Using undersea scanning devices, archaeologists from the U.S. and Albania believe they have found the wreckage of an Italian ship that British forces torpedoed during World War II when Albania was occupied by Mussolini's Fascists.
The remnants — found just off Albania's coast last weekend — probably were part of the 8,000-ton Rosandra freighter, which was hit by a British submarine on June 14, 1943, the team said on Monday, the 67th anniversary of the sinking.
The vessel was located 260 feet (80 meters) beneath the surface of the Ionian Sea near Albania's Karaburun Peninsula, 90 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of Tirana, the capital, during a survey of the country's seabed that began four years ago.
Expedition coordinator Auron Tare of Albania said the size of the wreck, and sonar images of two holes apparently caused by torpedo explosions, matched information from Italian and British sources on the Rosandra.
"If the data coincide with the conclusions of the further study of that archaeological relic, then we may say the expedition has discovered the Italian Rosandra ship," Tare told The Associated Press.
Six people died in the attack
Six people died in the attack on the Axis vessel, which was carrying 400 tons of food and military supplies to Italian occupation forces in neighboring Greece, but 173 were safely evacuated to land, 400 meters (yards) away.
A freighter converted to a refrigerated ship, the Rosandra had been headed from the Albanian port of Vlora — 70 miles from Italy — to Patras in Greece.
Albania was under Fascist Italian occupation from 1939 until September 1943, when Italy surrendered to Allied forces. During the Second World War, Italy lost about 90 percent of its merchant fleet.
Albanian archaeologists and the RPM Nautical Foundation of Key West, Florida, have found 18 wrecks from ancient, medieval and modern times in their survey off the Balkan country's coast.
"This important discovery once more shows the important relics hidden deep in Albanian waters," the expedition said in a statement.
It is creating an underwater cultural heritage map of the Albanian coastline with the aim of opening an underwater archaeological museum in Porto Palermo in what is regarded as Albania's Riviera, a 90-mile (140-kilometer) stretch of coastline from Vlora to Saranda.
On Monday, the expedition expanded its mission north to cover waters off neighboring Montenegro.