Marine

Underwater drone finds Australia's first submarine lost for over a century

Underwater drone finds Austral...
Survey data showing HMAS AE1 on the sea bed
Survey data showing HMAS AE1 on the sea bed
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The casing of HMAS AE1
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The casing of HMAS AE1
Battery ventilation trunks of HMAS AE1
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Battery ventilation trunks of HMAS AE1
HMAS AE1’s helm
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HMAS AE1’s helm
Broken casing of HMAS AE1
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Broken casing of HMAS AE1
Modern debris on the casing
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Modern debris on the casing
Damage to the casing of HMAS AE1
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Damage to the casing of HMAS AE1
HMAS AE1’s helm and forward and aft periscopes
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HMAS AE1’s helm and forward and aft periscopes
The rear of HMAS AE1’s fin broken away from its footings
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The rear of HMAS AE1’s fin broken away from its footings
Detail of HMAS AE1’s helm and periscopes
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Detail of HMAS AE1’s helm and periscopes
The submarine was found off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea 
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The submarine was found off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea 
The underwater autonomous vehicle used in the successful search for HMAS AE1
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The underwater autonomous vehicle used in the successful search for HMAS AE1
Launch of the underwater autonomous vehicle used in the successful search for HMAS AE1
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Launch of the underwater autonomous vehicle used in the successful search for HMAS AE1
MV Fugro Equator
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MV Fugro Equator
Find AE1 survey team analyzing the drop camera vision
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Find AE1 survey team analyzing the drop camera vision
Survey data showing HMAS AE1 on the sea bed
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Survey data showing HMAS AE1 on the sea bed
The submarine was found using side scan sonar
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The submarine was found using side scan sonar
HMAS-AE1
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HMAS-AE1
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After 103 years, a robotic submarine has found the wreck of Australia's first submarine. Operating from the survey vessel MV Fugro Equator, the autonomous underwater vehicle Hugin 1000 discovered the 800-ton HMAS-AE1 this week off the coast of the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea. The sub was found in 300 m (980 ft) of water using an advanced side-scan sonar system in a joint exercise by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and civilian search teams.

HMAS-AE1 was an E-class submarine built in England by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness starting in 1911. She was commissioned as the first submarine in the RAN in February 1914. Unfortunately, in the early weeks of the First World War she collected two other unwanted firsts when she disappeared along with her crew of 35 British, Australian, and New Zealander sailors off Rabaul, Papua New Guinea on September 14, 1914 – making her the first loss by the Australian Navy and the first Allied submarine casualty of the war.

After the initial searches found no trace of the boat, no concerted effort to find AE1 was made until the 1970s. Since then, there have been several attempts, including a magnetometer search by Jacques Cousteau, but none have been successful until now.

The submarine was found off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea 
The submarine was found off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea 

The latest search was funded by the Australian government and the Silentworld Foundation, with help from the Submarine Institute of Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Fugro Survey, and the Papua New Guinea Government. Along with its sophisticated surveying equipment, the MV Fugro Equator carried a team of maritime surveyors, marine archaeologists, and naval historians.

But key to the enterprise was the Hugin 1000 robotic submarine. Operating under remote control or autonomously, it is capable of operating at a depth of up to 3,000 m (9,800 ft) without human intervention for up to 100 hours as it cruises at a speed of four knots (4.6 mph, 7.4 km/h). It's equipped with a High Resolution Iterferometric Synthetic Aperture Sonar (HISAS), an EM2040 multi-beam echo sounder, side-scan sonar, sub-bottom profiler, still image camera, turbidity sensor, and Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP).

According to the Navy, the Hugin was traveling at 40 m (130 ft) above the seabed on a pre-programmed 20-hour mission when its multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan detected an "object of interest," which on closer inspection was confirmed as AE1. Images returned to the surface by a tethered camera indicate that the submarine, though heavily damaged, is well preserved and in one piece.

The underwater autonomous vehicle used in the successful search for HMAS AE1
The underwater autonomous vehicle used in the successful search for HMAS AE1

After the identity of the submarine was confirmed, a small commemorative ceremony was held aboard the Fugro Equator and the Navy says that the descendants of the crew will be contacted, if possible. Because the AE1 is still the property of the Australian government and an officially designated war grave, it's exact position remains classified.

Source: Royal Australian Navy

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1 comment
Nik
The obvious question is, 'Will it be possible to determine why it sank?' Was it due to faulty design,construction,or operation? Relatives, have probably been asking that question for a century, or more, so to find the craft, and still not answer the question would be very frustrating for them.