- Spencer, Mark
- Biographies and personal histories, History - WW1, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS AE2
- December 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
And so, we plunged into the deep, dark, cold depths of the Sea of Marmara again. As soon as I hit the water, I no longer felt the 100 kilograms of weight on my shoulders (four large tanks, regulators, weight belt and housed camera system), but it was replaced with the weight of responsibility of sending a team to 86 metres in dubious conditions. Visibility on the bottom was much worse than the previous dive – only about arm’s length. Nets and ropes were suspended ominously from the wreck. Efforts at photography with my big camera system merely resulted in a fine mud suspension as I hugged the wreck for stability and orientation. ‘More portholes! I’ll see if I can photograph them’. One of my strobe arms was locked in such a way that I couldn’t position it properly. ‘Forget it!’ I thought to myself, ‘it’s too hard!’ There can be a psychological effect at these depths. Although we were breathing the right gases, we knew it was deep, and a problem which could easily be solved under normal circumstances was one task too many on that day. The thought of getting entangled in those fine suspended nets and ropes was disconcerting. The temperature on the bottom was 14 degrees C, and this part of the wreck looked as if a bomb had hit it. I didn’t know where we were on the wreck.
Fortunately, Riley got more out of his dive. He saw what Kolay thought was a ‘casing’ (submarine deck) with the man-hatch over the ‘aft firing tank’. It turned out to be the aperture of a now absent wind funnel which directed air into the engine room. Riley recognised it by the presence of a small cog or gear that was used to turn the funnel into the wind. The ‘casing’ was just an unfortunate jumble created by the breaking-up of the old steamship. The depth at this aperture was 83.3 metres, the same measurement Selquk observed on his dive. The primary objective of our first trip was to positively identify the wreck Selquk Kolay had discovered, and we felt we could leave Turkey with conclusive evidence that the AE2 had not yet been found. Navy and Government back in Australia wanted clarification on what was becoming an increasingly sensitive and difficult management issue.
Real AE2 found one year later
We left disappointed but content that we had not failed our mission. The Australian public, through television and the news media, were much better educated regarding the role of our navy in the First World War and in particular, the daring exploits of AE2. Navy and Government had their question settled, and we made some great new friends. Selquk Kolay in particular proved to be a man of honesty, integrity and perseverance. He assured all of us, even on television, that he would continue the search until he found the AE2. ‘After all,’ he said philosophically, ‘it cannot disappear.’
I was diving at Eaglehawk in Tasmania in late June of 1998 when I heard in rapid succession from Richard, Merv and John that Selquk had found the AE2. Selquk had apparently rung me about 1 am (as he promised) to tell me the great news. He first located the wreck on 11 June 1998. His side scan sonar images made him feel pretty confident that he’d found the wreck even before diving it. But his first dive on 2 July left him with no doubt that, this time, he’d found the AE2. He even sent me a copy of a four-minute video recording taken on the wreck, which was viewed by my team members, Mrs. Bronwyn Bishop MP and Navy officials here in Sydney and in Canberra.
Diving on the AE2
With the assistance of the RAN, Channel 9 and some much appreciated corporate sponsors, the same team left Sydney for Istanbul in late September, 1998. We were warmly met at the MV Saros by most of the original crew from our last expedition. We travelled overnight through the Bosphorus on our way to the Sea of Marmara, arriving thirteen hours later at the small town of Karabiga. This was to be our base for the one- hour journey to and from AE2 wreck each day.