Latest Search Reports

  • Closing Thoughts

    David Mearns – Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    Looking back on the 43 days since we began mobilising the SV Geosounder on February 27th I can safely say that the Finding Sydney Foundation team, including all their offshore subcontractors, exceeded the highest possible expectations anyone could have before the project started. 

    Of course the headline news was that HMAS Sydney II was finally located 66 years after her sinking and the tragic loss of the entire ship’s company of 645 men.  This stunning achievement, along with everything else accomplished during the expedition, as I have summarised below, must be viewed in the context that locating Sydney was never going to be a sure bet.  In fact there was a considerable chance of failure and there were many doubters who increased the stakes and pressure with their opposition.  For this reason I feel that full credit must be paid to the Commonwealth Government of Australia, the state Governments of WA and NSW, all the private donors large and small, the RAN, the Sydney relatives who fully supported the search and of course the Finding Sydney Foundation.

    Project Accomplishments:

    • HSK Kormoran was located in 64 hours of active searching.
    • A total of 3 “high-resolution” side-scan sonar passes were made over the wreck of Kormoran which allowed us to confirm its identity on the basis of the sonar data alone.
    • HMAS Sydney (II) was located in 67 hours of active searching.
    • A total of 4 “high-resolution” side-scan sonar passes were made over the wreck of Sydney which allowed us to confirm its identity on the basis of the sonar data alone.
    • Both wrecks and their associated debris fields were filmed in high-quality video totalling approximately 60 hours and an additional 1,435 still photographs were taken.
    • Commemorations were held at sea directly over both wreck sites.
    • The Prime Minster, Kevin Rudd, separately announced the discovery of both wrecks to a waiting Australia (we missed a single announcement for both wrecks by just 1 hour).
    • As a result of being located both wreck sites are now legally protected under the Historic Shipwreck Act of 1976 and hereafter will be managed by the Department of the Environment Water, Heritage and the Arts.
    • A Commission of Inquiry led by Terrence Cole QC will be conducted to inquire into the circumstances of the loss of HMAS Sydney.
    • The Finding Sydney Foundation’s website received over 12 million hits during the course of the expedition.
    • Over 60,000 unique visitors visited the Virtual Press Room to receive media information.
    • A documentary of the search expedition will be broadcast on ABC on April 15th, less than 1 week after the project has been completed.
    • Most importantly, over 900 families related to men lost with the sinking of Sydney have contacted the RAN’s Relative Helpline and registered their details.

    Although it involved an enormous amount of work and commitment over a period of 5 years I also realise that I was enormously privileged to lead such an important search on behalf of The Finding Sydney Foundation and I wish to thank the Directors, past and present, for their support and trust.

    Finally, I want to express my deep appreciation to Patrick Flynn, Commander Fiona McNaught of the RAN and John Perryman of the Sea Power Centre for their professionalism in handling such an unusual, and at times difficult project.  John, in particular, has been with me every step of the way giving me good advice when needed and his role in the success of this project can not be overstated.  Every single day with John was a fascinating lesson in the history of the RAN and good fun.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    As we bring our blogs of the search for HMAS Sydney to a close, I have to pinch myself when I realise just how successful we have been.  It is difficult to comprehend that David, John and I have been on the MV Geosounder for about seven weeks.

    It seems a far cry from the day I arrived during the mobilisation phase and met the Williamson crew from Seattle.  As the crane lifted all their sensitive equipment on board I noted confidence amongst the chaos, even in the 40 degree heat.  I was in a panic that day because of the unfamiliar surroundings and fear of the unknown.

    The first lesson I had to learn was patience, as the road to this success has not been easy.  We seemed doomed before we began with mechanical, technical and weather down time. There were days on end when we were unable to function because of not one but two cyclones, days when some people were seasick (I was one of the lucky ones) and days when sensitive electronics like the sonar and ROV were not operating as we might wish.  I learnt to have trust in the expertise of the professionals who knew how to do their job, and just let them get on with it.

    There were disappointments too, when interesting targets turned out to be geological on closer analysis.  But as long as I live I will never forget the feeling of seeing the sonar images of first Kormoran, and then HMAS Sydney for the first time.  

    The most frustrating period for me was the long delay in port between the first phase and the second ROV phase over the Easter period.  But all that paled into insignificance when on 3 April we lowered the ROV to depth over HMAS Sydney.  I was incredibly nervous as we waited for the first video footage of Sydney to appear on the screen.  We were not disappointed and after working day and night for several days we have an incredible video record of both ships and debris fields.

    This search is also about people: the five volunteer Directors of Finding Sydney Foundation who refused to give up; the folk who funded us; the team work on board despite incredibly long shifts and the friendships made; and most of all it is about the relatives of the lost mariners to whom we bought a mixture of joy and sorrow when we finally told them where they loved ones were.

    John Perryman – Senior Naval Historian (Observer)

    Yesterday afternoon, having completed our examination of the Kormoran and her associated debris field, we shaped course for the Sydney wreck site to conduct one final ROV pass in an attempt to find the few remaining large ship fittings thus far unaccounted for. These included the second set of quadruple torpedo tubes, the main mast, four ships boats, and two sets of large boat davits.

    It was certainly worth the effort, as later in the evening we found all but the remaining boats and davits. We also found the middle section of the High Angle Control Station tower which had severed from its mounting at the rear of Sydney’s bridge behind the Director Control Tower. This was an unexpected but most welcome surprise.

    At 2342, satisfied that we had now examined and recorded as much of the debris field as possible, David Mearns declared the survey and search for the wreck of HMAS Sydney (II) complete. Amidst a sense of pride and achievement the team congratulated one another on a job well done.

    As the ROV made its ascent to the surface, the light cast by its powerful underwater lights on Sydney’s wreck began to fade. Once again the pride of the Royal Australian Navy’s World War II fleet was left in peace, concealed and safe in the depths and darkness of her underwater sanctuary.

    There is no doubt that this voyage of discovery and commemoration has been a resounding success for all concerned and I am very proud to have played a part in its planning and execution. As this will be my final contribution to this search diary I would like to extend my personal thanks to all those people, throughout Australia and overseas who never lost faith in the search team’s ability to find the wrecks. The staunch, unwavering support of these individuals helped to make the search a reality and to all of them I extend a sincere vote of thanks.

    To the many relatives of those lost in this great warship who have carried pain, anguish and grief for so many years, I sincerely hope that the knowledge of knowing where their loved ones now lie brings them some sense of solace.

    Dr. Michael (Mac) McCarthy – Curator of Maritime Archaeology, WA Museum (Observer)

    HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran became the most sought after of any shipwreck in our nation’s history. This has lead to the expenditure of hitherto unprecedented amounts of time, funds and resources in research, seminars, inquiries and now search.

    Being sometimes quite complex and often difficult to understand at a glance, those interested in the reasons why the search took so long are referred to Museum Report Number 230 (see link below).  In essence the failure to grasp the moral obligation we all share in trying to ensure that the circumstances whereby people are lost or injured in Service are properly explained was a fundamental cause. Associated and intertwined is the failure to properly attend to the needs of those bereaved or affected by death or injury of relatives in public service.  In the HMAS Sydney case a ‘fair go’ was patently not forthcoming. Therein lies the source of the frustration and anger so often vented at the authorities. Thankfully as a nation we are now turning that corner.

    That the search and survey just completed has been conducted with experts from overseas, in the presence of independent observers, with rapid and effective overnight reporting back to the nation (when weather and technical faults have not conspired to produce inactivity) is unprecedented. That provision for verifiable hard copy data with independently-generated records all linked in time and place has been made, is again unprecedented.  It has to be, for the reasons outlined above.

    The microcosm that was life on SV Geosounder for 43 days, the sailors, galley staff, stewards, engineers and officers (men and women from across Australia and from overseas) used every moment of their free time to crowd into the search and survey control room to watch the work. That is a reflection of the interest the search has generated. Millions from other ships, from farms, sheep stations, towns and cities watched from the wider world.  While there was a natural curiosity, for many, if not most, a satisfactory explanation for Australia’s greatest maritime and wartime mystery was being sought.

    The two wrecks and their debris fields are now protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act. That future access to their restricted zones will again be the subject of stringent entry and reporting requirements attests to their ongoing importance as heritage sites. That they remain the property of the services whose flag they once fought under, yet are protected by an act that makes those same properties part of the national estate, again places them in a very rare category indeed. These are national icons.

    For many this successful search is finality. For some it is but a continuation. For others it is only the beginning, for an independent inquiry has been announced. In these last cases let us hope that the lessons learnt to date will lead to exhaustive archival search, objective research, debate and well-reasoned analyses and conclusion on all fronts and at all levels. Above all let us hope that the sacrifice of those who we now know so desperately died in service on HMAS Sydney is honoured. This crew died trying to make our nation a place where diversity of opinion could thrive, where respect to others would be shown and where all were to be given that fair go.

    Photo Above: (left to right) Glenys McDonald, David Mearns, John Perryman, and Mac McCarthy with the Explorers Club Flag awarded to David Mearns - a Fellow of the EC - to carry on this expedition.

    Photo Above: The expedition team back in Geraldton following the successful ROV video investigation of the wrecks.

    Patrick Flynn - Project Manager, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    Supporting the Directors of the Finding Sydney Foundation (Ted Graham, Don Pridmore, Glenys McDonald, Bob Trotter and Keith Rowe); our offshore Search Director (David Mearns); our Contractors (DOF Subsea Australia P/L, Williamson & Associates of Seattle, and Electric Pictures P/L); and the Royal Australian Navy throughout the search was a small and dedicated group - Richard Sojka our IT/Internet Manager and Leeanne Evans and Penny Buchan, our office management team, whom I thank for their efforts in helping to keep the rudder straight and the sails aloof. 

    Valuable legal support from Tim Cocks, Paul Hopwood, Mal Hartford and Minal Shah enabled our contractors to deliver their professional services and equipment in a compressed schedule.  I also wish to acknowledge the facilities provided by the Mayor of the City of Geraldton-Greenough and the services of various contractors that aided the search vessel SV Geosounder whilst in Geraldton port.  

    I treasure the legacy of the search for HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran and sincerely trust that by locating and providing their resting imagery in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean, we have provided some comfort to the many relatives and friends of the sailors and airmen whose lives were lost on 19th November 1941.


    Photo Above:  Office Management for The Finding Sydney Foundation, Leeanne Evans (left) and Penny Buchan (right)

    Richard Sojka - Internet & IT Project Manager, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    On behalf of the IT/Web Team at it has been our pleasure to bring the Search for the HMAS Sydney II to the world via the internet.  Having personally been involved with the project for some seven years, I fully understand what the find and subsequent imagery has brought to the relatives of the brave men who gave their lives for their country.  Also the level of interest both in Australia and overseas, the search has attracted.

    The Search website although existing for many years as an appeal was upgraded on the 27th of February 2008 to commence reporting on David Mearns search team progress to the public and the media, bringing the subsequent finds to the world.  Since this date we have currently received more than 12 million hits to the sites, serving more than 350 gigabytes of bandwidth data over the course of 43 days, with zero downtime.  We have had more than 60,000 unique visitors  to the Virtual Press Room alone to download information, which provides some indication to the extent this story has interested media outlets everywhere.

    We have received much thanks and praise for our efforts in publishing the information contained both in the public and press room websites and have been extremely pleased that we have managed to bring you news and blogs as quickly as possible, with the compelling images and footage from the ROV.

    The high definition images published for media distribution at the Virtual Press Room are the exact unaltered versions we received from the Search team on board the SV Geosounder.   These images were compressed to a smaller size for the public to view in photo galleries and blogs due to bandwidth constraints.  Aside from a small degree of sharpening to compensate for the lowering to a smaller image size, the inclusion of watermarking of “” on the bottom right hand corner of blog photographs, the web team has gone to great lengths to ensure the images you have seen are as true to the originals as possible.  The streaming video footage from Electric Pictures was reduced to a smaller scale for streaming and delivered as per the original source.

    As the Finding Sydney Foundation is a non-profit organisation, we do not use advertisers on our sites to subsidise our web costs.  Subsequently a very small web team has done an extraordinary job of publishing and delivering a high profile story to the world, in a very short space of time, within budget.  It has been with care and respect for the crews of both the HMAS Sydney II and the HSK Kormoran, and their many relatives of these men that we have made every effort to ensure the websites are maintained and evolved for future generations to remember.

    There have been a number of IT tasks undertaken during the course of the project, the most significant being the collation and storage of 1,435 still ROV images and approximately 60 hours of underwater digital footage from the Search Project.  This was successfully completed today, with the unaltered source files archived with the Finding Sydney Foundation for  historical record and copies being provided to contractual parties.

    I would personally like to thank the board of the Finding Sydney Foundation and the Project Manager Patrick Flynn for supporting our team with their strong belief in ensuring information is reported accurately and rapidly to the public.  It has been a great pleasure to be involved in such a historical and worthy project.

    Lest We Forget Sydney

    Photo Above: Richard Sojka, Foundation Web and IT Manager (right) being congratulated for his work with Finding Sydney Foundation by the Premier of Western Australia the Hon Alan J Carpenter MLA (left)


  • 7th April 2008 Report

    David Mearns – Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    Before the start of our ROV dive on Kormoran’s wreck and debris field I cautioned everyone that in contrast with HMAS Sydney the wreck of Kormoran was going to be in a very bad state and that it was going to be extremely difficult to identify individual pieces of wreckage in the debris field.  I did this because I wanted everyone to be prepared for what they were about to see.

    As some of today’s images will show most of Kormoran’s hull has been absolutely obliterated by the final explosion, which reduced much of her structure to wreckage that is so completely twisted and torn it is virtually impossible to identify what part of the ship it comes from.  I have no doubt that it was the simultaneous detonation of Kormoran’s cache of over 300 mines that ripped her apart and left the scene of utter destruction we were witnessing.  The German Captain Detmers and his fellow officers had vividly described this explosion but here was the proof, once again, that they were speaking the truth and this was plain for everyone to see for themselves.  The most amazing thing was that Detmers - who left Kormoran last - and those in the last lifeboat with him somehow miraculously avoided being hit by this wreckage, which clearly rained down over an area covering hundreds of metres.

    The other important aspect we were able to verify was the methods the Germans used to conceal their dangerous guns in a way that allowed them to escape detection by other ships but also to de-camouflage very quickly when needed.  There has been considerable doubt about the German claims that they could de-camouflage in a matter of seconds so it was especially important that we try to document exactly how the concealment flaps and covers were engineered.  In terms of the engineering what we found was ingeniously simple and obviously designed for fast and efficient operation.  Moreover, when you consider that Kormoran’s crew had perfected their de-camouflage techniques at least 10 times in previous battles and that they were drilled on a regular basis by Captain Detmers it is now easier to accept German claims.

    The final unexpected bonus of this dive came when I spotted some writing on an enormous piece of wreckage that we struggled but finally succeeded in identifying as lower hull plate from Kormoran’s port side.  The only identifiable feature for orientation was the bilge keel running left to right, but just below it painted in white were the small number and letters “08KO”.  It is incredibly rare to find any writing on a shipwreck, never mind painted writing which is almost always obscured by corrosion and/or sedimentation.  But there was little doubt that here on the underside of the hull in the most unusual of places was writing that positively identified the wreck as being Kormoran, the German auxiliary cruiser designated number 08.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    Our inspection of the Kormoran wreck began with a hitch on Sunday night at 8pm when we were unable to get the ROV out of the garage. However as the first eyes to look on Sydney’s nemesis in more than 66 years we were amazed at the excellent condition of the hull.  After a two hour circuit of the starboard side of the wreck we recovered the ROV for a slight repair and preparation for the next dive.  We were in for a long night/morning.

    At midnight we were back at our posts in the survey room and were glued to our seats for the next ten hours straight.  The ROV performed perfectly and although the water clarity was at times not as good as the Sydney site, we got remarkable footage and stills.

    The first thing we noticed was a light coloured paint band around the bow.  As we proceeded along the starboard side we looked for items to do with the concealment of the guns and torpedoes.  The torpedo flap was open and we took photographs of the hinges but it was difficult to look inside.  The big 5.9” gun on the forecastle was free of concealment and trained forward.  As we looked at the other 5.9” gun on the port side there were signs of paint discolouration on the barrel possibly from the intense heat. We examined the 2” guns and on both sides and the guns were missing, leaving only the mount.

    Of great interest was the examination of the starboard and port underwater torpedo tubes.  These were oval in shape with no form of concealment and there were seven strakes between the well deck and tube. The cargo hold was empty although what looked like a boat cradle was evident. I could not help but be impressed at the apparent neatness of this ship, even though she had been ripped apart by a huge explosion from the bridge superstructure to the stern.

    When you have been awake for so many hours it is a wonderful gesture when Jo the cook, sent Sonia down with toasted sandwiches.

    John Perryman – Senior Naval Historian (Observer)

    Having arrived at the Kormoran wreck site during the afternoon of 6 April we conducted our first dive on the German raider between 20:00 and 21:00.  Unfortunately this dive had to be cut short due to the ROV becoming lodged in its garage.  We were, however, able to carry out a short preliminary examination of Kormoran from within the garage, from which we viewed a number of distinguishing features and confirmed her identity.

    At 00:50 we again closed up to continue our survey of the German raider.  The ROV maintainers had succeeded in clearing the obstruction that prevented the submersible from exiting its garage and it was soon on the sea bed at a depth of 2580m.

    During the next six hours we retraced our steps around Kormoran and David Mearns was able to capture some very crisp imagery of what remained of the battered auxiliary cruiser.  The largest part of Kormoran consisted of the well deck and bow section forward of where the main superstructure screen was supposed to be. Everything behind this had been completely obliterated, scattering chunks of twisted debris for hundreds of metres around the wreck.

    The fore part of Kormoran immediately became our main target of interest and I was extremely interested to view this mysterious chameleon of the sea.  We quickly identified the openings for her above water torpedo tubes which were easily identifiable by a rectangular steel plate flap which was in the open position, raised at 90 degrees.  Unfortunately we were unable to get the ROV into a position to view inside the opening and therefore could not determine what state the torpedo tubes were in. As we manoeuvred the ROV lower down the ships port and stbd sides we found the oval openings for both of the fixed under water torpedo tubes.

    Returning to main deck level we observed the three forward holds, the centre one of which housed one of Kormoran’s 5.9-inch guns.  This gun appeared largely in tact in spite of the presence of downed derricks and Samson posts which lay across her deck.  The gun was trained to starboard on a relative bearing of approximately 135 degrees.  Continuing forward we observed displaced and empty boat cradles in cargo hold number one before continuing to the raised forecastle deck.

    Immediately below the aft end of the forecastle were the two forward 5.9-inch guns, their concealing steel covers were gone and both were trained in the fore and aft position.  On the deck above we observed the mounts for the smaller calibre 2-cm guns.  Although the actual guns were gone, the port mount’s concealment remained and confirmed that these weapons were raised hydraulically from the deck below once their covers were removed.

    After examining the main part of the Kormoran wreck we proceeded into the vast debris field looking for large pieces of wreckage. Few were encountered and due to the damage caused by the detonation of Kormoran’s 300 plus mines, it was very hard to determine what they were.  We believe we found part of the forward deck house and also what appeared to be one of Kormoran’s engines. What was clear to me is that Kormoran’s demise was violent and complete.

    Dr. Michael (Mac) McCarthy – Curator of Maritime Archaeology, WA Museum (Observer)

    One of the great expectations I had of both HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran would be that they would conform to what in maritime archaeological circles is known as the ‘waterline theory’ i.e. that wrecks lying upright on a soft bottom sink down to the waterline, precluding a look  at what has happened below the waterline.  At HMAS Sydney it certainly didn’t hold good for she lies on a veneer of soft sediment overlying a compacted firm bottom.  Though she was on a slight heel, on both her port and starboard sides her bilge keels were visible, showing an intact hull  below the waterline in all bar the break in the bow on the port side where the Kormoran’s torpedo hit.

    As we approached the Kormoran near midnight Sunday I wondered what would be the case there.  So too did the Electric Pictures camera crew of Matthew Kelley Director; Ulrich Krafzik cinematographer and Christopher MacGregor the sound recordist. ‘Ulli’ was especially interested for he had been born in Kiel and lived in Hamburg as a boy; moving to Australia just 12 years ago.  The relief on his face was obvious when I told him that the disguised heavily armed cargo boat was a British invention.  Called  ‘Q Ships’ they became famous in WWI for tricking U-boat commanders into thinking they were harmless steam or sailing tramps, only to be met with a hail of devastating fire on surfacing to finish of their hapless victim.  They proved so successful that they are mentioned in Shipping Wonders of the World, one of my favourite books when I was young. 

    At Kormoran it was exactly the same situation as with HMAS Sydney, with the bilge keels visible on both sides aft.  This left both her underwater torpedo tubes clearly visible even though in part they dripped with the now well-known ‘rusticles’ of Titanic fame.  The other great surprise was that the hull abruptly ended at the bridge and it had totally disappeared; a full two thirds of the ship and all its contents gone.  What was equally odd for me was the empty starboard hawse. It certainly once had an anchor, for the scrape of its flukes against the hull was clearly visible.

    Soon we spotted it, still attached to its chain just inboard of the hawsepipe, its shank lying on the forepeak deck, but the flukes had gone!  That certainly raised a lot of unanswered questions amongst the crew of Geosounder who when off watch or off duty in the galley, gathered to watch events unfold.  Sometimes nearly 20 folk in all were crowded in.
    At 0423H we retrieved the ROV and headed for the first of the Kormoran debris fields.  It had two elements, one 490m away on a bearing of 211 degrees from the Kormoran’s hull and the other 1200m away on a bearing of 351 degrees. The first comprised two very large targets surrounded by hundreds of smaller strikes. They were found to be parts of the superstructure nearly 15m high and twice that in length.  The second was the engine sitting on its elevated double bottom under collapsed plates and what appeared to be skylights . It too was c. 15m high. On one section of hull plate hiding it from view, was clearly visible in paint 08KO, clearly a reference to Kormoran.  Also clearly visible was a stockless anchor that had torn its way deep into the same plates. While otherwise in perfect condition, its shank had disappeared!

    Above Photograph:  The simple flap designed to conceal the starboard and port above-water torpedoes shown here on the starboard side in the open position.

    Above Photograph:  The opening of Kormoran’s underwater torpedo tube on the starboard side.  Although rusticicles are partially obstructing the opening it can be seen to be oval in shape to allow firing of the underwater torpedoes at the angle from which the tubes are mounted in the hull.

    Above Photograph:  The break in Kormoran’s riveted steel hull bears testimony to the violence of the detonation caused by her scuttling charges and mines that sent her to the bottom.

    Above Photograph:  5.9 Gun:  Kormoran’s 5.9-inch gun in the forward hold pointing to starboard and aft of the beam.

    Above Photograph:  An example of the many large pieces of twisted metal scattered throughout Kormoran’s vast debris field.

    Above Photograph:  Another large piece of wreckage shows a confusing jumble of pipes, cable and hull structure.

    Above Photograph:  The writing “08KO” painted in white on the hull just beneath the bilge keel identifying the wreck as HSK8 Kormoran.  This is the actual photograph as taken by the ROV, but the image must be turned around to read the writing correctly.

    Photo Gallery Slideshow available at

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address

    Photographer: David Mearns

  • 6th April 2008 Report

    David Mearns – Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    I was expecting another long day (and night) today diving on the sonar targets we named as the “battle site” between Kormoran and Sydney largely because of their location on a line that approximates very closely the projected line of the battle.  In the end the dive was very short for the surprising revelation that the sonar targets were actually a field of very large rocks!  When the first angular rock face came into view I exclaimed “its geology” and almost immediately realised that this wasn’t going to be just one isolated rock amongst a field of Sydney’s wreckage, but that all the sonar targets were going to be revealed as rocks instead and that our original interpretation was wrong.

    The reason it was so easy to let go of this interpretation was that we had just spent the previous dive finding and cataloguing so much of Sydney’’s superstructure and deck equipment in the debris field that it was becoming increasingly hard to understand what sections of Sydney might be found at the battle site.  Also, we had been fooled earlier during the search phase by a similar outcropping of angular rocks that we ruled out by way of some high-resolution sonar passes.

    Before the ROV reached the seabed I said to Matthew Kelley, the documentary film director, “be prepared for a surprise”.  As surprises go this one is actually quite pleasing for I believe it will simplify our understanding of what happened to Sydney.

    On my way to becoming a shipwreck hunter I earned degrees in marine biology and marine geology so please forgive me for including this picture of the rock, and friendly settlers, that fooled us.

    Above Photograph: One of the angular basaltic that is now the shared home of a deep-sea anemone, stalked sponge and sea fan.

    Photo Gallery Slideshow available at

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address

    Photographer: David Mearns

  • 5th April 2008 Report

    David Mearns – Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    The top objective of today’s ROV dive to HMAS Sydney’s debris field was to identify the largest sonar target, which I was confident was Sydney’s detached bow.  This was achieved, along with many other objectives, very early in a highly successful dive that lasted over 17 hours and yielded another 421 still photographs.  For all the difficult and frustrating time we endured dealing with technical problems and awful weather, the results over the past several days have truly been worth the wait many times over.

    Sydney’s debris field yielded up a large amount of her superstructure and deck equipment that we found missing from her hull.  Our finds included: the bow, director control tower and roof of the compass platform, both masts, the radial engine and possible framing of the Walrus aircraft, the entire aircraft catapult, an intact funnel, the high angle control station, one of the port side 4-inch high angle guns, a couple of 0.5-inch machine gun mounts, five of Sydney’s wooden boats, one of the quadruple torpedo mounts with 2 torpedoes still loaded and one loose torpedo, various winches and spools of wire, a gas mask and a number of loose shoes.

    Nearly everything found in the debris field listed above, excluding the bow, would have been ripped away from Sydney by the enormous water forces as she sank at rapid speed.  The general absence of twisted and torn hull plating in the main debris field tells me that it is probable Sydney did not suffer any large explosion in her bow.  It seems increasingly likely that Sydney’s bow, severely damaged and weakened by the torpedo strike, broke away with Sydney pointed on a heading of 140 degrees, and still possibly underway.  All the evidence indicates that the weather and sea conditions worsened on the evening of November 19th and rough seas may have played a factor in Sydney losing her bow and finally sinking.  A number of other WWII ships were torpedoed in the bow like Sydney but none lost their bows, nor sank.  Desperately unlucky, Sydney appears to be the first.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    On Saturday I saw team work at its best.  At 11.15am we commenced a detailed inspection of the Sydney debris field and almost immediately we came onto the entire main mast complete with Crow’s Nest.  As we moved over targets our collective pool of expertise, photographs and plans of HMAS Sydney on hand in the survey room assisted greatly.  John Perryman did an incredible job for us this day.

    There was anticipation as we approached our second target which we believed to be the bow of Sydney. The bow was inverted with both anchors and numerous scuttles (port holes) visible.  The scuttles were counted from the bow to the break to determine the break had occurred in the vicinity of water tight bulkhead No 5. 

    The amount of debris logged and photographed is too extensive to go into here, but at various times the excitement mounted as we struggled to identify objects, some of them badly tangled or upside down.  One such piece was the Director Control Tower with part of the Bridge roof lying over it. The ROV team did a superb job filming every detail of this structure, and the sharp edges of some of the debris meant that the ROV crews had to be particularly skilled.  Where possible we zoned in on objects, for example we were able to read the brand “Barnett” on a rubber tyre.

    The greatest and most overwhelming part of a long day however was the finding of five lifeboats.  These all sat pale and ghostly on the sea floor, still proudly displaying their anchor emblem, white with a blue anchor on some boats and blue with red anchor on another.  In one case we located one lifeboat resting over the other.

    The finds continued to fill us with awe. Just prior to a tea break we saw the first of many black shoes.   A torpedo trolley caused debate for some time as did a piece of debris with letterbox like slits.  This turned out to be a boat cradle base.  There was various shell cartridges and one torpedo, not far away from where the torpedo tubes, with two torpedoes still in the right hand side were located.

    By 04.00am we had completed (and I had logged) the traverse of the debris field. I called it a night and went to bed, it had been a day that words cannot even begin to describe and I am so privileged to have been part of it.

    John Perryman – Senior Naval Historian (Observer)

    Having spent two days concentrating on surveying the wreck of HMAS Sydney (II) it was now time for us to venture into her nearby debris field some 450 meters to the north of her position.

    We had tracked a number of large contacts of interest strewn amongst the debris field on our side scan sonar during the search phase, and it was now time to try and determine what these were.  We closed up in the survey room in Geosounder shortly after 11:00 and twenty minutes later the ROV came upon Sydney’s foremast lying on the seabed.  This was readily identifiable by its height, wire aerials and the distinctive crow’s nest which was still affixed to the masthead.

    Having obtained imagery of the foremast, the ROV was maneuvered toward the next large contact which turned out to be Sydney’s severed bow lying upturned on the sea floor. Both of her anchors were all the way home in the hawse pipe and secure.  We were able to determine where the bow had severed by counting the scuttles aft of the anchors. Totaling six, we concluded that the bow parted approximately 66 feet from the stem of the vessel.  Lengths of chain cable were strewn in the vicinity of the bow and an inspection of the bows opening revealed that all of the forward decks within it had collapsed.

    The ROV then carried out an inspection of the sea bed for other significant pieces of debris.  Before long we came across a large structure which we were initially unable to identify. After some time we determined that it was actually two large pieces lying on top of each other.  A close investigation soon revealed that we had found the distinctively shaped flat bridge roof top, resting over the front of the Director Control Tower.

    As the afternoon progressed we identified numerous pieces of wreckage including the a funnel, ships aircraft catapult, aircraft engine, starboard forward 4-inch Mk V gun, 20-inch searchlight, port 12-foot UK-1 rangefinder and five of Sydney’s nine boats.

    The discovery of the boats in the debris field was both remarkable and sobering.  We were able to identify several different types of boats ranging in size from 27-foot whalers to the larger 35 and 36-foot motor cutters. Distinguishing features included the presence/absence of propulsion and the type of build such as clinker or carvel. Some showed signs of damage by gunfire and in one instance two of the boats were resting on top of one another.  This certainly supported our earlier assessment that few of Sydney’s boats were launched following the action.  The most striking feature, however, was the presence of Sydney’s badge mounted proudly on the bows of all boats found. These carefully hand painted coloured icons remain in tact, undisturbed, and will continue to serve as a silent epitaph to HMAS Sydney (II) and her valiant crew.

    Dr. Michael (Mac) McCarthy – Curator of Maritime Archaeology, WA Museum (Observer)

    The examination of the HMAS Sydney debris field commenced at 1110H on Saturday 5 with the ROV’s arrival at the first of many targets plotted by Williamson and Associates Senior Geophysicist Mike Kelly and Senior Survey Technician Brian Bunge.  They had remained on board from the search phase.

    The survey finished at 0430H on Sunday 6 with all absolutely exhausted especially the ROV team, Mike and hydrographic surveyor Nigel (now dubbed ‘the Navigator’) Meikle.  He was supported by survey technician Hannes Vanroyen.  The nearly 18 hour survey was an immense drain on all, the pressure, the hours of staring at the video screen and monitors, the fatigue, all occasionally showing.  Mike Kelly had worked virtually non-stop calling distances and bearings to the ROV pilots, quickly responding to David Mearns’ requests for updates, bearings, distances, heights and information as he worked to fit all that was unfolding into his store of experiences and expectations.  He had planned and was now executing the inspection phase in the debris field meticulously and to a pre-ordered plan, refusing to be sidetracked.

    For his part John Perryman proved amazingly quick and effective in drawing on the plans of HMAS Sydney he had copied to the Sea Power Centre laptop, on the contemporary photographs and on images from the HMAS Sydney model in the War Memorial.  Using these and his own experience on naval ships he rapidly identified all bar a few of the features encountered and to help explain the pieces missing from each, for few, if any, were intact.  Each large target numbered S1-S13 and a host of smaller items seen en route like shoes; cartridges (including some embedded vertically in the seabed); paint tins; and the like were logged in time and position.  Glenys MacDonald and I also kept individual chronological manual logs of findings, adding descriptions and identifications as they were made.  I also plotted the ROV’s course on Mike Kelly’s map of the debris field.  This had been overlaid on his and Brian’s sidescan sonar record.  David, John and Glenys will have described many of the significant ‘finds’ in their blogs.

    The totally unexpected appearance of the first of the ship’s boats saw Glenys Macdonald flourish some of her photographic collection.  These showed some of them in operation and together with John’s detailed plans allowed us to quickly identify each type and the external fittings and fixtures on them.  To me, seeing the frames and the remaining ghostly strakes of planking on the carvel vessels was one of the most striking images of my archaeological career.  Then to find the largest boat, diagonal planked, square-sterned, with the skeletal remains of a carvel cutter across its gunwhales was even more remarkable.

    At 1155H, Sunday back down in the survey room after rising at 0800 to write up and prepare for this next phase, I finish with the note that the badges on each boat were another of the most evocative images I have ever seen.  Without exception these retained their features, their emblems and colours apparently undiminished on each bow.  Not wishing to appear too effusive I could not help thinking as I looked at them of the shoulder patch on John Perryman’s naval overalls in which he always appears.  Under the naval ensign appear the words ‘These Colours Don’t Run’.  


    Above Photograph: Sydney’s inverted bow was our first major discovery within the debris field.

    Above Photograph: The buckled stern and collapsed quarterdeck clearly indicated that Sydney had struck the sea floor stern first.

    Above Photograph: The crow’s nest sitting atop Sydney’s downed foremast.

    Above Photograph: The distinctive bridge deck head (roof) lying against the front of the Director Control Tower.

    Above Photograph: Without doubt the most chilling find in the debris field was the presence of five of Sydney’s life boats. Note Sydney’s official badge mounted on their bows.

    Above Photograph: One of Sydney’s 21-inch quadruple torpedo tubes lying upside down on the sea bed. Two torpedoes remain in their tubes.

    Above Photograph: The area of impact where Kormoran’s torpedo inflicted fatal damage on Sydney’s upturned bow section.


    Above Photograph: Gas Mask on sea bed.

    Photo Gallery Slideshow available at

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address

    Photographer: David Mearns

  • 4th April 2008 - Report

    David Mearns – Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    Immediately after posting our search diary yesterday we were forced to recover the ROV because of an alarm telling us it was low on oil that is used to fill an important transformer housing.  This recovery also allowed us the opportunity to repair the problem we had yesterday which kept the ROV frustratingly shackled into its protective garage.  This made taking good images of HMAS Sydney virtually impossible, and although we had just enough decent pictures to release yesterday I was fully expecting the imagery we collected today to be much, much better.  Fortunately, I was not to be disappointed.

    In all I took over 340 still pictures in a single 12 hour dive today and the images are remarkable for both their stunning clarity and their brutal documentation of the punishment suffered by Sydney and her crew.  I have studied many historical accounts of the battle between Sydney and Kormoran but none of these could fully prepare me for the enormous damage withstood by Sydney.  At the end of the dive I paused to reflect on the horror experienced by Sydney’s officers and crew as they fought to save themselves and their ship.

    Of the many images of Sydney’s wreck two struck me the most.  The first was of a cluster of large calibre shell hits on Sydney’s starboard side.  Each 5.9-inch shell impacted against Sydney’s four-inch thick belt of armour and hull plate that was protecting her vital engine room and boiler spaces.  Whilst the shells did not fully penetrate the hull the damage and carnage they would have wreaked on the other side would have been enormous.  The truly amazing aspect of this picture (shown below), however, is that each of the 4 shells - undoubtedly fired separately, but by the same gun on Kormoran - all hit within a cluster only 20-foot high.  This image illustrates with terrifying reality the rapidity and deadly precision of the German gunnery.

    The second image speaks volumes for the bravery of Sydney’s own gunners closed up in “X” turret.  The men in this turret - the forward of Sydney’s two stern guns – have been credited by their German adversaries for firing the shells that ultimately led to Kormoran’s demise.  Because Sydney’s bridge and director control tower were destroyed at the start of the battle it is now clear that the men in “X” turret must have been shooting independently in local control.  Our pictures of “X” turret not only show it pointing forward frozen in its final shooting position but they also reveal the turret’s two forward hatches swung wide open, possibly to allow better aiming and firing by the gunners inside.  Despite their heroics, the men in “X” turret sadly met a similar fate to those in “A” and “B” as evident by the shell hits on its base.

    Our pictures also reveal a serious amount of damage to Sydney’s stern which I believe helps to explain the final sinking scenario.  Based on the buckling of the stern and the complete collapse of the main deck aft of “Y” turret there can be little doubt that Sydney hit the seabed stern first and that this damage resulted from the violent impact that ensued.  I further believe that the triggering mechanism for Sydney to sink by the stern was the moment her bow broke away from the hull at the surface.  The next important task for us on our upcoming dive is to locate Sydney’s bow, the position and condition of which should tell us far more about the sinking.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    It has been an incredible day, but a very sobering one, as we recorded excellent video and still images of the wreck of HMAS Sydney.

    The ROV re-entered the water at 7am and went to depth.  This time we were able to fly free of the garage and therefore could go above the vessel and zoom in and down. We examined in detail the port side of the ship and John and I took copious detailed notes. The quality of the material is excellent.

    As the day unfolded the extent of the damage to our beloved ship was alarmingly clear and it may be distressing for some families.  In addition, more damage was sustained when the stern impacted with the sea floor. After the detailed examination of the bow and port side, we inspected the closest pieces of debris in the adjacent debris field.

    We then examined the starboard side. Although I knew that Sydney’s starboard side came under Kormoran fire as she turned as if to ram and limped off to the south east, I was horrified at the extent of the shell hits to this side of the vessel.  Several areas of the ship also bore the scars of terrible fire damage.  The damage we assessed matches closely the description given by the Germans.  Their concentrated firepower was incredibly destructive and accurate.

    Amongst this terrible destruction some items stood out proud and alone – a capstan, two bollards painted with stripes, a kedge anchor.  It was a very emotional and long day: so much destruction, so little chance of survival.  HMAS Sydney gave up many of her secrets today, may she now rest in peace.

    John Perryman – Senior Naval Historian (Observer)

    Following the success of yesterday’s initial ROV reconnaissance on HMAS Sydney (II) we determined that today we would re-visit the wreck and conduct a more detailed survey along the length and breadth of both her port and starboard sides.

    At 09:15 the wreck was sighted and the inspection began at the forward end of Sydney’s port side. Today we were more interested in noting details such as specific damage and what effect this may have had on crippling the cruiser.

    With the ROV now free of its garage and operating independently, we were soon unraveling some of Sydney’s long held secrets. During the morning we found that ‘A’ turret had received two hits in a similar position to where the front of ‘B’ turret had been struck, leaving two scars, low between its twin gun barrels. The ROV was then maneuvered around ‘A’ turret, which had lost its entire top and right-hand-side of the gun housing, leaving both 6-inch gun breeches and the rear of the turret exposed. A closer inspection of ‘B’ turret revealed that it had received a further hit in the base of the barbette on which it rested. These hits were the first of many viewed by us throughout the day and began to give us an insight to the accuracy of the Kormoran’s gunners.

    Further evidence of the fierceness of the engagement came when we returned to the bridge and forward superstructure. The base of the Director Control Tower had received a direct hit which had punched through it from the starboard side and exited through the port side leaving a gaping hole. The compass platform and bridge was a shambles and the forward screen below it had partially collapsed and was pushed back at an angle of about twenty degrees. On viewing this level of destruction, a hushed silence fell over the survey room as we continued to maneuver the ROV towards the rear of the ship.

    As we made our way aft, down the port side, the situation was the same. There were multiple hits on the ship’s side as well as on most of the structures mounted on her main deck. It seems almost impossible that any of Sydney’s wooden boats could have survived this onslaught and it almost certainly explains the shrapnel studded Carley float now on display at the Australian War Memorial, which was one of only a few items ever recovered from Sydney.

    When we came to ‘X’ turret which, according to the Kormoran survivors had fought on valiantly and dealt the German raider a mortal blow, we were amazed to find that as with ‘A’ and ‘B’ turrets she too had received two well placed shell hits in the front of her gun housing low between her gun barrels which were fully depressed. Draped over the top of ‘Y’ turret is what we believe to be the remnants of the after funnel.

    Approaching the stern it became apparent that the main deck had collapsed, sloping down to form a bowl-like feature as it met the extremity of the aft end of the ship. We then maneuvered around the stern and began our inspection of the starboard side.

    Somewhat surprisingly the starboard side of Sydney had received greater punishment than the port side, which had been the side initially engaged. There was evidence of consistent shell hits visible along the entire ships side, ranging from as high as the lip of the main deck to as low as the boot-topping which was level with the water line.

    As with the port side, Sydney’s 21-inch torpedo tubes were missing leaving only the ring gear, which once traversed them, remaining. Below this mounting were four closely grouped shell hits visible immediately below the main deck.

    As we made our way along the starboard side, we observed that the forward 4-inch high angle gun was missing as were several of the 4-inch ready-use ammunition lockers.

    Soon we were back in the mid ships area carefully negotiating our way around the wrecked ships aircraft crane before coming upon the starboard side of the forward superstructure. Again it was clear that this area had been severely pounded, with gun platforms twisted, fittings gone and multiple shell hits apparent. After a full day, our survey concluded at ‘B’ and ‘A’ gun turrets at 20:15 in the evening.

    One can only guess the desperateness of Sydney’s situation following such severe punishment. That some of Sydney’s crew were observed by their German opponents to be fighting to the last is no small wonder and a testimony to their courage and determination to press on. While the survey told us much, for all of us it was a sobering insight into Sydney’s final hours.

    Dr. Michael (Mac) McCarthy – Curator of Maritime Archaeology, WA Museum (Observer)

    On 19 March soon after the wrecks were found and after they had been declared historic (and a restricted zone was cast around them), I received a phone call from Patrick Flynn inviting me to join the search team for the ROV inspection phase. Having been officially involved with HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran since 1981, I was naturally keen to accept.

    After advising my Director of this development and of the fact that the Finding Sydney Foundation was in the process of drafting a request for permission to return to the sites, approval was received. Readers may be surprised to know that even Museum staff cannot work historic wrecks or enter restricted historic wreck zones without a permit nowadays!

    Terry Bailey, the Commonwealth Delegate of Minister Peter Garrett, then faxed a permit to the FSF allowing Geosounder entry into the restricted zones.  The permit, while allowing non-disturbance recording, prohibits contact with the wrecks and associated relics.  Additionally the wrecks, surrounds and relics are to be respected as ‘a gravesite’ and not be disturbed in any way.  This same non-disturbance brief was set back in 1991 when a search of the area specified by the Kormoran’s captain was first mooted.

    The permit also specified that a record of the activities was to be kept and provided to the Minister’s delegate. From there it is to enter the public domain. All notes, reports, track plots, film, sonar and multi-beam images from the search, finding and inspection phases will appear. Of special interest will be the underwater footage from the ROV. This record is continuously backed up and updated with time and sequential number by David Mearns’ nightshift offsider Robert Bruinsma.

    Today  the ROV, expertly flown by DOF Subsea’s Dave Norton and Bruce Berrman (supported by Kaamil Douglas, Dean Glazebrook, Simon Hall, Brett Murray and Peter Skinner), showed each shell hole and each battered and twisted feature along the hull and on the deck in alarming detail.  Reaction as the damage unfolded became more and more apparent on each pass and was one of great sadness.


    Above Photograph: “A” turret, with its gun housing destroyed and with the foredeck rent back over its twin gun barrels.

    Above Photograph: Sydney’s badly damaged compass platform, bridge and remnants of the base of the Director Control Tower.

    Above Photograph: A deep sea anemone adorns Sydney’s main deck.

    Above Photograph: One of Sydney’s port propellers and shafts dislocated from its normal position against the hull.

    Above Photograph: The front of the gun housing of “X” turret, credited by the Germans with inflicting the mortal blow on Kormoran.

    Above Photograph: This cluster of four 5.9-inch shell hits within a line 20-feet high clearly demonstrates the deadly precision of the German gunnery.

    Above Photograph: A capstan in the centre of Sydney’s stern sits elevated above the collapsed main deck with the two bollards in the foreground folded inward because of the same collapse.

    Photo Gallery Slideshow available at

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address

     Photographer: David Mearns

  • 3rd April 2008 Report - HMAS Sydney II First Photographs

    David Mearns – Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    Whilst it has taken longer than expected I am very pleased we can now show the first pictures of HMAS Sydney to a waiting Australia.  At 15:10 (AWT) on Thursday 03 March 2008, our cameras focused on the first sections of Sydney seen for over 66 years.  We landed directly across “X” turret on the port side, where we intended, and it was immediately clear that Sydney was upright as I had felt from the side-scan sonar images.  The twin guns of “X” turret were pointed to port, as were virtually all the guns we could see viewing the wreck from the port side.

    Because we landed nearer to the stern we begin moving slowly in that direction to see if we could locate Sydney’s bell on the quarterdeck (sadly it was nowhere to be found) or possibly her name on the stern in case we were mistaken and her brass lettering hadn’t been removed as part of her wartime preparations.  But there was no mistaking that the wreck before us was that of HMAS Sydney and that her damage matched perfectly to what we expected from the side-scan sonar imagery and from the German accounts of the battle.

    Based on the characteristic impact damage I have seen with many deepwater shipwrecks I believe that Sydney hit the seabed stern first and slid 50 metres or so to her final resting place - dislocating at least one of her propellers shafts in the process.  Both funnels and masts were gone and all the lifeboats were missing from their cradle stands, but all four turrets were retained in place.  As per the German accounts the bridge and superstructure of Sydney withstood the worst damage as the heavy guns of Kormoran clearly had a devastating effect.  The bow was gone just forward of “A” turret in keeping with the torpedo strike in this location.

    After we traversed the entire length of the port side of Sydney we suspended our dive to immediately write up this blog and get these pictures out to everyone who have been waiting so patiently whilst we dealt with a myriad of technical problems and a prolonged period of bad weather.  I don’t want to dwell too much on what we have gone through over the past fortnight getting ready for this phase of the project, other than to say that everyone on board the Geosounder have worked incredibly hard against enormous pressure and with impossible weather conditions to finally deliver these first pictures.

    With this important first step – positively identifying the wreck of Sydney – of this phase out of the way we have much more work to do in a very limited period of time and with an uncertain weather window.  We are still operating somewhat hamstrung by the fact that we are unable to use the ROV in its normal free flying mode as a technical fault has restricted it within its protective garage.  Nevertheless, the underwater visibility is superb and we intend to collect as much video and photographic imagery as we possibly can after the ROV is recovered and repaired.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    I have waited nearly 20 years for today.  Right from the start everything we have all worked for appeared to be finally coming together.  After days of big swells the seas had calmed, the ROV technicians were smiling, and we looked good to go: we were going to get our dive.

    The atmosphere in the survey room, two decks below was filled with anticipation as we watched the ROV slowly descend nearly 2450 metres.  Nigel the navigator patted me on the shoulder and said we were going to be right on target, I felt so nervous.  All we could see was a blue screen with a bright light and the occasional fish.  Then there was a shadow, and almost immediately HMAS Sydney appeared in front of us.  It is impossible to convey to you the depth of feeling in that room as we watched in awe as the stern of Sydney and her “X” turret came into view.

    The ROV operators did an incredible job panning in and along the port side of our mighty ship and around the broken bow.  So much was recognisable as we compared what we were seeing with our plans and photographs.  I cried as usual, I could not help it, because I could anticipate what these photographs were going to mean for so many of the relatives of the crew that I had come to know and love over the years. The crew of the Geosounder shared the moment with us, we had all worked towards this outcome. To my fellow Directors on shore, bravo zulu.

    John Perryman – Senior Naval Historian (Observer)

    At 15:10, 3 April 2008 the unmistakable image of a Mark XXI 6-inch gun turret came into view on our video monitor in the SV Geosounder’s remotely operated submersible vehicle (ROV) control room.

    Operating at a depth almost 2.5 kilometers below us, the ROV had been carefully lowered to the sea floor before slowly creeping up on the wreck of HMAS Sydney (II). We did not have long to wait before we received the final proof necessary to eliminate any doubt whatsoever that this was her. The ROV illuminated the wreck adjacent to X and Y gun turrets which lay mute with their guns still trained to port, pointing forward at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. The top of “Y” turret was covered in some wreckage and there was evidence of a large split in the deck immediately next to it.

    As the ROV was maneuvered aft along the main deck, one of Sydney’s propellers came into view on the sea bed as did the stern and ensign staff which lay across its teak decking.

    The ROV was then steered forward along the port side so a full inspection of the length of Sydney could be made. As the height of the ROV was adjusted, the aft end of the senior officer’s accommodation came into view and we began to see more signs of damage. The aft searchlight platform and mainmast were both gone, as was the 0.5 inch quad mounting and aft funnel. Both 4-inch high angle guns on the port side gun deck were in place and trained to port but there was no sign at all of the quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes, only the disc and ring gear that they were once mounted on remained.

    As we continued forward we located the circular mounting for the aircraft catapult and the remains of the aircraft crane. At the same time we observed several large shell holes in Sydney’s port side above the water line. No evidence of any of Sydney’s boats remained and there was only a gapping hole where her forward funnel had once stood. The foremast too, had been carried away.

    Soon the bridge and superstructure came into view and it was immediately obvious that this part of the ship had been subjected to severe punishment. The Mark II quadruple 0.5 inch gun platform had partially collapsed, both the Director Control Tower and High Angle Control Station behind the compass platform were gone and the bridge was completely devastated. The starboard side 12 foot UK-1 range finder was one of only a handful of readily identifiable features in this area.

    Continuing forward we came across “B” and “A” gun turrets, both of which were still trained to port. Part of the top of B turret was completely missing and there was a neat round hole punched through it between the two gun barrels where it had received a direct hit. “A” turret’s housing was also very badly damaged with little of it remaining.  It was at this point that the wreck of HMAS Sydney ended, with her bow completely missing from immediately forward of “A” turret.  The damage in this area showed signs of what may have been a violent explosion as the deck had been rent upwards and folded up over the gun barrels of “A” turret.  The ship’s side of Sydney in this area had been peeled back too and this could have been the result of the Kormoran’s torpedo hit on her.

    At this point the inspection was suspended to allow time to record our observations for a waiting world.  Although in a badly damaged state, this great warship retains a powerful aura, in her final resting place off the Western Australian coast.

    Dr. Michael (Mac) McCarthy – Curator of Maritime Archaeology, WA Museum (Observer)

    Given the images I had seen of other deepwater warship wrecks, the port side of HMAS Sydney, down which we traversed from 1510H when the stern first appeared out of the gloom, has retained far more of its superstructure than I had expected.  Thanks to the detailed builder’s plans obtained by Lieutenant John Perryman RANR, those foldouts appearing in Wes Olson’s book and a few tracings I had made of them, we were able to follow progress along the wreck quite well.  Occasionally we (I) got lost, but pretty soon we were back on track able to identify fittings and fixtures, features, lines of scuttles and so on.  In this we were fortunate to have the crew of the Geosounder who crowded into the survey room behind us, quickly proving adept at ensuring items familiar to them in their everyday work were quickly recognised, identified and located to plan. 

    While the funnels of HMAS Sydney are gone as expected, either as a result of the battle or the long slide into the depths, all the large guns remain and the teak deck is visible in places.  The seaplane recovery crane is there, albeit a tangled wreck and boat cradles are in place.  The border between differing shades in the camouflage painting is clearly evident in some parts as is the boot topping (thick painted strip) along the waterline.  Concretions, as expected, are non-existent leaving the hull looking very much as it would in its final hours afloat.

    Above Photograph: Port side cradle for aft 27 foot whale boat (missing).

    Above Photograph: Areas of Sydney’s teak decking remain remarkably intact.

    Above Photograph: Midships kedge anchor.

    Above Photograph: Upturned searchlight platform torn away from forward funnel.

    Above Photograph: Some of the many portholes visible on Sydney’s port side.

    Above Photograph: “B” turret showing evidence of a direct hit between gun barrels and damage to turret roof.

    Above Photograph: Wreckage strewn on top of “Y” turret.

    Photo Gallery Slideshow available at

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address

    Photographer: David Mearns


  • 22nd March 2008 Report

    The SV Geosounder returned to Geraldton, Western Australia on Thursday 20th of March 2008.  The demobilisation of the Williamson Sonar Spread has been completed and the mobilisation of an ROV team and specialist deepwater camera and lighting equipment, is currently underway.

    The SV Geosounder is expected to depart late Easter weekend where the Finding Sydney Foundation Search Diary Blog will recommence with further updates.  The highly anticipated imagery of the HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran from the ROV team is expected to be published at, late next week.




  • 18th March 2008 Report

    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    Knowing it was unlikely that such unique deeptow side-scan sonar equipment would ever again be available and mobilised on a vessel off the coast of WA, I had decided to collect the best possible sonar images of both wrecks before ending this phase of the project.  Our plan was to make two final sonar runs using the AMS60 on its highest-resolution setting.  These would be the most challenging sonar runs attempted during the search because the swathe would be narrower than ever before and the chances of missing the wrecks would be considerable.  With the sonar towfish tracking as much as 3.8 kilometers behind the ship it would only have to be off-track by a fraction of one degree to miss the wreck completely.

    This is where the skill of the DOF surveyors and Mike Kelly would be paramount in determining the right trackline position.  I would instruct them about the type of image I would like to see and the detail I was interested in - whether it was acoustic shadowing or dimensional detail - and leave the hard work to them.  In this depth of water we used a method that has worked for me many times in the past, and that is to aim the sonar trackline straight at the target knowing full well that the sonar towfish would be off at least a small amount (100 metres or thereabouts) and this offset would place the wreck within the desired "sweet spot" of the sonar's primary beam to either port or starboard.

    This plan worked perfectly for our last pass on Kormoran's wreck, but we were all waiting anxiously watching the large 42-inch monitor in the main survey lab to see whether we would end the project on a high note of getting the image we wanted of Sydney's wreck or go home slightly disappointed.  Well as you can see from the sonar image below we got exactly what we wanted - a near picture perfect sonar image that showed clear detail not seen in the previous high-res sonar images.  For example the break at the bow, shown at the bottom right hand corner of the image, is now most evident with large pieces of structure lying adjacent to the bow.  Also, there is a subtle pattern in the sediments just above the wreck which indicates where the hull first impacted the seabed and slid slightly downslope for about 50-100 metres before coming to rest.  I suspect the natural slope of the seabed will have caused the hull to lean slightly over from upright, but these are details that will have to wait for the ROV video investigation for confirmation.


    Above Photograph: The final AMS60 high-resolution sonar image of the wreck of Sydney.  The stern is at the upper left corner of the image and break at the bow is at the opposite corner, with the acoustic shadow off to the left of the hull.

    Above Photograph: Lieutenant John Perryman reads the order of service.

    Above Photograph: Glenys McDonald reads A Sailor's Prayer.

    Above Photograph: Geosounder Master Blair Cliffe reads the Ode.

    Above Photograph: Lieutenant John Perryman lays the commemorative wreath.

    Above Photograph: The commemorative wreath drifts over the wreck of HMAS Sydney (II).

    Above Photograph: The Church Pennant, symbolising that the crew is at prayer, flies from Geosounder's mast.

    Above Photograph: A Sailor's Prayer: The text to A Sailor's Prayer.


    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    I have to say that today was one I will treasure for eternity.  As a Director of the Finding Sydney Foundation, and on behalf of my other directors – Chairman Ted Graham, Don Pridmore, Cdr Bob Trotter RANR, and Keith Rowe, I took part in a moving and simple, unofficial wreath laying service above HMAS Sydney.

    The service was led by Lieutenant John Perryman and I had the privilege of reading a poem written by one of the lost crew of HMAS Sydney, Petty Officer H. B Shipstone, which served as an epitaph.  The ode was read by the Geosounder's Master, Blair Cliffe, a former officer of the RN.  John cast the wreath on the waves and we watched it float away to the sad strains of the Last Post.

    Personally, standing on the heaving deck, I also realised that I was experiencing a private dream, to one day be able to say my prayers in this particular part of the ocean, a dream that has driven me on for the past sixteen years.  I hope arrangements can be made to allow relatives this much needed privilege, although we are a hundred miles from the coast and the swell is anything but gentle.

    We are somewhat cocooned out here on the water but the emails streaming in from relatives show us that the Finding Sydney Foundation and David Mearns achieved what they set out to do, and I have been on an emotional roller coaster since Sunday. We have now commenced the long run to Geraldton and for the first time on this search David, John and I can relax. 


    John Perryman - Senior Naval Historian (Observer)

    Today began as the clock passed midnight in the survey room as we commenced our approach on the Kormoran wreck site with the AMS60 side scan sonar. Before long we were beginning to see the first high resolution images of Kormoran. The thing which was most noticeable to me was the distinctive shadows she cast on the sea bed. David Mearns was extremely pleased with the image and we finished our sweep of the line at 00:35. After a long and exhilarating day we were both pleased to call it a day.

    Dawn on the 18th brought with it strong winds and a long Indian Ocean swell, it also brought news of an engineering defect that would affect our speed. In light of this, a decision was made to make a single pass over the wreck of Sydney using the AMS60 before recovering it and conducting a short commemorative service over her resting place. This run was conducted at 12:23 when our final image of Sydney was collected during this phase of the operation.

    At 16:00, with our tow fish recovered, the crew and search team assembled on the quarterdeck of the Geosounder where I was privileged to lead a service to commemorate the men who lost their lives in Sydney. With our vessel over the site of Sydney’s wreck, the naval Church Pennant was hoisted on the starboard yardarm as a visual symbol of the solemnity of the occasion – our crew was at prayer.

    The order of service involved a brief introduction by me followed by the reading of a poem entitled A Sailor’s Prayer by Finding Sydney Foundation director, Glenys McDonald. I had especially chosen this poem for the occasion as it was written by a former Sydney crewman, Petty Officer H.B. Shipstone, who now lies with his shipmates in the silent tomb which is Sydney. This was followed by the recital of The Ode read by the Geosounder’s Master, Blair Cliffe, a former Royal Navy officer. This was fitting, as many Royal Navy personnel were serving in Sydney when she was sunk. The service concluded with the laying of a wreath by me, the playing of the Last Post followed by one minute’s silence, the Rouse and Australian National Anthem.

    With the service complete, we took time to reflect before shaping our course for Geraldton.


    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


  • 17th March 2008 Report

    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    The day began very early for all of us today.  Actually for the past few days there hasn't been much difference between days and nights as they have all rolled into one long marathon session.  Given what we have achieved in the 5 days since last Wednesday when we found Kormoran and the scene of the battle I wouldn't have wanted to miss a single second for having my eyes closed.  Anyhow, we started at 5am for the final high-resolution sonar track over Sydney's wreck using the SM30 sonar.  After another successful track the SM30 sonar was recovered in order to make way for its higher frequency sibling, the AMS60.  Over the next two days more high-resolution sonar tracks are planned in order to accurately map all pieces of wreckage in preparation for the ROV video investigations that will begin next week.

    Two key members of our search team have been the DOF surveyors Nigel Meikle and Steve Bagnell.  They have really excelled over the past couple of days making sure that our navigational tracks for all the high-resolution sonar runs were precisely placed to get the best sonar image possible.  Nigel and Steve's challenge, working in collaboration with the Williamson off-line processor Mike Kelly and the vessel's officers of the watch, is to drive the sonar down a precise track with as much as 9,000 metres of cable out.  It is equivalent to trying to thread a needle from about 10-feet away.

    There has been a fair amount of comment and surprise about how fast we located the wrecks, especially as most of our whole first week at sea was lost due to technical problems and bad weather.  Considering that I truly felt the search could become prolonged and last as long as 45 days, I myself am impressed with how quickly we found the wrecks - but not completely surprised.  Right from the start I was quite confident in the quality and veracity of the German accounts about where the action took place, even though there were many other researchers who strongly took an opposing view.  It would be impossible for me to fully explain my research and plotting methodology in a simple blog like this, so perhaps the best thing is to show pictures of my actual reconstructed navigational plot and corresponding search boxes.

    The one bit of analysis I would like to mention, which I think did help in finding the wrecks as quickly as we did, was a leeway drift analysis which was literally completed the day before we departed Geraldton.  This analysis attempts to use the known pick-up position of the first life-raft recovered after Kormoran sank and an estimate of the winds and ocean currents over the 82 hours the life-raft was drifting to back-track to a probable sinking position for Kormoran.  The analysis sounds simple and straight forward, but in fact it is very complex because of the difficulty in estimating the actual conditions that prevailed 67 years ago.  I was helped in this analysis by three experts I would like to acknowledge here.

    Len van Burgel, with assistance from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, conducted an incredibly thorough estimate of wind conditions that constituted a major improvement over similar studies done decades ago; Dr. David Griffin, Research Scientist and CSIRO project leader of Bluelink II based in Hobart, used his Bluelink dataset on ocean currents to estimate their effect on the life-raft's drift; and Art Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard's Office of Search and Rescue provided helpful advice on leeway factors.  I am extremely grateful for their assistance and professional advice.

    Above Photograph - David Mearn's navigational reconstruction outlining the larger 1,768 sqnm search box for the Kormoran search and the smaller 360 sqnm search box for Sydney in red pencil.  The final wreck and battle site locations are also plotted. 


    Above Photograph - This picture shows the overlay of Kormoran and Sydney's tracks used by David Mearns to assess different navigational scenarios by moving the overlay over the chart.


    Above Photograph - Electric Pictures cinematographer Ullrich Krafzik and Lieutenant John Perryman read the order of service. 

    Above Photograph - David Mearns casts a commemorative wreath over the transom.

    Above Photograph - The commemorative wreath drifts over the wreck of HSK Kormoran.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    At 5.15am we were coming up to another parallel pass on the wreck of HMAS Sydney. Before us lay, without any shadow of doubt, a light cruiser.  What appeared to be substantial damage to the bow of the ship became a focus for attention and further analysis.

    Later we began the long exercise of bringing up the SM30 fish.  By 11.30am we were once again alongside the Kormoran, and John Perryman conducted a simple and moving service for the 80 German sailors who lost their lives in this place on 19 November 1941.  Ullrich Krafzik, the German born cameraman from Electric Pictures read the naval ode, and David Mearns laid a wreath.

    Although it was noisy against the ship’s engines, which couldn’t be stopped at this point in time, all the team who were able to assemble, were on the back deck.  We adjourned to the mess room where David read to the whole ship’s company the congratulations and well wishes from Prime Minister Rudd and the chairman of Finding Sydney Foundation, Ted Graham.

    I spoke of the many messages of thanks we had received from the families of the crew lost in HMAS Sydney.  It seemed from their messages that the whole nation was awash with emotion and tears at our news and I passed on the families words of gratitude.

    Late in the afternoon the SM60 was deployed for a test run and a technical hitch saw it returned once more to the ship. Later tonight we hope to begin collecting high density sonar of the Kormoran before moving on to the battle site and lastly tomorrow we will be back with Sydney, where we will conduct another service.

    John Perryman - Senior Naval Historian (Observer)

    With today’s dawn came a feeling of great expectation, knowing that news of yesterday’s remarkable discovery would soon be broken.

    However, we still had work to do and this involved conducting a final high resolution run over Sydney’s wreck with the SM30 side scan sonar. At 05:21 we commenced our pass, and what a pass it was. Before long we were rewarded with an amazing vista of Sydney’s wreck casting a near perfect acoustic shadow onto the seabed. The high points and low points of this shadow allowed David Mearns to gauge both height and breadth of the shipwreck and also make a number of other important observations. The concentration of high and low points grouped together in the centre of the wreck was one of the distinguishing features we were looking for and characteristic of the wreck being a ‘man of war’. Soon the debris field also came into view and again a large piece of wreckage was visible. These images were immediately transferred ashore via the internet.

    With the run completed at 05:58 our thoughts again turned to the impending announcement. Because of the two hour time difference between Western Australia and the eastern states and territories we didn’t have long to wait, and it was with an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction that we learned that the official announcement concerning our discovery of HMAS Sydney had been made.

    Before long the enormity of the announcement became apparent to us as we followed its progress via the internet. At this point my thoughts turned to the relatives of those lost in Sydney and in particular those who have supported our collective efforts throughout this historic endeavour.

    Meanwhile the SM30 tow fish was recovered for the last time. The plan now is to switch to the AMS60 which we will use to sweep both of the wreck sites and the battle position in an attempt to obtain sonar images of an even higher resolution. We then steered north to the Kormoran’s position which would be the starting point of a southerly run back to Sydney’s location using the AMS60.

    As we arrived in Kormoran’s position our thoughts turned to commemoration as this was likely to be the last opportunity during this phase of the operation to conduct a service in this location to commemorate the fallen Kriegsmarine personnel who died in Kormoran. Having now changed into a uniform more befitting the occasion I led a short but solemn unofficial service which culminated in the laying of a wreath over Kormoran’s wreck, the playing of the Last Post followed by one minute’s silence.

     As we now make our way south to the site of Sydney’s wreck we are preparing a similar order of service to commemorate Sydney’s gallant crew and it is likely that this will be held tomorrow.

    Currently the AMS60 is being prepared for deployment over our stern in readiness for the first of this evening’s sonar passes over Kormoran’s hull.


    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


  • HMAS Sydney (II) Discovered

    Joint Statement
    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation
    Lieutenant John Perryman, RANR – Official Observer

    At 11:03 (AWT) on Sunday 16 March 2008, a small dark shape was detected coming into view on the starboard side of our SM30 side scan sonar display. In an otherwise featureless seabed.  David Mearns soon classified this contact as being man-made, displaying all the characteristics of a major shipwreck. Within minutes a debris field came into view confirming this belief.

    The wreck was measured and its position plotted in relation to the wreck of Kormoran and what is firmly believed to be the battle site. Our target was located approximately 10.5 nautical miles to the south-east of the battle site and 12.2 nautical miles from Kormoran. We soon concluded that the modified Leander class cruiser, HMAS Sydney (II), sunk with all hands on 19 November 1941, had been found in 2,468 metres of water.  Her position was recorded as being 26° 14’ 37” S 111° 13’ 03” E.

    As with the Kormoran find, news of this discovery was promptly communicated to the Finding Sydney Foundation for on-forwarding to the appropriate shore authorities. News of our discovery, only an hour-following the Prime Minister’s announcement concerning the discovery of Kormoran, was received with great emotion and jubilation by The Finding Sydney Chairman, Ted Graham.

    With a sense of euphoria onboard we immediately began to make plans to carry out several high resolution sonar passes over Sydney’s wreck. The first of these runs commenced at 18:35 using a 3 kilometer swathe on the SM30 side scan sonar. This run gave us the ability to better measure the wreck and some of the larger pieces of wreckage in the debris field. The run was completed at 18:47.

    A second high resolution pass with the SM30 set to operate a 1500 meter swathe began at 23:00 and produced a good image of the wreck lying on the seabed displaying a clear acoustic shadow. This pass also provided an indication that part of Sydney, possibly her bow, may have broken away from her as she limped away causing her to sink. This is a tentative assessment which will have to be confirmed using a suitably equipped ROV with cameras.

    The dimensions of the wreck combined with its position in relation to the wreck of Kormoran and the scene of action leave me in no doubt that this is the wreck of Sydney. During the next few days further high resolution runs will be conducted over her wreck and commemorative services will be held for the crews of both Sydney and Kormoran.

    This has been a monumental day and one which I hope will bring some comfort to the relatives of those lost in her.


    Above Photograph - The wreck of Sydney as revealed for the first time in this wide swathe (6km) sonar image.  The wreck is clearly visible on the starboard (right) channel adjacent to a well defined debris field.  The height of the wreck above the seabed is causing the dark acoustic shadow just to the right of the wreck.

    Above Photograph - For this second sonar track we narrowed the SM30 sonar swath to 3km and approached the wreckage on a reciprocal course which is why the image is reversed from above.  The wreck and the debris field are better defined in this image, but the main reason for a reciprocal track is to help determine a more accurate position for the wreck on the seabed.

    Above Photograph - Sydney 2nd Pass Zoom:  This image is a repeat of the image above but zoomed in on just the wreck and debris field.  We suspect that the large piece of debris at the lower right hand corner of the image may be a section of the bow which broke away from the hull.


    Above Photograph - Image & Model:  The third sonar track was narrowed yet again to 1.5km and in doing so revealed the hull and debris field in the most detail to date.  Again, the large piece of wreckage at the top of the debris field stands out as the biggest piece, other than the hull itself.

    Above Photograph - Sydney Hull:  This sonar image is a magnification of just the main hull from the third sonar track.  The acoustic shadow to the left of the hull is used to help identify structures that have height.  For example we believe that the tallest shadow could be being caused by Sydney’s superstructure.  Careful analysis and measurements of the hull length suggest that while the hull is sitting upright on the seabed and is largely intact, a portion of the bow could well have broken away and that this event was the trigger that finally caused Sydney to sink.


    Above Photograph - Search Director, David Mearns plots the location of Sydney’s wreck thus solving one of the most enduring maritime mysteries of the 20th century.  David is plotting the position on a Mercatorial Plotting Sheet – the last of four he has made over a period of 5 years whilst conducting his own manual re-navigation of the ship’s tracks and movements during and after the battle.

    Above Photograph - David & John:  A moment of delight shared by Search Director, David Mearns and Lieutenant John Perryman, RANR knowing that the wreck of Sydney had been found ending 67 years of uncertainty about her final resting place.


    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    I woke with a headache this morning.  I wanted to be in the survey room between 8am and noon as that was when we thought Sydney would appear on our screens on this track line.  The Williamson crew had been tracking a tiny debris trail from the battle area and indications were that this search line would be successful. 

    At exactly 10:03 am a large piece of wreck unfolded on the screen with a small associated debris field.  The surrounding geology was dead flat sandy bottom.  There she lay, looking proud and poignant.  HMAS Sydney had been found.

    John Perryman and I had become adept students in reading the data over the past couple of weeks and we, like David Mearns and the Williamson and Associates crew, knew that this was what we had been looking for.  This was the ship that had taken the hopes and dreams of 645 families to the bottom of the ocean.

    Here in a relatively small area of ocean we located one ship suffering a catastrophic explosion, a battle site, a small debris trail, and another ship approximately ten nautical miles away sitting proudly on the bottom, all as described by the eye witnesses to this action between HSK Kormoran and HMAS Sydney.

    There was jubilation from all, and a few tears from me.  David, John and I were thrilled.  The Geosounder crew, who had become part of this great project, joined with the Williamson team shaking hands.  I thanked the crew and Williamsons on behalf of FSF, and Geoff led a cheer for me which was nice.  I just wished that Ted and the other Finding Sydney Foundation Directors were standing beside me.

    David then rang Patrick and Ted.  I spoke to Ted, and this six foot seven inch giant of a man was overcome.  We unashamedly cried together and he asked me if I was certain.  I am. 

    Even though we deserve our moment of jubilation after such a long and difficult journey to this moment in time, we have not forgotten that this was where we lost our men.  I went up to the back deck and leant over the railing and cried and gave thanks.

    I believe this wreck will bring closure.  She sits almost proudly on the bottom.  If Sydney had blown like Kormoran there would be little sense of closure, but here in such a large piece and in a depth of water where we will shortly activate the ROV part of the program, we will give the kind of images required for everyone to finally be at peace with this sad story.

    We turned the ship around and by 18:35 we were back on site and doing a smaller swath run.  The plan is to do a few more of these from different angles before changing the fish over to the SM60: another long night ahead before the official announcement tomorrow.


    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


  • HSK Kormoran Discovered

    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    Wreck of HSK Kormoran Discovered

    The wreckage of the German Raider HSK Kormoran was found by the search team on board the SV Geosounder at 17:30 (AWT) on March 12th, 2008 in the approximate position 26° 05' 49.4" S 111° 04' 27.5" E.  With Kormoran’s sinking position established, and the identity of its wreckage confirmed on the basis of high quality sonar imagery, the search for HMAS Sydney (II) has been localised to a most probable area and this search is currently ongoing.

    Kormoran’s wreckage consists mainly of several pieces of hull amidst a large and dense field of debris, which is indicative of a ship that has suffered a catastrophic explosion.  Following the initial discovery of the wreckage field using the 6 kilometre swathe of the SM30 sonar, a series of higher resolution sonar images were made that revealed additional information to confirm the identity of the wreck and its condition, as summarised below:

    • The wreckage of Kormoran was first found on Line #09 in the northeast quadrant of the designated 1,768 nm² search box.  Line #09 was the fourth search trackline to be run and the SM30 sonar had been deployed for approximately 64 hours in the search box (excluding the time for turns) when the wreckage was first discovered.  The depth of the site is approximately 2,560 metres.


    • The wreckage fits perfectly with what we know and expected to see for Kormoran from testimony of the German survivors.  The vessel suffered a catastrophic explosion after its cache of some 320 mines stored in the after cargo holds 4, 5 and 6 detonated.  This section of the vessel’s hull has been obliterated.


    • There are 4 large pieces of hull structure remaining.  The two largest pieces are located hundreds of metres outside the main debris field and approximately 1,200 metres from each other on a line running roughly north-south.  The distant locations of these pieces indicate that they sank after the explosion and/or took different glide planes in their descent to the seabed.


    • The largest piece of hull measures approximately 106 metres long by at least 20 metres wide and has been identified as the forward half of the ship that extends roughly from the engine room to the stem.  It is sitting upright on the seabed with a height of approximately 13 metres.  The high resolution sonar lines made in this area were focused on this piece because it offered the greatest chance to confirm the wreck as Kormoran by using the acoustic shadows “thrown” by the bow’s shape to see if it matched Kormoran’s bow.


    • In addition to matching the known breadth of Kormoran, which was significantly greater than Sydney’s breadth, the piece was revealed to have a raised forecastle deck like Kormoran.  The forward part of the bridge superstructure was intact at roughly the correct distance from the stem.  Lastly, the sonar imagery indicates an opening in the deck in approximately the correct position for the forward cargo hold.


    • The other large pieces of hull were not able to be identified.  However, based on their dimensions and position relative to the blast, it is possible that these pieces are the stern/poop deck and at least part of the engine room/hull structure aft of the main bridge superstructure.

    Scene of Engagement between Kormoran & Sydney Found

    On line #09, less than 4 nautical miles south of the Kormoran wreckage position a separate and distinct debris field was found at 19:16 (AWT) on March 12th, 2008.  This debris was found to be widely scattered over a distance covering 1,700 metres and lying at a depth of 2,740 metres.  However, it was not associated with any major shipwreck targets and was very sparse compared with the dense debris field found at the centre of Kormoran’s wreck location.

    As Kormoran left the battle intact and was known to have drifted north with the prevailing current and winds after losing engine power, it is logical to conclude that this debris could not have come from Kormoran.  However, the location of this wreckage in relation to the known movements of Kormoran in the final stages of the battle and her estimated leeway drift before sinking, does indicate that it marks the actual scene of action between Kormoran and Sydney.

    This debris, therefore, must have come from Sydney as we know she had been gravely damaged by a torpedo hit and was being heavily shelled by Kormoran and in such a situation would have been losing pieces of structure and other parts of the ship overboard as was vividly described by the German eyewitnesses.  Finally, the approximate NNE – SSW trend of this debris trail fits with the course of Sydney as she altered course south to avoid Kormoran’s fire.

    Revised Planned Search Area for Sydney

    Confirmation of Kormoran’s sinking position, as well as the location of the action between Kormoran and Sydney, has allowed me to refine the most probable sinking position of Sydney and outline a new search area for her wreck.  This search for Sydney is currently ongoing.

    Compared with the extremely large search area for Kormoran the initial search area for Sydney is relatively small and covers several hundred square nautical miles.  Key to this initial search area are certain assumptions made about how far Sydney could have travelled away from the scene of action given the grave damage she had suffered – now proven by the extent and size of her wreckage found at the scene of action – and how long she could have remained afloat in such extreme condition.

    Based upon the location of Kormoran, and the high quality sonar imagery that is being collected by the Williamson and Associates sonar team, I am confident that if the wreck of Sydney lies within our search area we will find her.  Should this initial search area prove unsuccessful, the search area will be enlarged until the wreck of Sydney is found.

    Above Photograph - Kormoran Wreckage 1:  Sonar image showing the entire wreckage field of Kormoran when first located on 12th March.  The object at the top of the screen with the dark acoustic shadow to its immediate right is Kormoran’s bow broken just aft of the bridge superstructure.  The bright mass to the left and below the bow is the main debris field created as a result of the catastrophic explosion suffered by Kormoran when her cache of mines detonated.  The object at the bottom of the screen is a large piece of unidentified hull structure measuring 31m x 25m x 12.7m high which gives a good idea of the scale of the wreckage.

    Above Photograph - Kormoran Wreckage 2:  This is the second sonar image of Kormoran’s entire debris field taken at higher resolution.  In this image the bow and its associated acoustic shadow are now at the bottom of the screen and individual pieces of wreckage in the debris field can now be resolved.  This entire image covers an area 3,000 metres wide.

    Above Photograph - Kormoran Bow 1:  This image of Kormoran’s bow is a magnification of the previous image.  This section of Kormoran’s hull measures 106 metres long by at least 20 metres wide, and extends from the tip of the bow to just aft of the bridge superstructure.  Importantly, the beam of Kormoran’s hull (20.2 metres) is nearly 3 metres wider than Sydney’s hull (17.3 metres), which is a key measurement that allowed us to confirm the wreckage as Kormoran’s and not Sydney’s.

    Above Photograph - Kormoran Bow 2:  This final image of Kormoran’s bow (with the stem at the top of the image), collected using the highest resolution of the SM30 sonar (800 metre swathe), shows the crucial detail in the acoustic shadows trailing off to the right that confirmed the wreck as Kormoran’s.  Kormoran has a flared bow with a raised foc’sle deck above the main deck.  This structural detail, particular to Kormoran and not to Sydney, is evident by way of the acoustic shadow at the top of the image.  This long shadow could only be caused by the wreck having the type of flared bow and raised foc’sle deck that Kormoran had.  Fortunately, this section of hull is sitting upright on the seabed which allowed such analysis of the acoustic shadowing.  The separate acoustic shadow at the bottom of the image is caused by the bridge superstructure of Kormoran, which has been measured to be in the correct position relative to the stem.

    Above Photograph - Kormoran Debris 1:  This sonar image shows the highly concentrated debris field left in the wake of the catastrophic explosion suffered by Kormoran.  This explosion occurred when Kormoran’s cache of 320 mines detonated after the scuttling charges were set.  The mines were stored in holds 4. 5 and 6 on the ship and this section of the hull has been obliterated by the enormous blast.  Each yellow and dark blue sonar contact set against the red background of the seabed represents a single piece of the hundreds of individual pieces of wreckage debris scattered throughout the debris field.

    Above Photograph - Kormoran Hull Piece 1:  This is an unidentified piece of Kormoran’s wreckage that is surely a major structural section of the hull given its size of 31 metres by 25 metres by 12.7 metres high.  Remarkably, the large piece of Komoran’s hull was found 1,200 metres away from the bow.

    Above Photograph - Battle Debris 1:  This sonar image, covering a 750 metre expanse of the seabed, shows the wreckage found in the location four nautical miles south of Kormoran’s wreck site.  The wreckage is widely scattered over a distance covering 1,700 metres and fits with the scenario of Sydney being torpedoed and heavily shelled by Kormoran resulting in the loss of pieces of structure and other and parts of the ship.  The approximate NNW – SSW trend of this debris trail fits with the course of Sydney as she altered course south to avoid Kormoran’s fire.

    Above Photograph - Battle Debris 2:  While most of the wreckage found at the battle site is smaller, this piece is very large and indicates the severe damage suffered by Sydney.  The larger piece in this high-resolution sonar image measures 33 metres by 19 metres with a height of 13.3 metres off the seabed as evidenced by its very long acoustic shadow.  The smaller wreckage at the bottom of the screen with its own acoustic shadow measures 11 metres by 11 metres and 5 metres high by comparison.


    Lieutenant John Perryman, RANR – Senior Naval Historian & Official Observer 

    Discovery of the wreck of HSK Kormoran – Wednesday 12 March 2008

    During the forenoon of Wednesday 12 March 2008, the HMAS Sydney (II) search team commenced a survey run down line number nine through the designated search box. Geographically this line ran from north to south along 111° 04’ 38”E of longitude and was 52 nautical miles in length.

    At 17:30 a small dark contact appeared at the top of the SM30 side scan sonar display which we were monitoring in our survey room. David Mearns immediately classified the target as man made due to the characteristics it displayed such as hard straight edges, shadow and its horizontal orientation on an otherwise featureless seabed.

    During the next hour the first evidence of a debris field began to appear and before long we were viewing a centralised concentration of debris indicative of a powerful and catastrophic explosion. This was consistent with the German account of the final destruction of the raider HSK Kormoran, scuttled by her crew following the engagement with HMAS Sydney (II). At the time of her scuttling she was carrying a full cargo of some 300 sea mines, each packed with high explosives.

    Approximately 1200 metres to the south of the debris field a much larger target was detected, seemingly in tact, which was tentatively classified as being the forward section of the Kormoran. The position of the centre of the debris field which represents the site of the scuttling and resultant explosion is 26° 05’ 49.4” S 111° 04’ 27.5” E in a depth of 2560 metres of water.

    As we continued to the south along our survey line, several further contacts were detected approximately four nautical miles from the first wreck field. Although these contacts displayed hard edges and man-made characteristics, the absence of a debris field led us to conclude that this could be wreckage which may have been blown from either vessel during the action. Sydney is reported to have received major hits from Kormoran early in the engagement which included losing the top of the housing of her ‘B’ gun turret. She also suffered a torpedo hit beneath her two forward turrets. It is likely that this wreckage could well have been shed from Sydney as a result of battle damage and lie in the vicinity of the initial engagement. There was, however, no evidence of a major shipwreck in the immediate vicinity of these contacts.

    News of the potential discovery of Kormoran was reported through the Finding Sydney Foundation to appropriate Government authorities ashore while the Geosounder continued its run to the south. During the passage south, the data collected from the shipwreck field received further scrutiny from David Mearns and specialists from the Williamson team who concluded that the wreck displayed characteristics conforming closely to that of the Kormoran. Notwithstanding this positive affirmation it was decided that at the end of the next south-north run we would re-visit the first wreck field and make a high resolution pass of it with the SM30 to gain absolute proof that our belief that this was Kormoran was correct.

    On Friday 14 March 2008 we were again in the northern end of our search box where we began the first of two high resolution passes. The first pass began at 14:30 and provided some useful additional data. The second pass commenced at 19:32 and soon revealed evidence of shadow on the large hard contact which we had tentatively classified as the forecastle section of Kormoran. This shadow provided further clues concerning the size of this contact which is estimated to be approximately 106 metres long. Two large pieces of wreckage were also detected in the centre of the debris field along with many other hard contacts.

    The dimensions of the largest piece of Kormoran’s wreck along with other distinguishing features such as her rising flared bow section were compared to the characteristics of Sydney. From the dimensional information before us when compared to Kormoran’s drawings, it was concluded that the size of the wreckage was not commensurate with that of a modified Leander class cruiser but was consistent with the ship data held for HSK Kormoran. Of significance was the beam measurement of the contact which very closely matched the 20.2 metre beam of Kormoran but not the 17.3 metre beam of Sydney. It is therefore our considered opinion that this was indeed the wreck of Kormoran lying in close proximity to clear evidence of a catastrophic explosion.

    We then continued our late night survey to the area where we had previously detected additional wreckage, and tentatively classified as the site of the battle between Sydney and Kormoran. We commenced the start of our high resolution run down the line at 23:13 and in the early hours of Friday morning we relocated the several hard pieces of wreckage in position 26° 09’ 45.9” S 111° 04’ 07.2 E. Some of these pieces were measured and found to be surprisingly large with one piece measuring 33 metres x 19 metres and standing 13.3 metres high off the seabed casting a distinctive acoustic shadow. At this stage we can only speculate on what this large piece of debris might be. This leads us to believe this could be wreckage blown from Sydney during her engagement with Kormoran.

    While these discoveries took place several days ago it was considered important that they be thoroughly analysed before any official statement was released. Out intent now is to continue the search in a box which has been further refined by David Mearns to fulfil our ultimate goal and locate the wreck of HMAS Sydney (II).


    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    After a week at sea and dogged by bad luck, by Wednesday 12 March we were finally in survey mode.  Late in the afternoon John, David and I were sitting in our work space discussing the day and at the same time keeping an eye on our sonar screen.  It was exactly 17: 30 and John was the first to comment on the target beginning to emerge. Before our eyes a spectacular vision of a huge explosive pattern appeared, together with two substantial pieces of debris.  “That’s it” said David, and the excitement was palpable. I ran to call the Electric Pictures team so the screen could be filmed as it happened. 

    The largest piece of debris certainly fitted the shape of a large section of Kormoran’s bow.  The scenario unfolding on the sea bed fitted the description of the last moments of HSK Kormoran. It was quite sobering to comprehend that here, just five nautical miles south east of the 26S 111E marker, lay HSK Kormoran, and I took pause to remember that eighty German sailors did not survive this sinking.

    After returning from dinner to more screen watching as we headed south on our track line, it was obvious that at 19:30 we were entering the debris field of the battle site, some four nautical miles south of the Kormoran.  Interrogations of the Germans had indicated that Sydney lost her B turret housing which was blown overboard during the battle, and here on the seabed was a large item.  How quickly our fortunes have changed in just one day.

    We continued on in our search from HMAS Sydney, but on Friday our track line took us near the Kormoran position and we took the opportunity to do some high resolution work. We did two passes of the Kormoran position on Friday, the second at a 800m swathe and with the fish at altitude 40 meters.  Finally we had absolute certainty that we were looking at Kormoran at 26 05 49S 111 04 27E in 2560 meters of water.

    It was 23:00, but the work continued as the Geosounder proceeded to the battle area with the same swathe and depth coverage.  It was sobering to realise that we were passing through the actual battle site.  More debris appeared, but we waited with baited breath for the large piece of debris we had tracked before.  There was an audible gasp as it appeared on the screen because it was so large and cast such a shadow.  It certainly looked like a very large piece of Sydney was blown overboard during the battle.  By 0100 hrs on Saturday I called it a night, satisfied that David Mearns and the Williamson crew had given the Finding Sydney Foundation the best sonar pictures available of both the Kormoran and the battle site.  I wished my fellow Directors was here to share this with me.  But our task is not yet complete, and we continue on track to locate HMAS Sydney.


    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


  • 14th March 2008 Report

    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    We ran our first "higher-resolution" line late last evening past some suspicious looking sonar targets at the southern extremity of our search box.  By higher-resolution, I mean that the SM30 sonar was operated at a narrower swathe setting than the normal 6km swathe we have used since the start of the search.  In simple terms the objective of a higher-resolution sonar pass is to magnify the targets in question so more detail is revealed in the sonar image making it easier to identify the objects.  In this case the swathe was reduced to 3km, which can only be considered "higher-resolution" in relation to the SM30 sonar because most other high-resolution side-scan sonars have a maximum swathe of only 150 metres.

    The other benefit of a second sonar line is that the targets are seen from a different angle, which often reveals details unseen in the original sonar images.  The targets in question turned out to be a field of outcropping rocks that were similar in ways to a wreckage debris field and thus needed to be double-checked.  With these targets ruled out we turned our attention back north to the primary search box.

    When either the wreck of Kormoran or Sydney is found we have far more scope for collecting higher resolution sonar imagery to help confirm their identity and condition.  The SM30 sonar can be operated at swathes as narrow as 750 metres and the higher frequency AMS60 sonar as narrow as 125 metres.  We therefore have almost an infinite ability to collect progressively higher magnified sonar images of the wrecks.  I think I speak for everyone on board the vessel that we are all looking forward to the opportunity to image the wrecks this way.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    Today I have been thinking a lot about the 645 men who were lost on HMAS Sydney.  As secretary of the Geraldton HMAS Sydney Memorial Steering Committee and during my research, I came into contact with a large number of the relatives of the crew.  I was honoured when they shared stories, letters and photographs of their loved ones with me. 

    What becomes immediately apparent when I go through my collection of photographs is the collective youth that we lost on the 19 November 1941. One crewmember, eighteen year old Stoker 2nd Class, Jack Crowle had the foresight to think how devastated his mother would be if he was lost at sea.  So he wrote a letter to be given to her if such an event transpired.  In that letter of comfort, Jack told his mother to “remember that I lived and died an Australian and I don’t think there is any greater honour”.  Jack also said that he was not afraid of death and would prefer to die in no other way than doing his duty.

    Keith Shegog did a remarkable job of collating many stories and photographs for posterity for the 60th Anniversary of the battle. The Finding Sydney Foundation would like to build on his work to provide an online virtual memorial to the men of HMAS Sydney on our website.  Our aim is to have a photograph and story for each of the men.  If any relative would like to be part of this concept I encourage them to contact FSF via the address on the Contact Page of this website.

    Above Photograph - Stoker 2nd Class Jack Crowle

    John Perryman - Senior Navy Historian (Observer)

    Late yesterday we investigated a promising contact to the south which had been detected a few days ago during our approach run into line number 8. While it displayed some characteristics commensurate with being a man made object it was later dismissed as being a geological feature amidst a field of other vexing geological anomalies.  Today we are slowly making our way north once again as we continue to gradually reduce the size of the main search box.

    Historical Anecdote.

    The most significant piece of wreckage attributed to HMAS Sydney (II) was a life raft known as a pattern No. 20 Carley float.  This was recovered by HMAS Heros during the search for survivors on 28 November 1941 in position 24° 07’ South 110° 58 East.

    This type of floatation device was designed to provide life support for up to twenty men, twelve of whom could be accommodated within the float, while eight more could cling to lifelines attached to its outer shell. The Carley float was reported at the time to have been badly damaged by gunfire. This float was offered to the Australian War Memorial for preservation by the Naval Board in July 1942 and has been on display since that time as a tribute to Sydney’s crew.

    Above Photograph - Signal reporting HMAS Heros recovery of Sydney Carley float.


    Above Photograph - HMAS Sydney with Carley floats stowed on upper decks

    Above Photograph - HMAS Sydney Carley float on display in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


  • 13th March 2008 Report

    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    After our early problems I am very pleased with how the search has progressed over the past couple of days.  The Williamson & Associates SM30 side-scan sonar search system was selected for this project because it is one of the few commercially available sonars of its type in the world that is ideally suited to the specific requirements of this search.  It can also be operated to a depth of 6,000 metres, which is well beyond our needs.

    The SM30 has two transducers, scanning to either side of the towfish, that operate at a frequency of 27 kHz and 30kHz.  These low frequencies (mismatched to prevent acoustic crosstalk) enable us to search an area approaching 6km in swath width, whilst still being able to detect small man-made objects like 55-gallon drums.  The SM30 has been successfully used on a number of important shipwreck search projects including location of the sidewheel steamer SS Central America and the submarine USS Grunion.  The Grunion website has all the details of this interesting project (

    I have known Art Wright, the Party Chief of the W&A search team, for 20 years and it is good to be back at sea with him.  We first met working on a landmark project for the oil and gas industry off the coast of Santa Barbara, California where we conducted the first ever pipeline route survey using a deeptow multi-beam sonar.  Like me, Art enjoys search projects more than industry projects and he has been dipping into our library of books on the battle between Kormoran and Sydney.

    Above Photograph - Art Wright, the Party Chief of Williamson & Associates Search Team.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    Today I have spent much of my time in the survey room with the Williamson and Associates crew.  I took the opportunity to sit in the hot seat flying the fish for a few precious moments myself.  The technology is incredible.  You can see exactly where you are, the precise GPS position, water depth, altitude of the fish etc, all of which is printed out and saved on computer file, where track lines and positions can be compared. 

    It is hard to comprehend that we are scanning 3000 meters of sea bed on either side of our track.  I can recommend the leisurely pace of 3 knots, although it takes nearly a good 24 hours to complete one track run.

    The work is ongoing 24 hours and night and day has become a little blurred.  It does not matter out here if I go to bed at midnight or 2am.  The Williamson crew changeover is a midnight and midday.  David’s off shift operator, Robert works a twelve hour shift commencing at 6pm, but David Mearns is on deck long hours after his shift officially ends.

    John Perryman - Senior Navy Historian (Observer)

    Today we completed our north-south run down line number 9 of the search box where we continued to see a mixture of sporadic geological features such as rocky outcrops and depressions as well as large tracts of featureless sea bed. Traveling at between 2-3 knots is slow going, but that is the nature of the work with the SM30 sonar equipment streamed astern of us on anything up to 9,500 metres of cable. With freshening winds we are now repositioning for further runs throughout the search area.

    Historical Anecdote.

    HMAS Sydney (II) had four commanding officers during her six year commission in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

    The first was Captain J.U.P. Fitzgerald, Royal Navy (RN) who commissioned Sydney in England on 24 September 1935. He was succeeded by Captain J.W.A. Waller, RN in 1937, who remained in command until 16 November 1939 at which time Captain J.A. Collins, RAN assumed command. Collins was a graduate of the Royal Australian Naval College and the first Australian officer to command the light cruiser. It was under the command of Collins that Sydney captured the hearts and minds of the Australian population through her exploits in the Mediterranean theatre. Notably for crippling the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni, and her spirited pursuit of her consort, the cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere.

    On returning to Australia, Collins was relieved by Captain J. Burnett, RAN, on 14 May 1941. Captain Burnett went down with his ship following the fierce action with the German raider Kormoran on 19 November 1941.


    Above Photograph - Captain J.A. Collins, RAN

    Above Photograph - Captain J. Burnett, RAN

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


  • 12th March 2008 Report

    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    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 well 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.

    For a 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 dealt tomorrow.

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    Yesterday after our fire drill, I spent many hours looking at sonar screens.  For a novice it was fascinating watching the geology, fault lines and depressions as they appeared more than 3000m below us.  We had a few heart stopping moments as interesting geology was scrutinised and dismissed.

    The fact 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 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 October 07, especially our chairman Ted Graham. 

    I know 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. 

    We are 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 State Governments.


    Above Photograph - Electric Pictures Team, Mathew, Chris & Ulle at the fire drill.

    John Perryman - Senior Navy Historian (Observer)

    Yesterday was a good day, during which we received some tantalizing underwater side-scan sonar 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.

    Historical Anecdote.

    HMAS 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.

    Above Photograph - Sydney's forward turrets following a shoot. Note the blistering paint on the gun barrels.

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


  • 11th March 2008 Report

    David Mearns - Search Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation

    We've had such a lousy string of luck since the start of this search it was about time that things started to go our way.  An enormous amount of effort by the Williamson & Associates technicians, in particular Carter Le, has been put in to get us up and running again.  So we were all greatly relieved when the SM30 sonar was deployed in the early hours of the morning and the first images revealed the search was back on track.  There is still far more seabed geology in the southern third of our search box to my liking (and I am a trained marine geologist!) and the technical gremlins haven't completely left us, but we are searching today and that's all that counts. 

    At one point in the current trackline the sonar images started to look very much like the kind of debris field I am expecting to see associated with Kormoran's wreck.  As the SM30 sonar updates only once every 4 seconds (ping rate) the images scroll down our screens at the pace of a snail so it can take up to 30 minutes before a feature reveals itself as either geology or a bona fide target.  The expectation and excitement in the room rises to the point it is palpable while the images are studied and analysed very carefully.  In this case it was more seabed geology but our senses are being sharpened for the real thing.

    The trough I wrote about yesterday is still sitting on the coast of WA and doesn't look set to move east until Thursday.  Meanwhile the winds and swell are still high but we are in a following sea today so the ride is comfortable.  I have included a photograph of the navigation screen the helmsman uses to keep the Geosounder on track, which not only shows how well he is doing staying within our 25 metre guide lines but how he is doing it by "crabbing" down the line with the ship at a constant 15 degree angle to starboard.


    Above Photograph - Navigation Screen showing the SV Geosounder "grabbing" down the line

    Glenys McDonald - Director, The Finding Sydney Foundation (Observer)

    The crew of MV Geosounder come from all parts of the globe.  Their usual work routine is five weeks at sea, followed by five weeks at home, and they thrive on this type of existence.  I have come to look forward to my evening chats where we do a fair amount of philosophising about the “good old days” when we were young.

    The crew from Williamson’s and Associates are infectiously happy. They work as a great team, either deploying or recovering the fish in some very interesting sea conditions at all hours of the day or night, and then spend countless hours either monitoring screens or with the sonar under maintenance.  My room mate Kelly is on her first deployment doing this type of work and I am in awe seeing her out there on the back deck doing her job alongside some big strapping men.

    It gives me great comfort on this trip to have the combined wealth of experience of Art Wright of Williamson’s and David Mearns on board.  This is their day job and they do it professionally and without fuss.  John Perryman is keeping us in high spirits with some absolutely amusing stories of life at sea, and anecdotes from the history of our Navy.   One of the hardest working groups on board are the three Electric Pictures crew who are everywhere – back deck, survey room, they even catch you having a nap on deck.


    Above Photograph - Blair Cliffe, SV Geosounder's Master


    Above Photograph - Kelly Curtis, one of Williamson & Associates' sonar operators

    Above Photograph - Ulle, the cinematographer catching Glenys cat-napping

    John Perryman - Senior Navy Historian (Observer)

    Today was by far a much more positive and productive day. With the SM30 back in the water in the early hours of the morning we were soon heading into the southern end of our search box. It did not take us long to start picking up good paints of geological features in some areas while in other areas the sea bed appeared featureless. This was certainly a morale boosting victory following the testing times of the previous few days and it feels good to be back in our search box with our eyes fixed on our various monitors and sensors.

    Historical Anecdote: The Australian modified Leander class cruisers, Sydney, Perth and Hobart each carried amphibious aircraft for the purpose of reconnaissance, anti-submarine work and gunnery spotting.

    At the time of her loss, Sydney was carrying a Walrus aircraft mounted on a 53 foot long catapult located between her two funnels. To launch the aircraft the catapult was rotated so that it pointed to seaward. From this position the aircraft would then be hurled into the air and take flight. It could also be lowered over the side of the ship by a crane for water take offs if necessary. This crane was also used to recover the aircraft from the water on completion of a sortie. This was often a difficult evolution in choppy seas as can be seen in the accompanying photograph.

    At the time that Sydney was lost, six members of the Royal Australian Air Force were serving in Sydney as members of her ship's company. They were responsible for the maintenance and operation of her Walrus aircraft.


    Above Photograph - Sydney's amphibious aircraft flys over the famous cruiser

    Above Photograph - The recovery of Sydney's aircraft could often be a difficult evolution.

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Material (including photographs) available in the "Press Room" section of this Website may be used/reproduced unaltered by your organisation (unless stated otherwise within the content description) subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Legal Section AND any Material (including photographs) which you use/reproduce must credit the source as "The Finding Sydney Foundation" and, as an option, you may also link the source statement with the website address


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