Heritage survey of midget submarine

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Alistair Tomlinson (author), ABIS Tom Gibson (photographer), LSIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, New South Wales

HMAS Diamantina's mine disposal vehicle is recovered after conducting survey work on the wreck of the WWII Japanese Type 'A' Midget Submarine offshore from Newport, Sydney. (photo: LSIS Justin Brown)
HMAS Diamantina's mine disposal vehicle is recovered after conducting survey work on the wreck of the WWII Japanese Type 'A' Midget Submarine offshore from Newport, Sydney.

The Royal Australian Navy has revisited the final resting place of a Japanese midget submarine as part of a program to preserve the Second World War wreck.
 
Involved in the attack on Sydney Harbour which resulted in the sinking of accommdation ferry, HMAS Kuttabul, the location of the submarine was a mystery for 64 years until 2006.  
 
For the past 10 years, Navy has maintained an important role in helping to preserve the wreck by carrying out periodic inspections to gauge the deterioration of the submarine. 

Recently minehunter, HMAS Diamantina, visited the wreck in support of a request from the New South Wales Office of Environment & Heritage. Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Iain Hutchins said his ship was perfect for the role.
 
"As a Minehunter, our primary role is to locate and dispose of mines in order to keep Australia's sea lanes open for business, tourism and commerce. However we can just as easily put these skills to use in locating M24 which is why we were more than willing to help the New South Wales Office of Environment & Heritage," he said.

Using the camera on the ship's remotely operated vehicle, Diamantina was able to inspect the hull which revealed the submarine remains half buried in surrounding sediments on a gently shelving sand plain. 
 
Operations Room Supervisor, Chief Petty Officer Paul Chircop said his team relished the opportunity.
  
"This area is renowned for strong currents, poor visibility and erratic swell, which made it very challenging, but a great training opportunity for the team who gained a lot of valuable experience from this operation,” he said. 
  
Lieutenant Commander Hutchins said his crew were honoured to be tasked with the sensitive inspection.
 
“It is a particularly delicate operation to inspect the submarine because it is likely the crew remains are within the hull and there are scuttling charges which pose a risk. 
"The wreck is also of great heritage value to the Japanese government, which is another reason why preservation of the M24 site is important," he said.
 
The submarine was discovered by a group of recreational divers, following the detection of a seabed anomaly using an echo sounder, the wreck lies just off Bungan Head, Newport, at a depth of approximately 50 metres. 
 
At the time, Navy despatched Diamantina's sister ship, HMAS Yarra to inspect the site via a remotely operated vehicle. 
  
Working with maritime archaeologists from the New South Wales Office of Environment & Heritage, the inspection confirmed the wreck was that of  M24, one of the three Type ‘A’ Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarines which attacked Sydney during a daring raid on the night of 31 May 1942. 
  
The other two submarines were destroyed on the night of the raid and subsequently recovered, but M24 escaped. 
  
For more information about the M24 visit http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/M24/