First Impressions

Article | Updated 9 months ago

This photographic exhibit brings images chosen by staff from the Western Australian Museum who saw the wrecks of HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran on the Remotely Operated Vehicle’s monitor feed for the first time.

Each image is presented along with reasons for selecting them, with the first, titled ‘Flowers on the Seabed: A garden of anemones’, aptly reflecting The Naval Ode.

The Naval Ode.

They have no grave
but the cruel sea.
No flowers lay at their head.
A rusting hulk is their tombstone
Afast on the ocean bed.

They shall grow not old
as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them.

Lest we forget.

Flowers on the Seabed: A ‘garden of anemones’

Anemones attached to HMAS Sydney & HSK Kormoran

Anemones attached to HMAS Sydney & HSK Kormoran
Image copyright WA Museum 

To me the brilliant yellow anemones on HMAS Sydney & HSK Kormoran are the ‘flowers’ of The Naval Ode.

Mara Pritchard, Manager Communications and Media.

The arrival of an ROV at HMAS Sydney

ROV arriving at HMAS Sydney

ROV arriving at HMAS Sydney
Image copyright WA Museum 

I chose the first arrival of an ROV on the HMAS Sydney at the start of the trip, for as I explained many times afterwards to friends, this whole expedition gave me the impression that we landed on the moon.

Nicolas Bigourdan, Assistant Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

An ROV at the HMAS Sydney bow

HMAS Sydney Bow

HMAS Sydney Bow
Image copyright WA Museum 

The ROV illuminates HMAS Sydney's iconic bow lying broken and upside-down on the seabed, like some great medieval knight knocked off his horse. Kormoran's Captain T.A. Detmers felt a knot of fear seeing the unknown cruiser steaming towards him with a 'bone in its mouth' - the bow wave foam sheeting off each side of the fine hull as it approached at maximum speed, guns armed and aimed, suspicious of Kormoran's manoeuvres. Detmers knew it would be a fight to the death. Now lying silent in the darkness except for this brief visit, HMAS Sydney's inverted triangular bow is the crews' monumental steel headstone, the hull their casket.

Ross Anderson, Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

The 15-cm shell hole and the damage to HMAS Sydney’s Direction Control Tower base

15-cm shell hole and the damage to HMAS Sydney’s  Direction Control Tower  base.

15-cm shell hole and the damage to HMAS Sydney’s Direction Control Tower base.
Image copyright WA Museum 

We clearly saw a 15cm shell hole in the port side of the compass platform as well as damage to the DCT base. We now know how Sydney’s command and gun control was knocked out so early in the battle.

Wes Olson, Volunteer researcher and author.

An ROV filming the HMAS Sydney anti aircraft gundeck and torpedo launching mounts

An ROV filming the HMAS Sydney anti aircraft gundeck and torpedo launching mount

An ROV filming the HMAS Sydney anti aircraft gundeck and torpedo launching mounts.
Image copyright WA Museum 

Seeing the ROV’s working at 2.5KM below the ocean surface non-stop for over 24 hours, in absolute darkness and being able to pick up delicate objects was amazing

Matthew Britten: Graphic Designer.

In the ‘ROV Room’

In the ROV Room

In the ROV Room
Image copyright WA Museum 

The level of technology involved, the collaboration between the various teams, the large and numerous monitors, the remoteness of the expedition, the images of a robot shinning light to a far away and significant feature. So being here and finally witnessing with such clarity this shipwreck was so beyond what we could have expected that this first hour and even that first night will be printed for ever in my memory.

Nicolas Bigourdan, Assistant Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

HSK Kormoran’s bridge and its PAK 36 guns (insets)

HSK Kormoran’s bridge and its PAK 36 guns (insets)

HSK Kormoran’s bridge and its PAK 36 guns (insets)
Image copyright WA Museum 

HSK Kormoran’s bridge and its PAK 36 guns (insets)

HSK Kormoran’s bridge and its PAK 36 guns (insets)
Image copyright WA Museum 

One of the new findings of the expedition was the discovery of a large section of Kormoran's bridge lying upside-down in the middle of the debris field. The structure included the port 3.7cm anti-tank PAK 36 gun [left inset]. The starboard 3.7cm anti-tank PAK 36 gun [centre inset], inflicted many mortal wounds on HMAS Sydney, and was a significant weapon in the outcome of the battle. Exploring the debris field was a hazardous exercise with unexploded mines, ammunition and twisted metal, and Skandi Protector's crew did an amazing job to closely negotiate the ROVs around these enormous, twisted pieces of wreckage to recover the images and return safely to the surface.

Ross Anderson, Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

An ROV illuminates HMAS Sydney’s port 4-inch anti–aircraft gun

An ROV illuminates HMAS Sydney’s port 4-inch anti–aircraft gun.

An ROV illuminates HMAS Sydney’s port 4-inch anti–aircraft gun.
Image copyright WA Museum 

The angle and orientation of the starboard gun (S2) in the foreground suggests that some men fought to the end.

Wes Olson, Volunteer researcher and author.

The Number 3 15-cm gun on Kormoran

The Number 3 15-cm gun on Kormoran

The Number 3 15-cm gun on Kormoran
Image copyright WA Museum 

Seeing the painted words and art on the Kormoran guns and in the gunrooms both amazed us for their state of preservation, and sent a ripple through the room. They added a new human dimension to our understanding what shipboard life was like for the Kormoran's crew, the way they perceived their role in the war, and of the attitude they took to their final battle with HMAS Sydney. They obviously took pride in their hidden identity as piratical raiders, sailing the seven seas and using subterfuge to surprise and destroy their enemy. The paintings or 'graffito' brought to mind similar examples of artwork on planes, bombs and other weapons of both sides during the war.

Ross Anderson, Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

Shattered ‘A’ Turret on HMAS Sydney

Shattered ‘A’ Turret  on HMAS Sydney

Shattered ‘A’ Turret on HMAS Sydney
Image copyright WA Museum 

This graphically illustrates the level of destruction on Sydney. I’m still fascinated and intrigued by the left gun, which has its breech open.

Wes Olson, Volunteer researcher and author.

The HMAS Sydney-HSK Kormoran Commemoration Ceremony

The  HMAS Sydney-HSK Kormoran Commemoration Ceremony

The HMAS Sydney-HSK Kormoran Commemoration Ceremony
Image copyright WA Museum 

Ceremony Order of Proceedings

Ted Graham (AM) Finding Sydney Foundation, read the ‘Naval Ode’ and then ‘A Sailor’s Prayer’ (by PO Henry Shipstone who went down in HMAS Sydney); Gavin Relf DOF crane supervisor ex-RAN sailor read ‘Remembrance’ from Rudyard Kipling; Wes Olson researcher & WA Museum Honorary Associate commemorated the sacrifice of both crews; Steffen Pfarr ROV Supervisor read ‘Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden’ ( I had a Comrade)

The ceremony on the upper deck: the gathering of the whole Skandi Protector crew to remember those that lost their lives in a shared manner between representative of the Australian and German nations was an amazing moving moments where words of courage and peace were expressed. It felt so privileged to witness it.

Nicolas Bigourdan, Assistant Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

Looking across the HMAS Sydney decks

Looking across the HMAS Sydney decks

Looking across the HMAS Sydney decks
Image copyright WA Museum 

At one stage one ROV was filming a section of hull and it was possible to look straight through the ship because the other ROV was providing back lighting on the opposite side. I thought this amazing – to be able to see into and through the ship.

Wes Olson, Volunteer researcher and author.

Wartime Graffiti on HSK Kormoran: The list of ships sunk

Wartime Graffiti on HSK Kormoran: The list of ships sunk

Wartime Graffiti on HSK Kormoran: The list of ships sunk
Image copyright WA Museum 

It leads me to think how many more boats would have been on that list if Kormoran had not been stopped. The last on the list was Australian. How many more Australian ships would have been lost if it had laid its mines.

Tim Eastwood Project Leader (WA Museum)

An unexploded mine on the Kormoran

An unexploded mine on the  Kormoran.

An unexploded mine on the Kormoran.
Image copyright WA Museum 

Kormoran was preparing to lay mines off Shark Bay on the night of 19 November. Sydney's interception of the raider prevented this from happening, thereby saving coastal vessels like Koolinda from destruction.

Wes Olson, Volunteer researcher and author.

Boots in the HMAS Sydney debris field

Boots in the HMAS Sydney debris field.

Boots in the HMAS Sydney debris field.
Image copyright WA Museum 

The boots are a poignant reminder of the human cost of Sydney’s loss.

Wes Olson, Volunteer researcher and author.

Occasional problems: An ROV untangles itself in HSK Kormoran debris field

An ROV untangles itself in HSK Kormoran debris field

An ROV untangles itself in HSK Kormoran debris field
Image copyright WA Museum 

This ROV is carefully lifting a piece of debris off the other ROV’s tangled umbilical.

This is one of my favourite images from the expedition, I was impressed by the technology used and the skill it took to operate it.

Matthew Britten Graphic Designer

Collecting site data: The first attempt at recovering rusticles

Collecting site data - The first attempt at recovering rusticles

Collecting site data - The first attempt at recovering rusticles
Image copyright WA Museum 

Because of the lack of depth in the screen of the ROV pilots the collection of the rusticle sample in the purposely designed receptacle was a huge challenge, and raised the adrenaline in the ‘client room’ to a maximum. It was like kid looks at a video game except that it was real. This was an incredibly exciting moment

Nicolas Bigourdan, Assistant Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

Schematic of DOF Protector over the multi beam outline of the Kormoran Bow

Schematic of DOF Protector over the multi beam outline of the Kormoran Bow

Schematic of DOF Protector over the multi beam outline of the Kormoran Bow
Image copyright WA Museum 

Skandi Protector lying over wreck of HSK Kormoran

This capture of the survey screen shows the position of the Skandi Protector lying safely 2500 metres above the wreck the seabed, and the positions of our ROVs surveying the wreck. As with similar screen images over HMAS Sydney, it looked like the ghostly red outline of the Skandi Protector was embracing the grey, sonar 'echo' of each wreck, the ROVs providing a glimmer of light to those souls resting in their deep, dark tomb. Despite being separated by time, depth and space the image made us feel closer to the crew of HMAS Sydney, and their fate.

Ross Anderson, Curator, Department of Maritime Archaeology.

In the ‘client room’: Workboats in 2008 and 2015

In the ‘client room’ Workboats in 2008 and 2015

In the ‘client room’ Workboats in 2008 and 2015
Image copyright WA Museum 

In the ‘client room’ Workboats in 2008 and 2015

In the ‘client room’ Workboats in 2008 and 2015
Image copyright WA Museum 

(Curtin University’s Carolyn Martin & Andrew Woods at the monitors)

This is the first qualitative evidence showing that decay is occurring

Tim Eastwood Project Leader (WA Museum)

Processing the data: 3d reconstruction of a Carley float soon after it was first filmed

Processing the data  3d reconstruction of a Carley float soon after it was first

Processing the data 3d reconstruction of a Carley float soon after it was first filmed.
Image copyright WA Museum 

Processing the data  3d reconstruction of a Carley float soon after it was first

Processing the data 3d reconstruction of a Carley float soon after it was first filmed.
Image copyright WA Museum 

The Carley float was a tremendous find, and helps explain why there were no survivors. They were designed as life support for 20 men, but if their buoyancy compartments were damaged (like this one) they sank like stones.

Wes Olson, Volunteer researcher and author.

Processing the data: Multi-Beam image of HMAS Sydney wreck

 Processing the data  Multi-Beam image of HMAS Sydney wreck

Processing the data Multi-Beam image of HMAS Sydney wreck
Image copyright WA Museum 

Andy Bickers’ [Consultant and offshore engineer] work is the beginning of the 3D model of HMAS Sydney

Tim Eastwood Project Leader (WA Museum)