Australian submarine retrieved after a century by 3D technology

HMAS AE1 found near Duke of York Islands in Papua New Guinea

The HMAS AE1, an Australian submarine, carrying 35 personnel of Australian Navy, capsized over 100 years ago.

State of the art 3D technology has been used to explore the wreckage of this submarine, with the interim findings of the research presented on Friday. It remained a mystery as to where the historic vessel was, but the research solved this quiz.

The wrecked submarine has now been sighted at a depth of 300 metres near the Duke of York Islands in Papua New Guinea.

HMAS AE1 had only been in service for seven months when it left Sydney to capture what was then German New Guinea. The AE1 was the Royal Australian Navy’s first ever wartime loss.

Researchers at Western Australia’s Curtin University have taken 8,500 still images of the wreckage and plan to create a 3D model of AE1 as it rests now on the ocean floor.

“Through the process of photogrammetric 3D reconstruction, we are now able to create a complete, realistic and detailed representation of the wreck,” Andrew Woods, manager of the HIVE (Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch) at Curtin University, said.

Deployment and loss

At the outbreak of World War I, AE1, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, was part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force sent to attack German New Guinea.

At 07:00 on 14 September, AE1 departed Blanche Bay, Rabaul, to patrol off Cape Gazelle with HMAS Parramatta. When she did not return by 20:00, several ships were dispatched to search for her.

No trace of the submarine was found, and she was listed as lost with all hands. The disappearance was Australia’s first major loss of World War I.

Following the rediscovery of the submarine in December 2017, Rear Admiral Peter Briggs, retired, said the likely cause of its loss was a diving accident.

Now, the 3D technology has presented people with an opportunity to ‘virtually visit’ the vessel. It is something that would be impossible to do in real life due to its depth and remoteness.

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