Sanyo Maru

27 November 2021 – 30 January 2022
A shipwreck off Arnhem Land

In the 1930s a huge Japanese pearl shell fleet, made up of hundreds of divers and crew, worked and lived just off the north Australian coast. They outcompeted local pearlers, made contact with local Aboriginal peoples and others, and infuriated Australian authorities.


But despite dominating the pearl shell industry, they were not immune to tragedy, which included the loss of their largest ship, the Sanyo Maru, in July 1937. Overloaded with pearl shell it sank in a storm, forgotten for decades, until rediscovered and explored by diving archaeologists.


Discover the artefacts retrieved from this Japanese pearling mothership in our new exhibition.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government's Visions of Australia program.




This project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s

Visions of Australia program.