Joint US and Australian expedition results in fresh footage of HMAS AE1, Australia's first submarine

NEW images of Australia’s first submarine, which was lost at sea more than 100 years ago, will enable researchers to gain a deeper understanding of how and why it met its fate.

The wreck of HMAS AE1 was discovered in more than 300 metres of water off the Duke of York Islands, in Papua New Guinea, in December.

A joint US and Australian expedition has provided further clarity about the state of the ship – details which were captured on high-definition video and still cameras.

Australian National Maritime Museum director and chief executive officer, Kevin Sumption said data from the examination would be used to develop a shipwreck management plan, in cooperation with the PNG Government and PNG National Museum and Art Gallery 

“These incredible images and the new information they provide will help the museum tell the story of AE1 and its brave crew, and ensure their service and sacrifice are remembered by future generations,” he said 

The images will also be used to create a 3D digital model of the shipwreck site, creating opportunities for further examination and research into what happened to the ship 103 years ago.

The survey was undertaken by research vessel Petrel, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and was coordinated by Find AE1 Ltd.

Partnering organisations included the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Royal Australian Navy, Curtin University, the Western Australian Museum and the Submarine Institute of Australia.

The Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery approved the survey.

“The AE1 has a special place in Australian maritime history and I’m proud of our partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum and others that brought an end to the mystery of the AE1’s final resting place,” Mr Allen said. 

“For all of us associated with Petrel, we view this work as a means to honour the courage and sacrifice of the crew of AE1.”

Rob Bray, Faye Frewin, Jeff Bray, and Matt Bray - descendants of the Eaglehawk man aboard Australia's first submarine, HMAS AE1. Picture: NONI HYETT

Rob Bray, Faye Frewin, Jeff Bray, and Matt Bray - descendants of the Eaglehawk man aboard Australia's first submarine, HMAS AE1. Picture: NONI HYETT

Stoker 1st Class John James Bray, of Eaglehawk, was one of the 35 crew members lost when the submarine vanished on September 14, 1914.

His great-nephews, brothers Jeff Bray and Rob Bray, said the discovery of the AE1 added another layer of significance to Anzac Day commemorations in their families.

Rob Bray and wife Sharon represented the family in March at a service commemorating the crew of the AE1.

He said they were among about 70 representatives of HMAS AE1 crew relatives to travel to Sydney for the invitation-only service.

“It was a special event,” Mr Bray said.