The latest effort to locate the Australian submarine HMAS AE1, lost 100 years ago this month, have proved tantalizing but inconclusive so far.
Earlier this month an Australian navy vessel searching for the submarine, which went missing Sept. 14, 1914, with 35 men on board, reported “a contact of interest” in the Papua New Guinea search area.
The loss of the AE1 in the opening weeks of World War I took place after the Australian fleet sailed to New Guinea to capture the Germany colony on Britain’s behalf. The objective was to take out telegraph stations providing key communications for the German Pacific Fleet, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We need to get more detailed analysis. That is what we are doing at the moment,” according to a source with the Australian defense department. “Different sources, not only military, need to see if it fits the submarine’s profile. We have found items here before.
“If you look on the chart it is one of the most wreck-strewn areas in the region.”
The AE1 was the first submarine to serve in the Royal Australian Navy and was lost after less than seven months in service.
The disappearance was Australia’s first major loss of World War I.
Military historian and author Dr. Kathryn Spurling told Fairfax Media she believed the submarine stumbled across a hidden German boat.
“It didn’t even have to be an armed German boat,” she said. “The submarine was so small it would only have to be rammed by the German boat to go over topsy-turvy and it would go straight down.
“The only way the submarine could protect itself or attack the German boat was to submerge and as a submarine just goes beneath the water it is incredibly vulnerable and unstable, especially if you have a bad engine, which they did,” Spurling added. “I think that is the most logical way it was lost.”
(Top: Image showing HMAS AE1 in 1914, shortly before it set out on its final voyage.)