Finding HMAS Sydney Chapter 10 - Conclusions & Review of German Sources
Review HMAS Sydney: One of ship’s port screws on seabed Copyright: Australian War Memorial 10
The Royal Australian Navy (1941) It is evident that the Search and Rescue operations co-ordinated by the RAN in 1941 focused on the right general area. The major search boxes involving RAAF Hudson aircraft were centred on the approximate location of the wreck of Kormoran. It is also clear that the interviews and interrogations conducted by the RAN after the disaster elicited generally reliable information about the location of the battle, and about the distance between the ships at the outset and the end of the engagement.
Kormoran Database The Kormoran database included many errors, but no more than could be expected given the delay – seven to 21 days after the battle – and the language and recording conditions that the RAN personnel were operating under. The search definition and knowledge elicitation or ‘interrogation’ teams activated by the RAN in 1941 deserve recognition for a job well done.
The Finding Sydney Foundation FSF publications demonstrate that the Foundation adopted an appropriate location for Kormoran as early as 2001, the year in which the Foundation was established. By 2004, the FSF search definition team (Kim Kirsner, John Dunn, Bob King and the Technical Search Committee of the FSF ) had provided the Foundation with a precise target for Kormoran just 2.7 nm from the wreck of that vessel . In 2005 they added a search box and search quadrant that included Kormoran and Sydney respectively (see FSF , 2005) The search box recommended by the FSF team for Kormoran in 2004 was approximately 400 square nautical miles. Kormoran is more or less dead centre in that search box. The search box adopted by Mearns in 2008 was approximately 1800 square nautical miles. The search quadrant recommended by the FSF team for the search for Sydney in 2005 was 570 square nautical miles. Sydney was in that quadrant.
Precedent Independent review and precedent are important principles in scientific discovery. The position identified for Kormoran by the FSF team in 2004 was correct, to within “spitting distance”, as FSF Director Keith Rowe put it in an email to the authors in 2008. The FSF invited the three ex-Directors, Ron Birmingham, Bob King and Kim Kirsner, to submit reports summarising their contribution to the Finding Sydney Foundation in 2008. Their reports were omitted from the Final Report submitted by the FSF to the Commonwealth Government in 2008. This omission provided a platform for Mearns to claim total responsibility for the discovery of the wrecks.
Australian Science Between 1991 and 2004 Kirsner and Dunn systematically revised and refined their approach to search definition, and reduced their error – the distance between the predicted and observed positions for Kormoran - from approximately 20 nautical miles in 1991 to less than 3 nautical miles in 2004. In 2004 Kirsner and Dunn used seven constraints from the reports provided by the Kormoran survivors, one QQ signal from Kormoran , and one life-raft drift analysis together with a mathematical decision model to predict the location of Kormoran . The successful application of transparent and systematic scientific procedures demonstrates that Cognitive Science has a significant role to play in wreck-hunting. The interested reader is referred to Kirsner and Dunn (2004, 2008) and Dunn and Kirsner (2010) for more detailed accounts of the analyses used to predict the location of Kormoran .
Reliability of German Sources NSK Kormoran: Stbd 5.9-inch gun concealed under forecastle. Copyright: Australian War Memorial Kapitän zur See Theodor Detmers Kriegsmarine (1902 – 1976)
Theodor Detmers, Captain of Kormoran The Kormoran Record included 15 reports attributed to Detmers. These reports involved six positions comprising 26° S 111° E (2 reports, correct position), 26° 31’ S 111° E (1), 26° 32’ S 111° E (6), 26° S 34’ S 111° E (4), 26° S 110° E (1) and 25° S 111° E (1). The inconsistency in his initial reports is overwhelming. Ten of the reports referred to the position as the “Action” or “Engagement” position; two referred to the pre-action sighting, and three were ambiguous.
Henry Meyer, Navigator of Kormoran The Kormoran Database included seven reports attributed to Meyer. These reports referred to four ‘positions’. The positions comprised 27° S 111° E (4 reports), 26° 30’ S 111° E (1), 26° S 111° E (1) and 150 nm South East of the landing position for Meyer’s lifeboat. The sequence is systematic, and fascinating. The reports involving 27° S 111° E appear to have been provided prior to November 30 th , 1941. This position is nearly 60 nm from the wreck. The report involving 26° 30’ S 111° E was provided on December 1st, 1941, possibly after Meyer had been reunited with Detmers. This position is nearly 30 nm from the wreck. The report involving ’distance sailed’ provided an accurate solution, near 26° S 111° E. The final report, specifying 26° S 111° E, was discovered on the back of a family photograph donated to the West Australian Maritime Museum by Meyer’s son in 2000.
The crew The procedure adopted by the FSF team assumed that reliable knowledge about the location of the battle was distributed among the crew because that information was critical to their survival in the lifeboats in the week following the engagement. The team used the reports provided by the Captain, the Navigator, one of the prize Captains, and numerous signal personal. While virtually every reporter and the majority of the reports included an ‘error’ of some sort; treated as a set they pointed to the precise position of the wreck of Kormoran . Most of the reports emanated from domain experts working in their domain of expertise.