The HMAS AE1 disappeared on September 14, 1914, with 35 people on board, for some unknown reasons while sailing between the islands of New Britain and New Ireland. Marine archaeologists have now discovered the historic wreck, ending a mystery that has endured for over a century. The search vessel used for this expedition, called Fugro Equator, is equipped with advanced search technology, including an underwater autonomous vehicle.
It wasn't until last week, when a joint expedition between the Royal Australian Navy and a number of private groups spotted an "object of interest" over 900 feet below sea level off the coast of Duke of York Island in Papua New Guinea.
While the exact location hasn't been revealed, the search from survey vessel Furgro Equato concentrated on the area between Rabual Harbour and Duke of York Island, at a depth of 300 metres.
It followed a successful mission to help capture what was then known as German New Guinea, and was the first loss for what was a young Royal Australian Navy.
The Australian Royal Navy announced that the 103-year long wait for answers about the fate of the 800 tonne HMAS AE1 is over, its official news outlet Navy Daily reported.
"It was the first loss for the RAN and the first Allied submarine loss in the First World War - a significant tragedy felt by our nation and our allies", she said in a statement. A combination of radio scans and up-close inspections by a submersible confirmed the identity of the wreck.
Fish swim around the helm of the sunken sub. It has been found off Papua New Guinea.
It has always been assumed the AE1 was not a victim of enemy action, since the only German vessel nearby at the time was a small survey ship.
Speaking to The Australian, retired Rear Admiral Peter Briggs said the sinking likely happened as a result of a diving accident, saying, "The submarine appears to have struck the bottom with sufficient force to dislodge the fin from its footing, forcing it to hinge forward on its leading edge, impacting the casing".
Payne said the government was working with its PNG counterparts to preserve the site and arrange for a commemoration of the sub and its crew.
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