(KEELING) ISLANDS, and CHRISTMAS ISLAND SHIPWRECKS
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COCOS (KEELING) ISLANDS
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are an Australian territory (since 19550
situated in the Indian Ocean 2768 km north-west of Perth, and only 400
km south of Indionesia. West Island, or Pulo Panjang, is the main island
of twenty-seven small coral islands, with a total area of only fourteen
square kilometres. Only two islands in the group are inhabited, with a
total population of eight hundred. The islands are the quintessential tropical
paradise, with palm fringed beaches and uninhabited cays. The islands were
discovered in 1609 by Captain William Keeling of the East India Company,
but they remained uninhabited until John Clunies Ross took his family there
in 1827. The islands remained under the rule of the Clunies-Ross family
until 1975 when the Australian Government "reclaimed" them and appointed
a new administrator. The islands played an important role in the capture
of the famous German cruiser Emden in 1914, during World War 1. A landing
party from the Emden attempted to destroy the wireless station on Direction
Island; the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney heard a message of distress
from the island, sped to the scene, and attacked the German raider. The
rest is history. Other than the two vessels listed below, there appears
to be no record of any other vessels being lost in the islands.
Although the Sydney-Emden encounter has been recorded in the official
war history, and other popular accounts, the only reference listed here
is that from Loney [LAH].
Associated links: WESTERN
Aeon. Steamship, 4221 tons. Built 1898. Howard Smith & Co. Wrecked
on Christmas Island, Pacific Ocean, July 1908. [DG]
There is a Christmas Island in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Buresk. Steel steamship, collier, 4337 tons. She was loaded with coal
for the British fleet stationed at Hong Kong when captured by the German
cruiser Emden, off Cocos-Keeling Islands, 27 September 1914. A prize crew
was placed on board. She was then chased by HMAS Sydney after the latter
had disposed of the Emden, the crew of the Buresk scuttling her. The crew
were taken on board HMAS Sydney. [LAH]
Emden. German cruiser, 3650 tons. Built 1908. Length of 395 feet and
beam of 43.3 feet. Main armament ten 4.1 inch guns. Speed 24.5
knots. Crew 321. Operated as a raider in the Indoan Ocean early in
the First World War, and captured or destroyed thenty-three ships. On 9
November 1914, she was located off the Cocos-Keeling Islands by HMAS Sydney.
The first two salvos were damaging hits on the Sydney, however she quickly
found her range and pounded the Emden, purting her on a reef, blazing and
helpless; the torrid gun battle put the German cruiser aground on North
Keeling. In the engagement, the Emden lost eight officers and 126 men,
whilst the Sydney lost four. Her loss put quite a damper on German
intentions in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Emden had been the
scourge of the Indian Ocean during World War 1, sinking many thousands
of tons of allied shipping. Her sinking was a significant victory for Australia
and the allies. Over the past few years there have been expeditions to
visit the Emden site. [LAH],[LH]
@ The wreck is well scattered in shallow water and despite its historic
value, is not a particularly good dive. It is rarely visited as it is in
the Northern Keeling Island, 24 km from the inhabited southern islands.
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