2008, Jim Eagles recently sent
me information on the search for HMAS SYDNEY. The full account can be found at
http://presspass.findingsydney.com and if further information is required,
you can contact the liaison officer
Patrick Flynn at
To give visitors some idea of the
sequence of events leading up to the finding of her and German raider KORMORAN
that sank her, the contents of the emails Jim sent me follow:
Thursday, March 13, 2008 3:18 PM
HMAS Sydney search update
A few days
ago I wrote about the rhythm of a search expedition - how a good rhythm consists
of a search line followed by a turn to the next line repeated many times over
with monotonous regularity. We are finally starting to get into such a rhythm
and this bodes will for the location of Sydney. Excluding the time lost to
technical problems and Cyclone Ophelia we have only been searching for less than
4 days so we are still in the very early stages of a search that I expect could
take 30 to 35 days, possibly more.
One of the
most exciting aspects in any shipwreck search, but particularly this one, is
that the wreck(s) in questions can be found at literally any time. we have three
different image processing computers and monitors displaying the sonar imagery
in real time, in addition to one very large screen that we mounted in the survey
room especially for this expedition. So everyone can easily monitor the results
of the search and there is no chance any important targets can be missed. But
just to be safe, we also review the images on our two off-line systems at the
end of each line to be absolutely sure.
number of reasons I favoured the eastern side of the search box, which is why we
are concentrating our efforts there first. We will be spending the next week
searching there before shifting to the less fancied western side of the box.
Unfortunately, the weather gods are still being uncooperative and we are
expecting a surge of 25 to 30 knot winds tomorrow. We can't afford to lose any
more time because of bad weather but we will just have to see the cards we are
was a good day, during which we received some tantilizing underwater side-scan
imagery of contacts which were later assessed as being geological features. We
completed our south-north run in the early hours of this morning and with our
tow-fish streamed astern of us on approximately 4500 metres of cable, we then
commenced our long turn in order to position ourselves for the next run down
line number 9. Each of the survey runs are recorded and scrutinised at least
twice by both David Mearns and an analyst from the Williamson crew to ensure
that no contacts of interest have been missed.
Sydney's main armament consisted of eight 6-inch Breech Loading Mark XXIII guns,
mounted in four twin barrelled mark XXI turrets. Two of these turrets were
mounted forward of Sydney's
bridge and main superstructure and were designated 'A' and 'B' turrets. The
remaining two turrets were mounted aft of Sydney's main mast and were designated
'X' and 'Y' turrets. These guns had a maximum range of 24,800 yards at a maximum
elevation of 60 degrees. In layman's terms they could fire a projectile weighing
approximately 51 kilograms almost 22 kilometres which is roughly the distance
from Central Station in Sydney to the city of Parramatta.
after our fire drill, I spent many hours looking at sonar screens. For a novice
it was fascinating watching the geology, fault line and depressions as they
appeared more than 3000m below us. We had a few heart stopping moments as
interesting geology was scrutinised and dismissed.
that we are out here searching is of paramount importance. We are here because
of the hard work of the HMAS Sydney relatives and researchers who have kept this
story to the forefront of the nation's conscience. We are also here because the
Finding Sydney Foundation (FSF) Directors never gave up.
I think it
only fair to acknowledge the amount of work the five volunteer Directors of FSF
have put in, particularly since the Commonwealth funding was signed off in
Otober 07, especially our chairman Ted Graham.
when I joined FSF I had no idea of the workload, and I'm a bit of a workaholic.
it was with great relief when we welcomed our Project Manager, Patrick Flynn on
board in mid November. The complexities of the tender process and the awarding
of numerous contracts all had to be finalised expeditiously to enable us to be
in the water in the optimum search weather window of the first quarter of 2008.
funded by many individuals and relatives of the crew, but obviously we would not
have made it to sea without the enormously generous support of the Commonwealth
Government and the Western Australian and New South Wales Governments.
the area that the engagement between Sydney and Kormoran is believed to have
taken place ?
research by, but not limited to, The Finding Sydney Foundation, ship-wreck
investigator Mr David Mearns and Captain Peter Hore RN, RAN Sea Power Centre -
Australia, the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian
Maritim Museum, favours a search area off Western Australia's Coral Coast.
The search area will encompass
over 1800 square nautical miles of ocean in approximately 2,000 m to 4,000 m
water depth some 120 nm offshore from Australia's most westerly point, Steep
what sources is this conclusion based ?
the Sea Power Centre - Australian sponsored a seminar to determine the most
likely area in which the battle took place. Despite some disagreement amongst
those in attendance, the northern position emerged as the most likely area for
the engagement to have taken place.
at a search area of high probability David Mearns and Peter Hore conducted
extensive research of existing primary sources regarding the battle. These
included Captain Detmer's account of the battle and interrogation records of
Kormoran survivors following their capture.
many theories about where the engagement between Kormoran and Sydney took place,
however, the search area chosen is the only one that has any supporting
evidence. It is for that reason that it has been chosen as the area that is to
the depth of water that the wrecks are thought to be lying in ?
of water is very deep, somewhere between approximately 2,000 and 4,000 metres.
the search focused on locating the Kormoran first ?
for the wreck of Sydney
can only be conducted after the wreck of Kormoran is found. The simple reason
for this is that the navigational coordinates recorded by Kormoran's Captain
Detmers, and other physical clues such as the location of floating debris
recovered by Australian ships days after the sinking, are all referenced to the
position of Kormoran and not Sydney. While there is reasonable information about
where Sydney may have sunk and thus where to begin the search for her wreck,
this information is relative to the final position of Kormoran and thus dictates
that the wreck of Kormoran is found first.
Kormoran is found the serarch for Sydney can begin in earnest.
are the chances of finding
any search of this nature there are absolutely no guarantees of success. The
best case scenario is that the search will be executed and the wrecks will be
located. the worst case scenario is that nothing is found but the search field
is narrowed having eliminated one of the most likely battle areas.
the Finding Sydney Foundation selected as financial beneficiary of this grant ?
Finding Sydney Foundation (FSF) is a not for profit group which was established
as a foundation to raise funds with the sole interntion of locating the wreck of
Sydney and honouring those lost in her.
alliance with the highly successful ship wreck investigator Mr David Mearns has
seen them emerge as a group with the wherewithal necessary to mount a search
role is Navy taking in the search for Sydney ?
search the Royal Australian Navy will be represented by Lt John Perryman, who
will be present on board as an observer and advisor on historical aspects of the
Up to and
throughout the search, Navy will continue its close engagement and support
through the Seapower Centre - Australia, which monitors the progress of the
Foundation and advises Navy Headquarters of its progress. Supplementary weather
support is also being provided to the search vessel by the Royal Australian
Navy's meteorological section based in Fleet Headquarters in Sydney.
does the search process involve ?
is to be carried out in two phases. The first phase involves using deep tow side
scan sonar imaging equipment to sweep the seabed for any wreck site indicators
such as debris fields, other seabed anomalies or the wreck itself. Should any of
these indicators be found a more detailed sonar imaging process will be
implemented that will more accurately identify the anomalies of wreckage fields
budget, phase two may commence. This involves deployment of a remotely operated
vehicle to investigate and confirm the sites and to record video and
photographic records of the wreckage field(s).
cast of Kormoran, the submersible will only be used to sufficiently identify the
ship to maximise the search time for Sydney.
manage the wreck sites should they be found ?
sites will be managed by the Dept of the Enviroment, Water, Heritage and the
Arts (DEWHA) in accordance with the Historical Shipwreck Act 1976 (the Act).
protection does the Historical Shipwreck Act 1976 offer ?
that is declared an historic shipwreck under the Act is granted legal
protection. This means the wreck itself, any human remains, and its relics are
protected from damage, disturbance or removal.
addition, to further protect the site the Act allows the Minister to declare a
protected zone of up to 200 hectares. It is an offence to engage in any
underwater activity within the protected zone. The penalty for breaching the Act
is a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to five years,
search team be taking any artefacts from Sydney ?
Australian Navy is the recognised legal owner of the wreck of HMAS Sydney. It is
not planned at this stage to removed any artefacts from the wreck of HMAS Sydney
II or HSK Kormoran. If removal of artefacts is considered, the appropriate
approvals would need to be sought from the Dept of Environment, Water, Heritage
and the Arts (DEWHA).
Sent: Wednesday, March
19, 2008 12:05 PM
HMAS Sydney discovery ?
every congratulation should be made to the FSF
group in their well
publicised discovery we are a little concerned that an announcement has been
apparently on the basis
of the SM30 images, the least sonar able to give a good image and before even
the SM60 had been deployed for more higher resolution images became available or
the ROV pictures being taken. I sincerely hope that the announcement
has not been made solely because something was expected to be found there and
there was something, without other possibilities being investigated or better
attached image - part of the sonar scan from the FSF, has what looks very much
like a lifeboat at the bottom centre of the image. If the top of the image is
the bow of the Kormoran then this lifeboat, if that's what it is, should surely
have been either used by the crew, burnt in the fire after the battle or
destroyed when the mines exploded. Other images published so far, few as they
have been, also show a number of odd characteristics.
hope that they are correct in their identification, but more accurate and
detailed sonar images would be of great benefit in establishing the validity of
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2008 5:41 PM
Commission of Inquiry
CPA 078/08 Monday, 31 March 2008
HMAS SYDNEY II COMMISSION OF INQUIRY
The Acting Prime Minister, the Hon.
Julia Gillard, and the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus
Houston, today announced the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the
loss of HMAS Sydney II. As foreshadowed by the Prime Minister, a Commission of
Inquiry has been established to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the
sinking of HMAS Sydney II. The Hon. Terence Cole, AO, RFD, QC has been appointed
President of this Commission of Inquiry. With the aid of additional information
likely to become available as a result of the discovery of the Sydney II
shipwreck, the Commission of Inquiry will seek to determine the circumstances
surrounding the tragic loss of Sydney II with its entire crew in November 1941,
following an engagement with the German raider HSK Kormoran. The wrecks of
Sydney II and the Kormoran were recently discovered off the West Australian
coast by The Finding Sydney Foundation. Acting Prime Minister Gillard praised
the Chief of the Defence Force for establishing the Commission of Inquiry which
would examine the 66 year mystery of how Sydney II was lost with all hands.
“More than 600 of our nation’s finest sailors and airmen lost their lives and we
still don’t know exactly how Sydney II met her end,” she said. “I hope that
through this inquiry we have a better understanding of what happened on that
fateful day. In particular, I know that this Inquiry will have special
significance to the families of those who lost loved ones on Sydney II.” Air
Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Mr Cole was eminently qualified to preside over
one of Australia’s greatest maritime mysteries. “I am extremely pleased that Mr
Cole has accepted this appointment. He has a wealth of judicial experience and
is very capable of undertaking this important task,” he said. “During his
distinguished career he has presided over two Royal Commissions, served as a NSW
Supreme Court Judge, Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal and has held the position
of Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence Force.”
Media contact: Kimberly Gardiner (Julia
Gillard): 02 6277 7320 or 0434 159 842
Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or
0408 498 664 DEFENCE MEDIA RELEASE Issued by Coordination and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence, Canberra, ACT Phone: 02 6265 3343, Fax: 02 62656946
to bring you fully up to date -
and to return to the
service history of HMAS Sydney