AE1 mystery continues: Navy search for Australia’s first submarine fails to find conclusive evidence


The navy chief said the search for Australia’s first submarine, missing off the coast of Papua New Guinea for a century, had come to nothing.

Mine hunter HMAS Yarra spent four days combing the waters near the Duke of York Islands in search of the AE1.

Vice-Admiral Tim Barrett said the search did not yield any conclusive evidence of the submarine’s final resting place.

“What has been found over the past two days has not led me to say that we have found AE1,” said Vice Admiral Barrett.

The disappearance of the AE1 and its 35 crew members is one of the lingering mysteries in Australian maritime history.

He disappeared without a trace 100 years ago this week while patrolling the waters of Rabaul, shortly after Australian forces took control of what was then German-administered New Guinea.

Vice-Admiral Barrett said HMAS Yarra found several objects, one larger than the others, which exhibited the characteristics of a submarine.

But he said the sonar images that had been collected would undergo further analysis.

“There is an object that is in the water, in the area, which is about the same size, but there are other objects that are in the water of slightly different sizes but of the same kind of size. characteristics, ”he said.

Vice Admiral Barrett said it was a difficult search with the seabed in the area dotted with large boulders and rapid changes in depth.

The Navy made a number of attempts to locate the AE1. This time he was investigating local historical accounts, including one of the inhabitants of Mioko Island who spoke of a “monster” that had approached a nearby reef, then moved away and disappeared.


Relatives of AE1 crew members boarded HMAS Yarra off Rabaul on Wednesday to participate in a memorial service marking the 100th anniversary of the disappearance.

A wreath laying service was held at the rear of HMAS Yarra to remember those who died.

On board was Robyn Rosenstrauss, whose grandmother’s brother James Fettes served on the AE1.

She said it was a moving experience and that she could only hope that her death would be quick.

David Messenger, whose brother Grandfather John served on AE1, said he hopes the discovery of the submarine will finally provide answers to the mystery.

“Nobody knows what happened to him [so] it would be nice to have an answer on what exactly happened, “he said.

“I would like some research to be done to see why it sank, but that would be it. It’s a war grave.”

AE1 had been sent to seize the German colony

The AE1 disappeared while on patrol with the destroyer HMAS Parramatta.

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The importance of the AE1, Australia’s first submarine(By Jérémy Fernandez)

He was part of a flotilla sent to seize New Guinea after the outbreak of World War I.

The disappearance marred an otherwise successful mission, including the surrender of Rabaul by German forces days before.

Rabaul, at the northern tip of the island of New Britain, was the scene of fierce fighting during World War II and became Japan’s main naval base for the Southwest Pacific from 1942.

The city’s harbor, surrounded by active volcanoes, is popular with divers due to the easy access to the war wrecks.

AE1’s sister ship AE2 survived the New Guinea campaign but was sunk by a Turkish torpedo boat in April 1915 after disrupting enemy ships bound for Gallipoli.

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