In Depth

Lost Australian WWI submarine found 103 years later

Wreck of HMAS AE1 discovered off Papua New Guinea

An Australian submarine which sank during the First World War has been found more than a century after it went missing.

The HMAS AE1 vanished with 35 men aboard on 14 September 1914, while patrolling for German ships off the coast of Papua New Guinea, then a German colony, the BBC reports.

The vessel was the first Allied submarine to sink during the conflict, and the first casualty of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). For 103 years, its final fate remained one of the most persistent mysteries of Australia’s naval war.

This morning, however, the RAN announced that the submarine had been found around 300m below the ocean surface, near the Duke of York Islands, north-east of mainland Papua New Guinea.

The RAN collaborated with private organisations on the search, which was the 13th attempt to locate the wreck of the AE1, Reuters reports.

Early images of the wreck indicate the vessel is “remarkably well preserved and apparently in one piece”, according to a RAN statement. It is hoped that further exploration can finally unravel the mystery of what happened to the HMAS AE1.

Dr Brendan Nelson, director of the Australian War Memorial museum, said the loss of the vessel had a “profound impact on our young nation” and that he hoped the discovery of the crew’s final resting place would provide “comfort” to their descendants.

“Now we can properly mourn the deaths of those men who served in AE1, and commemorate their sacrifice in a meaningful and fitting way,” he said.

The Australian government has said it plans to preserve the site.

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