Thursday, May 31, 2007

Major find during WWI sub search


May 31, 2007
AE2 & AE1

The Navy hopes it may have solved one of Australia's oldest maritime mysteries, the fate of the nation's very first submarine lost off New Guinea in World War I.

A search by HMAS Yarra has ruled out an object previously thought to be the missing sub. It's turned up a more promising find.

PNG correspondent, Steve Marshall, joined and Navy search near the Duke of York Islands in East New Britain Province.

STEVE MARSHALL: Over the past few days, HMAS Yarra has scoured 50 square kilometres of seabed and jagged reef.

This remotely operated vehicle can dive to a depth of 300 metres. It beams back images to Yarra's operations room where retired Navy commander John Foster patiently waits.

He's been searching for the AE1 sub for the past 30 years.

JOHN FOSTER, RETIRED NAVY COMMANDER: I tell you what we've got the best equipment, the best assets that the Navy can offer on this one.

STEVE MARSHALL: The AE1 was sent to New Guinea to fight the occupying German forces.

On September 14, 1914 it went out on patrol and never returned. To this day no one knows what became of the sub and its 35 crew.

An object previously detected by the Navy turned out to be a deceiving rock formation. However out of the tropical depths emerged something much more promising. This coral clad object might be part of the AE1.

SEAN ANDREWS, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER, HMAS YARRA COMMANDER: Apart from the shape, there are two distinct lips on the top of the target that look remarkably like the AE1's engineering and specification drawings. So I think this one's worthy of further investigation by experts ashore.

STEVE MARSHALL: The object was just out of reach for Yarra's Navy divers. However they could clearly see the shape from a safe depth.

SEAN ANDREWS: But then I saw what I thought were the conning towers.

JOHN FOSTER: May they rest forever more. Goodbye AE1.

STEVE MARSHALL: A sunset memorial service was held for those men long forgotten.

If experts do confirm that the objects below me is, in fact, the AEI, the Royal Australian Navy will treat the site as a war grave. Its exact location will be kept secret to protect it from trophy hunters.


Saving Our Shipwrecks

May 31, 2007

New technologies are aiding the search for one Civil War submarine, and the conservation of another

One was the Civil War's first submarine, the other was the first sub to take down an enemy ship. One sank en route to attack Charleston, South Carolina, the other sank after defending that same Confederate harbor. One rests somewhere along the shifting ocean floor, the other rests in a well-monitored laboratory tank.

One was the USS Alligator, which sank in April of 1863. The other was the H.L. Hunley, which plunged some ten months later. For all their differences, both Civil War submarines have a rapidly improving science of shipwrecks working in their favor. Advances in that field have helped researchers narrow the search for the missing Alligator and preserve the remains of the recently recovered Hunley.

"It's a good time to be a marine archaeologist," says Michael Overfield of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Since 2004, Overfield has been searching for the Alligator near Cape Hatteras, an area off the coast of North Carolina known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for the abundance of ships it has consumed. Records indicate that's where the Alligator ended its promising but abortive existence.

Engineered by a French immigrant, the Alligator featured several innovative mechanisms, including a system for removing carbon dioxide from the vessel's interior and a chamber through which a diver could leave, plant a mine and return. The Union Navy considered the Alligator for several missions—most notably, a plan to destroy an important railroad bridge over the Appomattox River—but withdrew the submarine from each of them.

In late March of 1863, shortly after its capabilities had been demonstrated for President Abraham Lincoln, the Alligator headed toward a Confederate harbor in Charleston, towed by the USS Sumpter. On April 2, the tandem sailed full speed into a furious storm. "The Alligator was steering wildly and threatening to snap," the Sumpter's captain later wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. At around 6 p.m., the commanders agreed to cut the line, and the angry waves swept the submarine's signature green hull out of view.

Using letters and other primary sources, Overfield and his colleagues at the National Marine Sanctuary Program refined the search area to some 625 square nautical miles. From there, the crew had several new and improved tools to aid their mission. "It's almost like the computer industry," says Overfield. "Think about where we were ten years ago. Did we think we'd be where we are today?"

One of Overfield's options was a magnetometer, which surveys the floor for any magnetic signal—particularly useful when searching for an iron ship such as the Alligator. He also used side-scan sonar, which throws down an acoustic signal to create a picture of everything beneath the boat.

Though these tools have been around for decades, they are now much easier to control, he says. Others, however, have really emerged within the past five years.

Overfield has used what's known as an ROV—a remotely operated vehicle—to further investigate a large object picked up by a magnetometer. The device scours the ocean floor and videotapes the desired area, sparing the cost and danger of sending out a diver. When he wished to cover several targets of interest at once, Overfield employed an autonomous underwater vehicle. These archaeological stunt doubles can be programmed to search a particular area and are equipped with their own magnetometers and sonar.

Though Overfield's search for the Alligator continues, these tools have enabled him to dismiss certain areas where he once believed the ship to be. "That's not always a bad thing, to say 'she is not there,'" he says. "It increases the likelihood of finding her on the next mission, and that's what keeps me going."

Not far from where Overfield conducts his searchers, marine researchers at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston work to preserve the Hunley. In February of 1864, the Hunley became the first submarine to torpedo an enemy—bringing down the USS Housatonic, the largest Union ship among those blockading the Confederate harbor. At that time, such an attack required ramming a torpedo into an opposing ship's hull and backing away to trigger an explosion. The Hunley sank on its return voyage, however, and in the end lost more men (nine) than did the Housatonic (five).

More than a century later, a search team led by novelist Clive Cussler located the lost ship. With that obstacle out of the way, the problem became dislodging the vessel safely from beneath the ocean floor. "When you find something, it doesn't always mean you'll recover it," says Robert Neyland, who is head of underwater archaeology at the Naval Historical Center and directed the Hunley's recovery.

In August of 2000, Neyland and his colleagues successfully removed the submarine with the help of a unique system that cradled the Hunley with hard-setting foam, locking the ship in place. Once the sub broke the surface, saltwater sprinklers showered the vessel to protect it from damage caused by oxygen as it made its way to the conservation facility.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Australian navy finds 'submarine' rock


May 30, 2007

The Australian navy's hopes of finding a World War One submarine has suffered a setback.

A remote camera has shown that an underwater object found in waters near Rabaul, on the Papua New Guinea Island of New Britain in February is a large submarine-shaped rock.

Sailors thought they had found the AE1, Australia's first submarine, which disappeared in September 1914, with 35 crew aboard.

But the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson says a further investigation, using underwater cameras, divers and a remotely operated vehicle has proven the object discovered in February was not the long lost submarine.

The disappearance of the AE1 has been one of Australia's enduring mysteries and was the nation's first major loss of life in World War One.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Australian Navy Divers Survey Wreck of Japanese WWII Submarine


By Ed Johnson
May 23, 2006

Australian navy divers surveying the sunken wreck of a Japanese midget submarine that attacked Sydney Harbor during World War II will present sand collected from the site to relatives of the two dead crewmen, the government said.

The M24 vessel was one of three Japanese submarines that raided the harbor in 1942 and fired torpedoes at U.S. and Australian ships.

Two of the submarines were destroyed and found within days of the attack. The fate of the third remained a mystery until it was discovered by amateur divers at Bungan Head, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the harbor, in November.

``The submarine is of international historical significance and is presumed to still contain the remains of its commander and navigator, Sub-Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban and Petty Officer Mamoru Ashibe,'' said Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a statement yesterday. The sand collected from the seabed will be presented to their relatives later this year, he added.

The Japanese raid on May 31, 1942, killed 19 Australian and two British sailors when torpedoes hit the HMAS Kuttabul. The U.S. battle cruiser, USS Chicago, was unscathed.

One of the submarines became entangled in a defense net strung across the harbor and its crewmen blew themselves up along with the craft. The other was sunk by a depth-charge before it could fire its torpedoes.

The discovery of the wreck at Bungan Head has raised further questions about what happened in the hours after the attack, as the M24 was supposed to return to a mother-submarine waiting south of the harbor at Port Hacking.

Ocean Floor

The submarine is lying upright on the ocean floor and is mostly intact, although its shell has been damaged by commercial fishing trawling over the past 65 years, the Australian government said.

Navy divers mapped and surveyed the wreck two days ago and assessed possible battle damage and the status of undetonated scuttling charges, Turnbull said.

The government has declared the wreck site a protected zone to ensure the submarine and any human remains are not disturbed.

``We are committed to ensuring this internationally significant wreck is protected and treated with honor and respect,'' said Turnbull.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Countersuit over finding Hunley thrown out

May 17, 2007

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal judge in South Carolina has dismissed a counterclaim in a lawsuit relating to the discovery of the Confederate submarine Hunley.

Author Clive Cussler had sued underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence in 2000. Cussler alleged Spence's claim of finding the sub injured the reputation of Cussler's National Underwater and Marine Agency.

Spence countersued in 2002, saying he suffered as much as 309 million dollars in damages because the discovery was credited to Cussler.

This week, U.S. District Judge Sol Blatt Junior dismissed the countersuit saying the statute of limitations on admiralty claims expired by the time Spence countersued.

Spence says his counterclaim was thrown out on a technicality and a jury next year will decide who is telling the truth about finding the sub.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Help Support USS Lagarto Documentary


Zero Bubble
By Raymond Krause
May 15, 2007

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum is raising money in order to fund the completion of the USS Lagarto documentary which already includes footage of the recent dive on the wreck off the coast of Thailand by the Deep Sea Detective’s Richie Kohler and John Chatterton.

The money raised so far by the museum for the project was enough to fund the 2007 Thailand dive and now in order to move production along, including the addition of interviews with submarine veterans and other experts, they need to raise more money though donations and grants.

The museum is hoping to release the completed Lagarto documentary in time for the 2008 Memorial Day holiday.

If you would like more information about the project or would like to donate money to help out with the post-production, please contact Bob Allen, Development Director at the Manitowoc Maritime Museum at 1-866-724-2356 or 920-684-0218.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Memories shared by Batfish crew members


Muskogee Phoenix
By Bess Warren
May 13, 2007

The last few remaining crew members who served on the USS Batfish during World War II gathered Saturday to honor all lost submarines and their crew members at the Muskogee War Memorial Park.

As recited during the service, a segment of the U.S. Navy branched out to become the Submarine Force in the 1940s. It was during this time that the USS Batfish was built and made her first war patrol.

Members of the original crew were present at the service, although there are only around 15 members left.

“We’re getting to that point where we are getting scarce,” Dick “Hershey” Hosler said.

Hosler, 85, of Endwell, N.Y., was a Torpedo Man Class II, on the Batfish in World War II. Before serving on the Batfish, Hosler was stationed on another submarine named Sandlance along with Jake Fife, who was the executive officer. Fife was made commander of the Batfish upon its completion and was transferred along with five other Sandlance crew members. Hosler was one of those five.

“The big thing for this ship was making history by sinking three subs in three days,” Hosler said. “It gave the Navy the impression that the best way to get a sub was with another submarine.”

All members of the 6th War Patrol of the Batfish received a presidential citation for the sinking of three Japanese submarines during the war. Hosler received that one as well as one while serving on the Sandlance.

“They were both very successful runs,” Hosler said.

The final members of this historical crew gathered on the ship again to take photographs and reminisce about their tenure on the boat.

Virgil “Blackie” Lawrence, 84, Modesto, Calif., recalled a close call one day aboard the submarine. Lawrence had loaded a special, sound-seeking torpedo into a chute. When the torpedo moved out, it only went 8 to 10 inches before stopping.

“It was stuck,” Lawrence said. “If we closed the door it would slam into the detonator and could have blown the other door off and could have flooded the room.”

Being the obedient serviceman, Lawrence followed his commander’s instructions and moved all the other crew members out of the room hesitantly closed the door, which ended up being successful.

“I cleared the room and shut the door before I could faint,” he said. “The captain had more brains than me. He had to make a decision.”

Each veteran had their own unique story, and the camaraderie was evident as they huddled together on the lawns of the park and listened attentively to each person’s recollection of their time aboard the Batfish.

The memorial service, hosted by the U.S. Submarine Veterans World War II and the U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc., included a roll call of 52 lost boats with each one being recognized with a bell toll and a placing of the flag on each memorial monument. The service was concluded with the sounding of the diving alarm and a gun salute by the VFW Post 474.

The USS Batfish is open to the public weekdays and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4 p.m. with a small admission fee. For more information, call 682-6294 or visit


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Council to hear U-Boat update

May 9, 2007

AN UPDATE on ambitious plans to recover a sunken U-Boat off the coast of Inishowen will be given to Derry City Council this week.

Council members will hear about the progress of the first phase of the proposed project to raise the German U-Boat discovered off the coast of Malin Head, County Donegal.

A motion to Council (by Councillor Shaun Gallagher) recommended that Council officers investigate the possibility of raising the U-Boat, accessing national and international funding, and cross border funding and the formation of a roundtable discussion with interested local parties.

According to local divers in the North West, the U-Boat is in very good condition and some think that, if raised, the vessel could become a permanent fixture in the city as a tourist attraction and major heritage monument.

Council have written to Dublin’s Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (National Monuments Section), which, it is thought, is responsible for the U-boat due to its current location. Any proposals are dependant on the Department’s response.

Before any more progress is made, the Department must determine whether the U-Boat is classed as an archaeological object under the National Monuments (Amendment) Act (1994), which covers the protection of wrecks and underwater archaeology.