A New Zealand Navy vessel has captured 3D sonar images of World War II wrecks off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

HMNZS Resolution and other Navy personnel collated the data as part of an explosive ordnance disposal operation in Simpson Harbour at Rabaul.

Simpson Harbour was the scene of an intense allied bombing campaign against the Japanese in WWII and the harbour was littered with the results, Resolution commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Matt Wray said.

It was the first time images showing such a level of detail had been captured.


Resolution used its multi-beam echo sounder to capture hydrographic data and the Navy's Mine Counter Measures Team then used its underwater vehicle to move the search into shallower water and identify smaller targets.

Lt Cdr Wray said the data collection would build the understanding and historical knowledge of what occurred in WWII.

"We have confirmed the location of a number of WWII wrecks including aircraft and boats, two of which are believed to have been previously uncharted," he said in a statement.

New Zealand and Australian defence personnel would dispose of the explosive ordnance found by Resolution.

The ship now sails to the Solomon Islands to support the New Zealand High Commission and take part in the Mono Island and Vella Lavella WWII anniversary commemorations.