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.



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