Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS AE1 located after 103 years

This article has photo gallery This article has a video attachmentPublished on Department of Defence (author and photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS AE1, Naval Heritage and History

After 103 years since her loss, HMAS AE1 was located in waters off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea. (photo: Fugro Survey)
After 103 years since her loss, HMAS AE1 was located in waters off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea.

Australia’s first submarine HMAS AE1 has been found, ending a 103 year maritime mystery. 

The fate of 800 ton AE1 and her 35 crew members has remained one of the persistent mysteries of Australia’s military history.

It was the first loss for the Royal Australian Navy and the first Allied submarine loss in World War I; a significant tragedy felt by our nation and our allies.

The Royal Australian Navy submarine was lost off Rabaul on 14 September 1914 with all personnel aboard.

An expedition to locate the submarine took place in waters off the coast of the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea this week. The search vessel Fugro Equator located an object of interest in over 300 metres of water. Upon further inspection, confirmed the object to be AE1.

The first images captured by the expedition show the vessel is remarkably well preserved and apparently in one piece.

The Royal Australian Navy teamed up with a range of search groups in this latest expedition, funded by the Commonwealth Government and the Silentworld Foundation, with assistance from the Submarine Institute of Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Fugro Survey and the Papua New Guinea Government. The expedition was embarked on the survey ship Fugro Equator which is equipped with advanced search technology.


Following the discovery of the submarine, a small commemorative service was held by those on-board the survey vessel to remember those officers and sailors who lost their lives 103 years ago. Efforts are being made to contact the descendants of the crew.

The Australian Government will work closely with the Papua New Guinean Government to consider a lasting commemoration and recognition of the crew of AE1 and to preserve the site.

The information gained from this expedition and from the research to date will greatly assist in unravelling the mystery of the loss of HMAS AE1, and will be held by the Australian National Maritime Museum for future generations to remember.

Lest we forget.

Underwater imagery of HMAS AE1 site can be seen at: