During the period 1-24 September 2007, the AE2 Commemorative Foundation, in conjunction with the Turkish Institute of Nautical Archaeology (TINA), mounted an expedition to the Sea of Marmara in Turkey to conduct a survey of the wreck of AE2. Made possible by the generous support of the Australian Government and a number of sponsors, the results of this Maritime Archaeological Assessment (MAA) allowed the Governments of Turkey and Australia to make informed decisions about the future of the wreck. Click here to see images of the 2007 expedition. Click here to download the final Maritime Archaeological Assessment (2.0 MB PDF). Click here to download a poster that summarises the latest state of play (1.8 MB PDF).
Ultimately, the aim of the Foundation is to ensure that the part played by AE2 in the Gallipoli Campaign is recognised and that its place as the 'Silent ANZAC' becomes a part of Australian folklore. Click here for more information about AE2 and the project. To find out more and join the Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA), click here
Training for the 2007 Expedition
In preparation for the 2007 expedition, the Foundation conducted a highly successful Training Exercise in February 2007 on a scuttled J-class submarine. A report of the training can be downloaded here (PDF 479 KB).
Having Achieved its Objectives, the AE2 Team returns home
For 8 days the team has awakened to the pre dawn call to the faithful, operations have ended only when the diving bottles had been recharged – normally in the early hours of the cool autumn nights. Today (18 September 2007), the Australian team of 21 is cleaning and packing its complex diving and technical equipment for transport back to Australia.
The objectives set for the AE2 Expedition have been achieved. The data collected from the World War I Australian submarine AE2 and the environment surrounding her will enable us to evaluate its residual strength and recommend practical option for its future preservation.
Two unique achievements stand out. A video camera was inserted into the submarine’s control providing the first images since her valiant crew scurried to safety 92 years ago and the mystery of its remarkably good state of preservation has been unravelled.
Taking advantage of particularly calm weather and good underwater visibility one team of AE2 divers descended early on Tuesday morning and rigged the drop camera above the conning tower hatch before commencing their 2 hour trip back to the surface, entailing 8 long decompression stops over 73 meters of depth.
Immediately the images started to flow back to the control display manned by the scientists from DSTO who have developed the camera and its control arrangements.
A second team of divers descended into the depth for their 35 minute time on the bottom.
Avoiding ‘Bunts’ , the conger eel who had been watching developments from his vantage point at the upper conning tower hatch, they lowered the camera past the obstructions of the ladders and lower hatch into the centre of AE2’s control room.
The water is clear and pristine, with little silt or growth evident on the multitude of gauges and equipments. The view is a narrow field – through an underwater keyhole – a time machine to take us back to AE2 92 years ago.
The jubilation in the control centre on the diving support ship was discernable in the hasty reports relayed ashore to the headquarters in Karabiga by UHF radio – “We’re in!”
Reviewing footage it is obvious that we have some amazing shots. When combined with the computer generated imagery of the AE2 control room, developed by the team of DSTO scientists and a portfolio of excellent black and white photographs from E class submarines we have a unique insight into the heart of AE2.
The second break through came from on site analysis of the concretion samples obtained from the hull of the submarine and samples from the silt surrounding her. These have yielded the secret of AE2’s relatively good condition.
It appears that the hull has been submerged in silt on 4 occasions during its 92 years on the bottom. The fin has stayed above the silt line, keeping the interior free from silt. The low oxygen environment of the silt and burial of the submarine in its protective coating explains the slow corrosion rate of the hull.
Diving at this depth is a serious business and not without risks. A serious diving incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon, resulting in the near drowning of one of the team’s divers.
Shortly after the two divers entered the water to dive on the submarine it became apparent that one was in difficulties with equipment. The second diver provided support and air from his own emergency supply. Two surface support divers standing by on diving support vessel entered the water and the casualty was brought to the ladder, diving gear removed and dropped to the seabed prior to hoisting the unconscious casualty onboard.
The embarked medical staff immediately began resuscitation and succeeded in reviving and stabilising the casualty. The pre-planned emergency procedures for a medial evacuation were implemented and provided highly effective. The Turkish Navy quickly coordinate the attendance of a high speed Coastguard cutter, a Turkish Navy helicopter and a waiting ambulance to convey the casualty to hospital.
Although this incident could have had very serious consequences, this was avoided by the rapid and highly effective response by the expedition team and the Turkish authorities. Happily, the casualty has recovered well and was discharged from hospital on Monday and plans to rejoin the team prior to their departure on Wednesday.
Tomorrow the team will complete their packing and farewell the many newly made friends in the little fishing village of Karabiga in Turkey where the Expedition was based for the last ten days. A fitting end to a joint Turkish and Australian expedition, made possibility by the Commonwealth Government and Australian industry sponsors, to record and tell the story of the brave and daring action of the crew of the Australian submarine AE2 – Australia’s Silent Anzac.
Peter Briggs, Chairman AE2 Commemorative Foundation Ltd - 18 September 2007