In May and August of 2001, the Western Australian Maritime Museum and Prospero Films recorded the documentary The Zero Hour, for release by the National Geographic Channel in 2002. This is the background to the Museum's work at the submerged aircrafts since the mid 1980's and the subsequent diary of the dive operations and film in 2001.

Aviation historian Merv Prime has written the only book publised to date that deals with the actual raid and its aftermath. His book Broome's One Day War is on sale primarily at the Broome Historical Society and the RAAF Association The Aviation Heritage Museum (AHM). Another work is Flight of Diamonds, produced by Hesperian Press.

The aircraft wrecks in Roebuck Bay, Broome, Western Australia, come in three categories:

  1. Those that 'dry' at low water spring tides
  2. Those partly visible at the lowest tide
  3. Those that remain submerged

By agreement, the wrecks were managed on behalf of their owners, the services (e.g. Dutch and Australian military) and  their governments by a management group comprising:

  • Broome Historical Society (BHS)
  • The Aviation Heritage Museum (AHM)
  • WA Maritime Museum(WAMM)
  • The Public Relations Officer (RAN/RAAF)

What follows is a description of activities after the 1990/91 period following concerns about interference on the deep water wrecks. These concerns were raised around the time the photo of one aircraft's machine guns were taken. A child's doll was also raised, adding further to concerns.

Protection of the sites at the time was by a mix of State and Federal legislation;

  • importation of aircraft parts;
  • Entering a crash site;
  • Removing materials from a crash site and;
  • war grave philosophies.

Following further concerns raised by Broome residents and the Historical Society, the Museum conducted two sidescan sonar searches sponsored and conducted by Fugro Survey of Perth (Ted Graham liaison). The inability to cover the wrecks under the 1990 Heritage Act led to a continuation of the use of the legislation above. A lack of funds also precluded any coordinated effort to examine the Fugro strikes. The museum was also fully committed to shipwreck archaeology at the time and with the cessation of the looting a decision was made to do nothing further until the occasion demanded. That occasion arrived with the advent of GPS and a growing awareness of the wrecks, causing the Museum, with the blessing of the other stakeholders to seek funding for a program that would result in the location and inspection of all the wrecked warplanes in Roebuck Bay.

As part of the Museum's wreck inspection program, McCarthy asked his colleague Geoff Kimpton(GK) to ‘suss’ out the scene while he was in Broome visiting his son Lee, a leading pearl diver. GK had unearthed Jeff Parker, a colleague of noted wreck diver John Riley and part-time diver in Broome - he located two sites and both GPS’d and drew them in a [useful 3D] fashion for the Museum. GK attempted to video them, without success. Silvano Jung of the Northern Territory University in Darwin, was also conducting work on Catalina's at the time and he was bought on board following his successful work at Darwin in 1997.

Jon Davison, a specialist aviation photographer and researcher, whilst following his own leads under his company Eye in the Sky Productions, became associated with WAMM as a natural progression of his work. He proposed a TV documentary on the Broome wrecks and the sunken Catalinas at Rottnest to the ABC with McCarthy and he organised a number of meetings with them. Whilst interested in running the Broome story, the ABC could not commit to funding the dive operations, so this particular avenue closed. Jon subsequently rewrote the proposal with a view to resubmitting the idea to other interested parties.

Following the dissapointment from the ABC, Jon Davison submitted the proposal for The Zero Hour to Ed Punchard of noted WA filmakers Prospero Productions.

Contact was then made with McCarthy's colleague Jeremy Green (JNG) who was working with Ed Punchard on his proposed ‘Shipwreck Detectives’ program. All (including the RAAF Aviation Heritage Museum, the Broome Historical Society and the Public Relations Officer of the RAN/RAAF) were delighted with the proposal because it was clearly the only way to fund an inspection and management program for the sites.

This has seen a 3-part series emerge of which the Broome Aircraft program is one. Others are:

  • Batavia
  • Rottnest Graveyard
  • Broome Aircraft

As indicated, the proposed film was seen to be the only way to obtain the funds neccessary to enable the wrecks at Broome to be located, inspected and tested for the archaelogical deposit. Following discussions with local stakeholders (eg, BHS, AHM and local dive operators), they were then to be appropriately managed in a mix of cultural tourism and preservation strategies. This was to involve signage, pamphlets and maps, conservation and exhibition.

The Museum's team was to include:

  • Jeremy Green (JNG - remote sensing, underwater archaeology );
  • Corioli Souter - underwater archaeology (CS - oral histories);
  • Jon Carpenter - (JC - conservator);
  • Silvano Jung - historical and tecxhnical advisor;
  • Jeff Parker (JP - consultant/diver);
  • Geoff Kimpton (GK - boat operator/diver);
  • Patrick Baker (PEB - photographer);
  • John Lashmar (JL - boat operator);
  • Mike McCarthy (MM - site inspection and OIC underwater archaeology and
  • Jon Davison (JD - photographer/research) worked with both the Museum team and the Prospero crew.
A fighter plane in full flight

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero
Image copyright WA Museum

The aim of the fieldwork [from the wreck inspection journal] was to "inspect and record the deep water wreck at broome and to close the look in regard of our work since 1990. Management plan and wreck access programs will ensue."