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Dedication ceremony for AE1 sculpture

To be located in the water between the display pontoon and North Wharf pontoon just outside Action Stations, this work of art commemorates the loss, in the early months of World War I, of Australia’s first submarine AE1 with its 35 Australian and British officers and crew.

AE1 disappeared on 14 September 1914 with all hands while patrolling German waters off Duke of York Island, present day Papua New Guinea.

This was Australia’s first major loss of the war. So close to home it had a major impact on the public consciousness. The title of the work‘...the ocean bed their tomb’ is taken from a poem published in newspapers of the time by South Australian Anne Almer.

More than one hundred years later AE1’s loss and location remain a mystery.

The work takes the form of a wreath floating above the water, casting its shadow on its surface to the rhythm of the water’s movement, day and night. It is about reflection.

According to artist Warren Langley, “a burial at sea is not uncommonly accompanied by a floating wreath of flowers. In September 1914, in the early months of WW1 it is unlikely that the luxury of a floral wreath would have been available. The concept for this art work imagines an alternative, equally beautiful wreath constructed of floating twigs, branches and vegetative flotsam from the waters off Papua.

This is an art work about contemplation and reflection in both a literal and metaphorical sense.


In sunlight, the polished stainless steel structure shimmers and reflects its image upon the water surface. At night a concealed light source creates a complex optical intrigue of reflections.”