A survey team has located the wreck of Australia’s first submarine HMAS AE1 off the coast of the Duke of York Islands in Papua New Guinea.
The new expedition, jointly funded by Commonwealth, the Silentworld Foundation, the Australian National Maritime Museum and Find AE1 Ltd had only been searching for a week before the search vessel Fugro Equator located the submarine in more than 300 metres of water.
HMAS AE1 was lost somewhere southeast of the Duke of York Islands near Rabaul on 14 September 1914 while in company with the destroyer HMAS Parramatta. Both ships had been patrolling the waters off Rabaul following the seizure of the city from the German colonial authorities.
At approximately 3.30pm that afternoon the destroyer lost sight of the submarine in hazy conditions and when no further contact was made that evening an unsuccessful search was initiated for the submarine and her 35 crew members.
The loss of HMAS AE1 was the first for the RAN and the first Allied submarine loss in World War I; a significant tragedy felt by the nation and its allies that remained one of the significant mysteries of Australian military history.
Following the discovery of the submarine, a small commemorative service was conducted by those onboard the survey vessel to remember those officers and sailors who lost their lives 103 years ago. Efforts are being made to contact the descendants of the crew.
The location of the submarine's final resting place will be kept secret to avoid the site's desecration by relic hunters and scrap iron scavengers.
Minister for Defence Marise Payne said the Government will work closely with the PNG Government to consider a lasting commemoration and recognition of the crew of AE1 and to preserve the site.
"The information gained from this expedition and from the research to date will greatly assist in unravelling the mystery of the loss of HMAS AE1, and will be held by the Australian National Maritime Museum for future generations to remember."