Diving for Anzac relics

Mark Spencer prepares for his next descent.
Mark Spencer prepares for his next descent. Contributed

THE underwater photographer who captured the resting place of an Australian World War I submarine, sunk during the Battle of Gallipoli, will return to where the Diggers landed.

Coffs Harbour’s Mark Spencer will join a team of divers and archaeologists at Anzac Cove in May aiming to uncover pieces of Australian war history lost beneath the waves for 95 years.

“We are hoping to locate, map and archive anything from soldiers’ helmets, bayonets, rifles, even the cigarette lighters carried by the fallen Anzacs,” Mr Spencer said.

“To our advantage, the ocean is forever uncovering relics off Anzac Cove and Turkish divers have reported seeing magazines full of bullets near the landing sites.”

Respected journalist Mike Munro and a Channel Seven film crew plan to accompany the team to Gallipoli, filming a documentary on their discoveries, which could air nationally.

The expedition will be Mark’s first visit to Gallipoli since the history-making dive in 1998, where he sighted the sunken Australian submarine HMAS AE2 at the bottom of the Dardanelles Straits.

“On my first descent over the wreck, I allowed myself a few minutes to appreciate the significance of the moment,” he said.

“Surprisingly, I felt closer to the Anzacs 72 metres under the sea than I did standing in the trenches at Gallipoli.”

The AE2 was one of two Royal Australian Navy submarines to see combat during World War I.

It was scuttled in the Sea of Marmara after damage by shellfire from a Turkish vessel after it had torpedoed an enemy gun ship.

The 33-man crew, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Stoker, surrendered and were held as Prisoners Of War until 1918.

Since the wreck was rediscovered, Mark says he has been disappointed to learn that the AE2 has been damaged by the nets and anchors of local fishing fleets.

But the submarine will remain in its watery grave, after archaeological surveys found it would be impossible to raise and preserve the wreck.

Mark’s upcoming dives around Anzac Cove will be jointly funded by Channel Seven and Australian Geographic, while the opportunity is also open to local business to sponsor the expedition.

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