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The ocean bed their tomb

Date: 2015
Medium: Stainless steel, LED lighting, PVC piping
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: 00054872

User Terms

    This work of art commemorates the loss, in the early months of World War I, of Australia’s first submarine HMAS AE1 with its 35 Australian and British officers and crew. The work was especially commisssioned with grant funding from the Federal Government's Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund to mark 101 years since the loss of the first of Australia's two brand new submarines in its brand new RAN. It was followed six months later by the scuttling of the second submarine AE2 after its heroic intrusion into the Sea of Marmara. AE1 and AE2 were the only two Australian submarines lost in the history of the RAN.

    AE1 disappeared on 14 September 1914 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 100 years later AE1’s loss and location remain a mystery.

    Artist Warren Langley talks about the work:

    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.
    SignificanceThis work of art is significant as a contemporary response to the loss of the submarine and its 35 men, and acts as a catalyst to prompt inquiry and interest in the story of the submarine.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: AEI memorial sculpture

    Primary title: The ocean bed their tomb

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