HMAS AE1 – Royal Australian Navy’s first submarine found off Papua New Guinea

Royal Australian Navy’s first commissioned submarine, the HMAS AE1, has been located 103 years after going under during World War I.

The fate of 800 ton AE1 and her 35 crew members has remained one of the persistent mysteries of Australia’s military history.

It was the first loss for the Royal Australian Navy and the first Allied submarine loss in World War I.

The Royal Australian Navy submarine was lost off Rabaul on 14 September 1914 with all personnel aboard.

An expedition to locate the submarine took place in waters off the coast of the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea this week. The search vessel ‘Fugro Equator’ located an object of interest in over 300 metres of water. Upon further inspection, confirmed the object to be AE1.

The first images captured by the expedition show the vessel is remarkably well preserved and apparently in one piece.

The Royal Australian Navy teamed up with a range of search groups in this latest expedition, with assistance from the Submarine Institute of Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Fugro Survey and the Papua New Guinea government. The expedition was embarked on the survey ship Fugro Equator which is equipped with advanced search technology.

Following the discovery of the submarine, a small commemorative service was held by those on-board the survey vessel to remember those officers and sailors who lost their lives 103 years ago. Efforts are being made to contact the descendants of the crew.

“The information gained from this expedition and from the research to date will greatly assist in unraveling the mystery of the loss of HMAS AE1, and will be held by the Australian National Maritime Museum for future generations to remember,” the navy said.