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ATSE Lecture: Dr Janis Cocking

Talk Synopsis

The science underpinning the analysis and visualisation of the sinking of HMAS Sydney: 

The sinking of HMAS Sydney II in November 1941 resulted in the loss of all 645 crew, who all died in the service of their country.  One third of all Australian sailors lost in WW II were lost in this single sinking.  More Australian servicemen were lost in this engagement than the Korean War, more than the Vietnam War and more than lost on the Kokoda trail.  The sinking of Sydney was Australia’s greatest maritime disaster yet there was no formal inquiry held into the circumstances surrounding the sinking and many conspiracy theories flourished.

In March 2008, the wrecks of Sydney and Kormoran were found by the SV Geosounder, under charter to the Finding Sydney Foundation, approximately 250 km off the coast of Western Australia.  Both ships were lying in approximately 2500 m of water.

The Chief of the Australian Defence Force established a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the circumstances surrounding the sinking of Sydney.

Over an 8 month period DST Group and RINA used modern analytical and computer modelling tools and basic forensic analysis to interpret the underwater video imagery and hundreds of still photographs to explain the circumstances that led to the encounter and the subsequent loss of life and the sinking of the two ships.  The analysis provided a scientific insight into the battle sequence, what it would have been like to be on board and why there were no survivors.  DST Group also produced a highly realistic visualisation of the battle in order to show the probable sequence of events and to visualise the scientific findings.  In essence, The HMAS Sydney II Team analysed the survivability of Sydney against the Kormoran.

This presentation presents the techniques used to analyse and assess the vulnerability of the ship, its structural integrity and stability, the damage control and the visualisation of the battle and post battle actions.


About Dr Janis Cocking

Dr Janis Cocking is Chief Science Strategy and Program Division with responsibility for DST Group’s future directions in science and technology, and for developing its program of support to the Groups and Services in Defence.

Dr Cocking has over thirty years’ experience leading, managing and undertaking science and technology, particularly in undersea technology, for which she is an acknowledged international expert.