Searchers last month found the wreck of the HMAS Sydney, which sank with the loss of all 645 crew in November 1941 after a 30-minute battle with the German merchant raider HSK Kormoran, but details of why the ship sank so quickly remain a mystery.
The Australian government has set up an inquiry to try to find out why no sailors survived, but images of the wreck reinforce suggestions the Sydney was heavily damaged by German shelling during the first salvos of their battle.
"The incredible photos of the underwater wreckage bring home how fierce the battle must have been," Australia's Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said in a statement.
The gun turret from the Australian warship HMAS Sydney II is seen in this
undated handout photo released on April 4, 2008. Photo credit: Reuters.
The images of the Sydney, which rests in 2,470 meters (8,100 feet) of water, were taken by a remote submersible camera. They are the first sight of the ship since it was seen sailing ablaze over the horizon after the battle with the Kormoran.
One of the wreck photographs shows a shell hole in the centre of a gun turret on the battlecruiser's deck. Another shows damage to a second gun turret.
The Kormoran, a converted merchant ship disguised as a Dutch freighter, also sank after the battle, but only 80 German sailors died and more than 300 survived. The Kormoran was also found last month, about 22 km (13 miles) away from the Sydney.
(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by David Fox)
© 2008 - Reuters