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Video: Researchers Find Wreck of the Blythe Star After 50 Years

Blythe Star's stern (CSIRO)
A view of Blythe Star's canoe stern on the bottom (CSIRO)

Published May 15, 2023 3:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australian research institute CSIRO has discovered the wreck of the lost freighter Blythe Star, which went down off Tasmania 50 years ago. 

On October 13, 1973, Blythe Star capsized without warning during a voyage from Hobart to King Island, possibly due to overloading. All crewmembers managed to abandon ship successfully into a life raft. However, in an era before the invention of the satphone or EPIRB, they had no way to transmit their location to rescuers. A massive search operation was mounted, the largest ever in Australia to date, and rescuers managed to find seven survivors 12 days after the sinking. 

Unfortunately, three crewmembers died before the rescuers arrived. The wreck of the Blythe Star was never found. 

This year, the CSIRO research vessel RV Investigator conducted a five-week research voyage to study underwater landslides off the coast of Tasmania. As a side project, the Investigator's crew also used sonar to scan a known but unidentified shipwreck about five nm off Tasmania's South West Cape.

On April 12, Investigator scanned the wreck in detail, and its dimensions matched the Blythe Star. A visual inspection using underwater camera systems confirmed the wreck's identity: Blythe Star was sitting upright, with half of her name clearly visible on the bow. She showed signs of damage to the stern and her wheelhouse was missing, but the hull was largely intact.

One of the Blythe Star's crewmembers, Mick Doleman, served as deputy national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia for three decades. He is the sole remaining survivor of the sinking, and he told the Daily Mail that he was "just blow away" at the news that the vessel has been found. "It is in pretty good nick actually, considering its journey," he said.