Territory Stories

The I124 : Japanese submarine wreck in Clarence Strait



The I124 : Japanese submarine wreck in Clarence Strait


Dermoudy, Peter


Northern Territory Library Occasional Papers; E-Books; PublicationNT; Occasional papers (State Library of the Northern Territory) ; no. 34




The sinking of the Japanese submarine I124 in Clarence Strait in 1942, and the futile attempts to salvage it.; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).


OCLC Number: 38319314




Submarines (Ships); World War, 1939-1945; Northern Territory; Naval Operations; Submarine; Shipwrecks; Northern Territory; Clarence Strait

Publisher name

State Library of the Northern Territory

Place of publication



Occasional papers (State Library of the Northern Territory) ; no. 34


v, 5 pages ; 30 cm.

File type



0724507175; 9780724507177




Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Library & Archives NT



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

There was a very strong move to bring a shi from the Phili ines, called the Penguin. B If She was a submarine rescue vessel, and ha all the gear to ow the submarine's tanks full of air and raise her. The intention was to lift the submarine, bring it into shallow water and search it. However, the Japanese overran the Philippines, the Penguin was sunk, and nothing came of this. It was also rumoured that the diver heard rapping on the hull of the sunken submarine, which was taken to indicate that the submarine was not completely full of water, that there were some airtight compartments left, and that some of the crew were still alive. However, neither the Americans nor the Australians then had the facilities to do anything to save the crew, so the divers were forced to abandoned the submarine. It is a little strange that almost two years later, at this same spot, a small Australian corvette, coming through the Straits from the west at night, reported two to edoes passed underneath. They quickly turned around and started dropping depth c 'K arges. Oil and bubbles came to the surface, and it turned out that they had had another o at a the 1124. They picked it up on their asdic. It is thought that the torpedoes could ave been porpoises. It was a strange quirk of fate that they should ick up this submarine that earlier occasion. i! again. One of the crewmen on board the corvette had been on oard the Deloraine on The submarine when it went down had the Commander of the Japanese submarine fleet on board. His dau hter asked the Australian Government if they would retrieve her father's bones or at f east his ceremonial sword from the submarine. However, the Government made no attem ts to either board the submarine or raise it. A couple of local salvage operators had 1 eard about the submarine, and also picked up a rumour that it had a lot of mercury in it (mercur was used in these primitive submarines as a B form of ballast - it was very heavy an could be pumped quickly to compensate for the dropping of the mines). They formed themselves into a partnership and won the rights to the submarine, which was outside territorial waters in those days, and they tried to sell it for 1.5M pounds, with another 1M pounds on top of that if the sub. proved to contain mercury. However, greed caused the consortium to fall apart. Each one made claims that he had found ~t or had the rights to it or was supplying more gear than the others. One of the parties called on the Australian Government to grant him the salvage rights, and another chose to ask the Japanese to ive them to him. The two Governments finally got together and decided to declare t f e submarine a war grave. On hearing this, one of the partners threatened to blow up the submarine. He actually did put a charge on the conning tower and blew up a large section of it, and probably blew another hole in the ship as well. The Australian Navy has been down since then and they confirm the submarine is in good condition, that there is very little growth on it, and that it is upright, facing almost north-south. They confirm that it ap ears the gaskets have all been blown on the rear mine tubes, and that there is also a l! atch open, which was reported from the previous dive. Baxter, one of the salvage operators, reckoned he saw oxygen bottles and human remains at the bottom of the companionway. He thought the crew may have been trying to get out. In recent times there has been another salvage attempt. I asked the Territory Government whether they would consider raising the submarine because of its immense technological value. It is uni ue, and the only chance that anyone in the world will ever have of obtaining a Wor ? d War I submarine. It is in one piece, which makes it relatively easy to get up, particularly in these days of air-bag technology. Negotiations were commenced with the Japanese Government. However, another salvage operator tried to muscle in. He claimed that mercury was leaking from the submarine and was polluting the marine life throughout Clarence Strait. He said that, if nothing else, the mercury should be pumped out and he would happily do it.

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