HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran

Research Projects | Updated 10 years ago

Historic photo of HMAS Sydney (II) prior to its sinking
HMAS Sydney (II) - port side nil camouflage
Image copyright of Sea Power Centre – Australia

The Maritime Archaeology department was deeply involved in the discovery of the HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran. The WA Museum has since launched an online exhibition and educational portal based on the discovery of these wrecks and the story of the battle.

HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran were located in March 2008. Since 1981 the WA Museum has performed an important role in leading Government and the various searchers towards finding the wrecks’ location.

The WA Museum has also assisted and advised the RAN (Royal Australian Navy) and its functionaries, a vast array of individuals, researchers, authors, fellow museums, searchers and other institutions in this search.

Now that both wrecks have been located and the sites protected under the 1976 Historic Shipwrecks Act, entry to the sites managed by the WA Museum's CEO, Delegate to the Minister.

Where requested, assistance will continue to be provided to the RAN, the SeaPower Centre, the Defence Scientific and Technical Organisation and the Royal Institute of Naval Architects in the analysis of the wreck survey results (Dr Michael McCarthy).

Given the Museum’s intense involvement since 1976, Dr Michael McCarthy will continue to be accessible for providing information about these two wrecks. The vast amounts of data gleaned from the 2008 search and survey regime has been lodged with WAM and it will be made available online by one of the nation’s leading museums.

HSK Kormoran artefacts: During the 2007 Easter period, 19-year old Geraldton surfer Tom Goddard discovered the remains of a handgun while diving to search for lost fishing lures at Red Bluff, Quobba Station 130 km north of Carnarvon, Western Australia. Shortly after this discovery he reported this find to the Western Australian Museum.

Subject to authentication the find was deemed to have state and national significance as Red Bluff was a known landing spot for 57 survivors of the HSK Kormoran German raider that engaged the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney in a fierce battle off the Western Australian coast on 19 November 1941, and resulted in both ships sinking each other.

Five days later (24 November) 104 survivors from the Kormoran landed in two lifeboats at Quobba Station, north of Carnarvon. They were found by Aboriginal stockmen who went for help, following which the German survivors were captured and sent to prisoner of war camps. At the time of their capture and surrender it was recorded that they threw at least one, and possibly more weapons into the sea.

WA Museum archaeologist Ross Anderson and conservator Jon Carpenter returned to Red Bluff with Tom Goddard to recover remaining parts of the weapon and record the site. The pistol was examined and conserved by conservator Richard Garcia with assistance from conservator Kalle Kasi and identified as a 1934 Model Mauser pocket pistol, and therefore associated with the Kormoran survivors' landing at Red Bluff.

On the anniversary of the sinking of the HMAS Sydney in November 2008 as part of an HMAS Sydney related public program, WA Former Museum CEO Diana Jones presented Tom Goddard with a finders award recognising his discovery and community minded reporting of this significant find.

See reports #243, #230, #226, #200, #162, #143, #131, #115, #104, #71, #52