New Survey May Shed Light on 103-year-old Australian Navy Submarine Wreck

A joint US and Australian expedition to survey Australia’s first submarine HMAS AE1 has provided detailed new images of the 103-year old shipwreck, which lies on the seafloor off the Duke of York Islands in Papua New Guinea.

The Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) HMAS AE1 was lost at sea with all hands on September 14, 1914, and its fate had remained a mystery until its discovery in December 2017. It was the first loss for the RAN and the first Allied submarine loss in World War I but ultimately a tragedy felt by all Australians.

Following a series of successful expeditions that located the World War II shipwrecks of USS Lexington, USS Juneau and USS Helena, Paul Allen’s crew aboard research vessel Petrel’s remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), fitted with high-definition video and stills cameras, undertook a comprehensive, non-invasive inspection of the submarine, revealing fascinating new information.

“The AE1 has a special place in Australian maritime history and I’m proud of our partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum and others that brought an end to the mystery of the AE1’s final resting place,” said Allen. “For all of us associated with Petrel, we view this work as a means to honor the courage and sacrifice of crew of the AE1.”

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 Papua New Guinea Government and the National Museum and Art Gallery.

“We are very grateful to 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,” said Australian National Maritime Museum Director and CEO Kevin Sumption PSM.

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 researchers to further examine AE1 and refine understanding of what happened to it 103 years ago.

AE1-Petrel-Survey-12-768x568 Flags commemorating the lost crew of HMAS AE1

This recent successful expedition was in coordination with 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.

Last known image of AE1
HMAS AE1 fin and implosion rubble over control room
HMAS AE1 ventilation piping located in the rear of the fin
Sluice valve which was found to be shut and resident eel and crab present
HMAS AE1 conning tower steering position
HMAS AE1 diesel engine muffler exhaust tanks
Inspecting stern torpedo tube of HMAS AE1
Associate hand wheels visible
HMAS AE1 bridge steering position
HMAS AE! fin, forward periscope and starboard ballast blower outlet
White tip shark near wreck of HMAS AE1, startled by the first lights to reach the wreck in 103 years
HMAS AE1 fin and implosion rubble over control room