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Public dive for first time to see Japanese midget submarine which sunk in Sydney Harbour during World War II

Staff writers, February 18, 2018 7:34PM Manly Daily

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Divers inspect the wreckage of Japanese midget submarine M24 off Sydney's northern beaches. Picture: AAP media_cameraDivers inspect the wreckage of Japanese midget submarine M24 off Sydney's northern beaches. Picture: AAP


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For the first time in history, the public has been given the chance to explore a sunken Japanese mini-submarine off Sydney’s northern beaches.

Located off Bungan Head, Newport, the M24 was one of three Japanese midget submarines that entered Sydney Harbour in 1942 during World War II.

Two groups of divers had the chance to dive to the submarine after winning a public ballot* to remember the events of 1942.

A supplied image obtained Thursday, February 15, 2018 of divers inspecting the wreckage of Japanese midget submarine M24 off Sydney's northern beaches, Thursday, February 15, 2018. The divers were permitted access after a public ballot to commemorate the events of 1942 when three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney harbour. (AAP Image/Supplied by NSW Government) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY media_cameraDivers were permitted access the midget submarine after a public ballot to commemorate the events of 1942 when three Japanese vessels entered Sydney Harbour. Picture: AAP

The M24 is the only remaining midget submarine in the water from the attack.

Richard Nicholls, one of the divers permitted to access the site, said conditions were fantastic for the dive and the group enjoyed amazing underwater visibility*.

“One of the great joys of diving is being able to go back into the past and it was a terrific experience to see the submarine wreck teeming* with fish — new life that’s come from a tragedy,” he said.

The tragedy Mr Nicholls referred to happened after the three mini-submarines secretly cruised into Sydney Harbour and launched an attack that would bring the Second World War to the city’s doorstep.

Twenty-one Australian and British sailors were killed and another 10 injured when a converted* ferry, the HMAS Kuttabul, was sunk by a torpedo in the surprise naval attack.

The aim of the three two-man submarines was simple – to sink the USS Chicago and any other allied warships inside the harbour.

However, two of the vessels were spotted causing their crews to let off devices on board and take their own lives.

Midget Submarine Sonar Images media_cameraOne of the midget submarines on sonar image.

A full-scale* search of the harbour found the third submarine, which escaped fire and launched two torpedos at the USS Chicago. The torpedos missed but one of the explosions split the HMAS Kuttabul in half causing the tragic deaths.

A Japanese midget submarine being lifted from the harbour bed in 1942 media_cameraA Japanese midget submarine being lifted from the Harbour bed in 1942.

Two of the submarines were recovered from the water shortly after the attack and are now at the Australian War Memorial.

The M24 submarine was not discovered until 2006 by a group of amateur* divers and is a protected Commonwealth Government Historic Shipwreck and is also listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

The site is managed by the NSW Heritage Division Office of Environment and Heritage through its Maritime Heritage Program.

There are penalties of up to $1.1 million for disturbing the site.

21 May 2007 : Japanese Midget M24 submarine, one of three which attacked Sydney Harbour in 1942, found off Sydney's Northern Beches : con tower : PicAustralian/Navy - submarines mini sub sunk wrecks marine underwater wwii history Japan Australia media_cameraFish swim around Japanese Midget Submarine M24 in Sydney Harbour.


public ballot: when the public enter for the chance to do something.

visibility: being able to see

teeming: full of

converted: change the look of something or the way it works

full-scale: complete and thorough

amateur: not professional



1. Questions

a) Why were the three Japanese midget submarines in waters off Sydney and what happened to them?

b) Can you think of one advantage and one disadvantage of using submarines during wartime?

c) What are your thoughts about the Japanese crews of the submarines? Can you think of any ways that they may have been like their Australian and British enemies?

d) How were divers chosen to visit the sunken submarine and why do you think they were chosen this way?

Extension: Do you think more divers should be allowed to dive at the site of the sunken submarine or should they be kept away? Write a persuasive argument explaining your point of view.

Time: Allow 30 minutes

Curriculum links: English, History, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Then and Now

Fold a sheet of paper into two columns and head each side with the headings “1942” and “2000s”. Under each heading write three pieces of information relating to the submarines in 1942 and now in more recent times.

Extension: Draw a picture to accompany the two sets of facts, showing the submarines during World War II and now.

Time: Allow 20 minutes

Curriculum links: English, History


Verb adventures: With a partner see if you can you identify all the doing words/verbs in this text? Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb- make sure it still makes the context it was taken from.

Try and see if you can replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

Curriculum Links: English, Big Write and VCOP

Please do not use one-word answers. Tell us exactly what you liked about the article, using lots of adjectives.

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