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Lost WWI submarine finally found 103 years later

The Royal Australian Navy's first submarine is no longer lost. Historians hope to finally unravel the story behind its tragic fate.

This view shows the HMAS AE1's helm. 
Fugro Survey/Commonwealth of Australia

One of the most enduring naval mysteries in history is now divulging its secrets from the depths of the sea. 

The HMAS AE1 submarine disappeared in September 1914 with 35 crew members aboard. Now, 103 years later, the sub has been found near the Duke of York Islands in Papua New Guinea.

The AE1 was the first Allied submarine loss of World War I. The Fugro Equator, a Dutch survey vessel, discovered the lost submarine this week. AE1 is located at a depth of nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) under water.  A preliminary inspection shows it is in one piece and remains very well preserved.

Fugro, the operator of the Equator, says the survey ship is equipped with "the latest in digital seismic, seabed and sub seabed mapping systems." The team included marine archaeologists and historians. An underwater drone ultimately helped locate the submarine, which had eluded decades of previous searches.

The disappearance of the AE1 led to a series of memorial poems published in Australian press outlets in 1914. A poem titled "Submarine AE1," written by Anne Almer and published in the Adelaide paper The Register begins, "The brave men at their duty met their doom. Sudden and sharp-the ocean bed their tomb. No roar of battle warned them death was nigh; Silent and sudden plunged they into gloom."

The fate of the sub will no longer remain solely in the realm of imagination. The Australian National Maritime Museum is now raising funds for an investigation into what happened to the vessel.

The Fugro Equator collected this survey data showing HMAS AE1 on the sea bed. 

Fugro Survey/Commonwealth of Australia

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