Part of AE1‘s hull, showing extensive corrosion. After 103 years since her loss, AE1 was located in waters off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea in December 2017. Image: Find the Men of AE1 Ltd.
Australia’s greatest naval mystery is solved at last
It is more than a century since Australia’s first submarine, HMAS AE1, disappeared without trace in the waters off Papua New Guinea. Its fate remained a mystery until late last year, when the most recent of many searches finally found its wreck.
The shipwreck of HMAS Perth (I) lies in waters between Java and Sumatra, a victim of the Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. A joint survey project between the museum and Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (Indonesia) has recorded the devastation caused by extensive illegal salvage. Image: James Hunter, ANMM/Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional.
[Perth] has been hammered and the once impressive six-inch A1 and A2 turrets are gone, the bow is flat and … the wreck is more hazardous than before – even for general swimming around, with lots of live ordnance, wire and overhanging metal.1
Wyatt Earp moored on the edge of Antarctic pack ice, February 1948. The little wooden ship – with a very unlikely name – pioneered Australia’s expeditions into the Antarctic as part of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE). ANMM Collection ANMS1445.
Remembering the ‘Twerp‘
On 26 December 1947, a small, nondescript wooden-hulled motor vessel set off from Hobart, bound for Antarctica. Its silhouette resembled that of an ageing offshore fishing craft, but its weather deck was packed from stem to stern with supplies and equipment – including a single-engine Vought-Sikorsky Kingfisher floatplane. At the helm was Commander Karl E Oom, an officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). He was supported by five naval officers, 22 ratings, a Royal Australian Air Force pilot and air fitter mechanic, and an Australian Department of Information photographer. The complement was rounded out by four civilian scientists who were responsible for conducting a series of experiments, and observing meteorological and other natural phenomena in the Antarctic. Their voyage would be the first to operate under the banner of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE), a series of post-war initiatives to establish Australian scientific research stations in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic territories of Heard Island and Macquarie Island. ANARE laid the foundation for the establishment of the Australian Antarctic Division, and in later years Australia’s polar research ships could trace their lineage back to the little timber craft then making its way towards the world’s southernmost continent: HMAS Wyatt Earp.
A black and white photograph of HMAT Ceramic, which was used during World War 1 as a troop carrier. The frame around the photograph contains the signatures of soldiers and the date ‘15.12.15’ – it is likely that the soldiers were part of the 12th Reinforcements for the 4th Light Horse Regiment. They departed Melbourne on 23 November 1915. ANMM Collection 00027600.
A British liner, a German U-boat, the mid-Atlantic Ocean and the Royal Australian Navy – what do they have in common? The SS Ceramic.
HMAS Canberra underway off Tulagi, during the landings there, 7-8 August 1942, the day before the battle. Three transports are among the ships visible in the distance, with Tulagi and Florida Islands beyond. Image: US Navy History and Heritage Command.
At 2 am on Sunday 9th August 1942 the Royal Australian Navy’s County class heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (D33) was leading a combined US and Australian naval task force protecting the US 1st Division Marine landings on the islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
My mother has often told me this story of the evening of Sunday 31st May 1942:
‘It had been a normal Sunday: Church, followed by lunch, a visit to my grandparents, some radio and then suddenly, while I was taking a bath, sirens split the air, Dad turned off the lights, and I shivered in the dark.’
Last Thursday I had the privilege to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea on board USS Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier, where the museum’s new documentary Clash of the Carriers, premiered in front of Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and Mrs Turnbull, President of the United States, Donald and Mrs Trump, veterans of the battle and 700 guests.
HMAS Vampire (II) flying the Australian White Ensign in 1967. Image: Navy Historic Archive.
Flags are everywhere. We see them flying from government and corporate buildings, from ships and cars, at sporting events, and during festivals. They all mean something whether it be identifying a country or business, or marking the end of a marathon. This month marked the anniversary of one of Australia’s most significant flags – the Australian White Ensign (AWE), first flown on 1 March 1967.
HMAS Waterhen in Sydney Harbour, c1925–33. ANMM Collection 00021576.
The 9th of December 2016 is the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Tobruk, the port on the north coast of Libya that proved such a thorn in the side of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel during the eight months that the siege lasted. The Australian War Memorial describes it as one of the longest sieges in British military history.
Whenever the siege of Tobruk is remembered, the Australian soldiers, who formed the greater part of the garrison for most of the time, are quite rightly afforded pride of place.
Oil painting of Sobraon (later Tingira), by William Barnett Spencer, c 1866. Image: ANMM Collection 00009342.
On a cold sunny morning in June 2016, Silentworld Foundation Director and maritime archaeologist Paul Hundley steered the survey vessel Maggie III into shallow water at the head of Berrys Bay on Sydney’s North Shore. Accompanying him were the museum’s maritime archaeologists Kieran Hosty and myself, staring intently at a laptop computer as it displayed readings from a marine magnetometer towed a short distance behind the boat. As Maggie III’s hull glided through water less than a metre deep, we watched for any indication that remnants of a unique sailing ship might lie buried in the silt below. Continue reading →
Johnnie and Mehmet concept drawing detail. Image: Alexander Knox 2015.
This is not a blog about the current Federal election … this is about something much more enduring and exciting – a bold new art installation that plays with the idea of animus, memory, the machinery of war, and to a degree geopolitics. It will be launched in the coming months on the forecourt at the Australian National Maritime Museum, and today, International Museums Day with its focus on cultural landscapes, seems an appropriate time to reveal something of the art work.
HMAS Sydney in the Firth of Forth when she was operating in the North Sea as part of the part of the British Grand Fleet. Image: author’s collection.
Australian Naval Historian and author Dr David Stevens will present the annual Phil Renouf Memorial Lecture on Thursday 31 March 2016.Phil Renouf was the much-loved and highly respected leader of Sydney Heritage Fleet and this annual lecture series honours his significant contribution to Australian maritime heritage.
HMAS Sydney’s victory over SMS Emden in November 1914 marked an important milestone in the war at sea. But in no way was this the end of Australia’s naval war, and it certainly did not herald Sydney’s departure from our naval history. Indeed, the cruiser remained extremely busy throughout the Great War, roaming all over the world and achieving a number of naval firsts.
There are many things that come to mind when you think of a warship. Big guns, secret missions, white uniforms, badges, officers, ranks, commands and coded ciphers. Buttercream frosting? Not so much.
This month’s craft spot is inspired by none other than our new Action Stations experience, just launched. In much the same way (and not the same way at all) as how Action Stations is all about making the experience of our navy vessels more surprising, immersive and delicious, making an edible delectable destroyer or battleship cake embraces a little something of the surprising (a sweet and squishy rendition of a mean machine), the immersive (you enjoy its appearance, eat it up and experience all the goodness it has to offer) and the delicious — of course. And perhaps it’s also a good way to celebrate and salute to all things navy and nautical, just as we are doing every Family Fun Sunday this month.
Student speech competition winners Emelia Rose Haskey and Catherine McClymont with ANMM Director Kevin Sumption (centre back) and judges Jeff Fletcher and Daina Fletcher. Photo: Andrew Frolows
‘Remembering AE1’ … a deceptively simple title that invites a sense of reflection and commemoration. This was the topic set before Year 9 history students in a national speech competition to help mark 101 years since AE1, Australia’s first submarine, disappeared with all hands at the start of World War I, never to be found. The occasion to deliver that speech would be the unveiling ceremony of Warren Langley’s wonderful artwork ‘…The Ocean Bed their Tomb’, a stainless steel wreath sculpture that now hovers over the water outside the museum.