In April 2018, a joint US and Australian expedition has provided images of the ‘HMAS AE1’, Australia’s first submarine, which lies on the seafloor off the Duke of York Islands, in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Royal Australian Navy’s submarine was lost at sea with all hands on 14 September 1914, and its fate had remained a mystery until its discovery in December 2017.
AE1 was the first submarine to serve in the RAN and was lost at sea only after less than seven months in service. The incident was the first loss for the RAN and the first Allied submarine loss in World War I. Search missions attempting to locate the wreck began in 1976.
The survey was undertaken by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s research vessel ‘Petrel’ and coordinated by Find AE1 Ltd., in partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Royal Australian Navy, Curtin University, the Western Australian Museum and the Submarine Institute of Australia.
Approval for the survey was granted by Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery. The ship’s remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), fitted with high-definition video and stills cameras, undertook a comprehensive, non-invasive inspection of the 103-year old shipwreck, revealing new information.
The data collected during this first ROV examination of AE1 will be used by the Australian National Maritime Museum to develop a shipwreck management plan in cooperation with the PNG Government and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery.
The still images of the shipwreck site will also be developed into a detailed 3D digital model using techniques developed by Curtin University and the Western Australian Museum. This will allow the Find AE1 team and museum researchers to further examine AE1 and refine understanding of what happened to it 103 years ago.
Australian National Maritime Museum Director and CEO Kevin Sumption PSM, stated:
We are very grateful to Paul Allen, Vulcan Inc, and the crew of RV Petrel for making this survey possible. These incredible images and the new information they provide will help the museum tell the story of AE1 and its brave crew, and ensure their service and sacrifice are remembered by future generations.