The joint Dutch-Indonesian investigation into the disappearance of three Dutch naval ships from the floor of the Java Sea has released its initial results. Experts from the two countries have analysed the available data and concluded that the diving team of the Karel Doorman Foundation conducted their search in the right area and can confirm that salvage operations of some kind have indeed occurred.
Today, these findings were presented to the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, who has been in Indonesia on an official visit since Sunday. In their report the investigators state that the two countries will need to further investigate the area where the wrecks were located in order to gather additional information. In a Memorandum of Understanding the Netherlands and Indonesia have agreed to work together more closely in the future, including by sharing available information and expertise for the protection of maritime culture heritage.
These follow-up activities are in keeping with the agreement that Prime Minister Mark Rutte concluded with Indonesia during his visit to the country at the end of last year. At the time, it was agreed that once it had been established that the vessels were no longer there, the countries would work together to determine what had happened and to preserve their maritime heritage in the future. The manner in which the verification operation took place, in good cooperation with the Indonesia authorities, gives the Netherlands confidence in the future of the investigation.
The three naval ships, HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java and HNLMS Kortenaer went down in the Battle of the Java Sea on 27 February 1942, claiming the lives of 915 sailors, more than 200 of whom were of mixed Dutch-Indonesian descent. Late last year, an international diving team from the Karel Doorman Foundation discovered that the shipwrecks, which were considered war graves, had disappeared. The team was taking part in an expedition in preparation for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea this year.