More than a dozen sunken ships off Penang

GEORGE TOWN: More than a dozen ships have sunk off Penang over the last 80 years and at least half of them were warships from World War II.

Kuma, Haguro and Chosa Maru are three war wrecks popular among local anglers and fishermen aside from the Kapal Taiwan, Kapal Simen and Sun Vista wreck, also known as the Singapore wreck.

Kuma wreck is commonly referred to as the Russian wreck among the locals although it is not a Russian ship.

Kuma, is a 5,500 tonne light cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was named after Kuma River in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan. The vessel was used as a long-range and high-speed reconnaissance ship and was also a command vessel for destroyer or submarine flotillas.

This ship sank off Penang on Jan 11, 1944 when British Royal Navy submarine HMS Tally-Ho gunned it down. The submarine fired seven torpedoes on Kuma, which had left Penang with the destroyer Uranami on anti-submarine warfare exercises.

It was hit on the starboard and sank about 16km northwest of Penang. A total of 138 crewmen perished with the ship.

Australian diver and photojournalist Kevin Denlay and a group of divers found the ship lying on her right side, covered with fishing nets and snagged fishing line, aside from coral during a dive in 2004.

The report from the dive expedition revealed the bridge structure was fairly intact although she was half-buried in bottom silt and her funnels had fallen off. A 5.5-inch gun on the port side was still intact.

Chosa Maru, built in Osaka in 1921, was a 2,538-tonne gunboat.

The Japanese navy auxiliary gunboat was sunk by Dutch submarine O-24 on Aug 20, 1943 in the south of Penang while on an anti-submarine sweeping operation.

Five sailors onboard the vessel were killed in action.

Haguro was the last of the four Myoko class heavy cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was named after Mount Haguro in Yamagata Prefecture.

The ship was ambushed by the British 26th destroyer flotilla on May 16, 1945 during Operation Dukedom.

Haguro was accompanying destroyer Kamikaze when the two vessels were spotted 48 nautical miles (89km) off Penang.

In the gunfight, Kamikaze was lightly damaged but Haguro was hit by three torpedoes and sank slowly.

A total of 900 sailors, including Vice-Admiral Hashimoto Shintaro and Rear Admiral Sugiura Kaju perished with the vessel. Kamikaze rescued 320 others.

The wreck was discovered in 2003, showing significant superstructure damage from her many battles.

Related Story:

Thieves plunder fishing grounds for rusty ship parts

Call to halt illegal salvage of shipwrecks

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