave crew and nurses who died so tragically are never forgotten.

“The commemorative plaque honours those who lost their lives in the service of the nation.”

The Federal Government agreed to issue a special permit under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 for a commemorative plaque to be placed on the Centaur yesterday.

The AHS Centaur has been declared an historic shipwreck under the Act meaning that the vessel should not be interfered with in any way.

The special permit means the specially fabricated bronze plaque created by The Centaur Association does not have to be placed in the mud beside the vessel.

The special permit was issued in record time after Federal Minister Peter Garrett’s Department pulled out all stops after he spoke to Acting Premier Paul Lucas about the matter on Sunday night.

The AHS Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, about 50 miles east north-east of Brisbane. Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived.

The wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres and was discovered on 20 December last year.

Date announced for first of Centaur commemorations

 Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

 Thursday, February 04, 2010

Premier Anna Bligh has announced the date for the first of two major commemorations following the discovery of the AHS Centaur.

“A National Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance will be held at St John’s Cathedral Ann Street Brisbane on 2 March 2010 at 11 AM,” said the Premier.

“The Order of Service for the ceremony is being prepared in consultation with key stakeholders but we wanted to give survivors and relatives of survivors time to make the arrangements they need to be there.

“A further ceremony proposed to be conducted at sea for Centaur relatives is yet to be scheduled and the details are being worked through with the commemoration taskforce.”

A telephone number has been established by the Australian Army for people to register an interest in the commemorative proceedings:

Phone: 1800 019 955

Alternatively it is also possible to register an interest in the commemorative proceedings via the following internet link:

http://www.army.gov.au/AHS_Centaur.asp [link no longer current]

National memorial service held for AHS Centaur

Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

 Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A national service to remember the 332 victims and survivors of the sinking of the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur was held in Brisbane today.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joined Premier Anna Bligh, Governor General Quentin Bryce, military officials, survivors, relatives of survivors and victims and members of the public at St John’s Cathedral for the moving memorial service.

“Today we honour all those who lost their lives on the Australian hospital ship Centaur,” Mr Rudd said.

“We also honour the families who then waited two-thirds of a century to discover the final resting place of their loved ones.

“Its wreck is now an eternal reminder of all those onboard and their commitment to this nation in a time of great need.

“This is an important day for all Australians to stop and remember those brave souls who lost their lives that day. They will never be forgotten.”

“The AHS Centaur was sunk without warning by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, about 50 miles east north-east of Brisbane,” Ms Bligh said.

“The 66 year mystery surrounding its final resting place was solved late last year with the discovery of the ship’s wreck off the Queensland coast on 20 December.

“That discovery and today’s memorial service will hopefully offer some peace to those affected by the tragedy.

“It’s important we honour and remember the 268 people who died in the service of their country and acknowledge the devastating effect this has had on their families,” Ms Bligh said.

87-year-old Centaur survivor Martin Pash spoke at today’s service and students from Centaur Primary School read out the names of the 268 men and women killed.

A commemorative plaque was placed on fore deck of the wreck of the Centaur on 12 January 2010.

Created by The Centaur Association, the plaque contains a CD with the names of everyone who served on the Centaur and personal notes from family members.

The AHS Centaur has been declared an historic shipwreck under the Act meaning that the vessel should not be interfered with in any way.

The Australian and Queensland governments jointly committed $4 million to the search guided by David Mearns from Bluewater Recoveries.

Today’s national memorial service was the first of two commemorations.

A further ‘at-sea’ ceremony is also being organised for later in the year.

The wreck location is approximately 30 miles due east of the southern tip of Moreton Island (27 deg 16.98’ South, 153 deg 59.22’ East) at a depth of 2,059 metres.

Queensland and Federal Governments to host at-sea service for AHS Centaur

 Premier and Minister for the Arts

The Honourable Anna Bligh

 Monday, August 09, 2010

The Queensland and Federal Governments will host an At-Sea Thanksgiving and Remembrance Service for the 332 victims and survivors of the Australian hospital ship Centaur sunk by a submarine off Brisbane 14 May 1943.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced today that one of Australia’s largest navy ships the HMAS Kanimbla, an amphibious transport, will be used for the service which will be held Friday 24 September.

“This will be a very special service for family and friends of the 268 personnel who were lost and of the 64 people who survived the Centaur sinking,” the Premier said.

“This will be a day where the focus is strongly on the families and descendents of those who were on board on the AHS Centaur’s final day,” Ms Bligh said.

“These people have waited a very long time for this ceremony.”

Because of safety considerations the HMAS Kanimbla will be limited to 300 relatives and descendents. It will travel to the service location, 50km east of Moreton Island where the Centaur now rests about 2km below the surface.

Ms Bligh said the descendents and families of the survivors and those lost in the AHS Centaur will be invited to nominate to attend the at-sea Service onboard the HMAS Kanimbla.

Priority will be given to the survivors and immediate descendents and families of those who were lost in the AHS Centaur and former shipmates.

Ms Bligh said Australia’s top political and military officials, in March of this year, led a National Service of Remembrance for the Centaur at St John’s Cathedral in Ann Street Brisbane.

“The service at St John’s allowed our nation and the people of Australia to pay tribute to the brave men and women of the Centaur,” Ms Bligh said.

“This At-Sea Service will be a more intimate service – a special time for families and descendents. It will be a service that will bring closure for many.”

It will be a long day for those heading out to sea – at least 15 hours.

Relatives and descendents going to sea will be collected from a pick up point in Brisbane and transported to the HMAS Kanimbla.

The HMAS Kanimbla is expected to cast off at 7am and is not expected back into Brisbane until 9pm.

Ms Bligh said there was very strong interest. “We are expecting the HMAS Kanimbla to be at capacity,” she said.

The AHS Centaur’s final resting place was a mystery for 66 years.

Sunk by a submarine off the Queensland coast in 1943, the AHS Centaur was discovered just before Christmas last year. The Queensland and Federal Governments funded a successful search by shipwreck hunter David L Mearns.

One of the two remaining survivors from the AHS Centaur, former steward Martin Pash, 87, hopes to make the journey out to sea to pay his respects.

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