A Japanese diver rests after working in the murky depths of Darwin Harbour in 1959 as part of a salvage operation to clean up Darwin s wartime wrecks. His boss, Japanese marine salvage contractor Ryugo Fujita, took on the difficult task of clearing the harbour of wrecks sunk by Japanese planes over a decade before. The job began with cutting and blasting the scrap into large sections using dynamite and specialised underwater acetylene gas torches. In this photo you can see the long hose coiled on the deck which could supply air to the diver 30 metres below. The sections would then be raised to the surface using barge cranes and packed tightly into stacks weighing around 30 tonnes, to be shipped back to Japan. It was extremely dangerous work. One Japanese diver, 48-year-old Sanzo Hayashi, died during the salvage operation, and was cremated on Channel Island. Now is your last chance to see the exhibition that tells this story: Mr Fujita s Photo Album featuring rare photos from the salvage operation is on at Northern Territory Library in Parliament House until 26 March.


Published: 12 March 2017

Picture: Library & Archives NT. Salvage work by Japanese in Darwin harbour, Helyar, Geoff & Lois, 1959, PictureNT, Lois & Geoff Helyar Collection, PH0092/0022

Forgotten Territory was a weekly photo column of historic images in the Northern Territory News which I curated from 2016 until 2019 supported by the collections of the Northern Territory Library and other cultural institutions around Australia, as well as local history Facebook groups. 

Click on the images to read the story behind the image.

Warning: May contain images of people who have died.

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These works were made on Arrernte, Larrakia, Gaddigal and Lenape land that was never ceded