Culture and heritage

Heritage of NSW

M24 midget submarine

The trial open day will provide a limited number of recreational divers with a permit to access the Protected Zone for a 1 day period.

Diver open day - Ballot announced

The trial M24 Midget Submarine diver open day ballot will provide a limited number of recreational divers with a permit to access the M24 Protected Zone for a 1 day period.

 

Following the discovery of the M24 submarine, the NSW and Australian governments jointly protected the site under the NSW Heritage Act 1977 and the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. The NSW Government continues to work collaboratively with the Australian Government to protect our important underwater cultural heritage through the national Historic Shipwrecks Program.

For the first time a ballot system will be used for fair and transparent allocation of permits to access the M24 Protected Zone. Permit conditions will include the following mandatory regulations:

  • divers are not allowed to physically touch the site (in any way)
  • no entering confined spaces of the hull
  • no interference with any relics
  • no interference with (potential) unexploded ordnance (UXO) within the wreck.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) will request copies of all photographs and videos taken during the dive to contribute to the ongoing management of the site.

By participating in the ballot process, individuals agree to take responsibility to comply with all terms and conditions outlined in the permit, including the organisation of suitable access to and from the dive site.

To register for the M24 Diver Open Day ballot please submit your application below.

The ballot will be open for 60 days and will close at 11:59pm on 28 August 2017. Late submissions will not be accepted. The ballot will be drawn on 13 September 2017.

The successful divers will be notified by the Office of Environment and Heritage. In the case of inclement weather or other operational issues, an alternative dive date will be scheduled and successful divers notified.

Ballot application

To be part of the ballot process, applicants must acknowledge and accept the below legal disclaimer. If the disclaimer is not accepted, applicants will be ineligible to apply for the ballot.

Disclaimer and Release

I accept and acknowledge that:

  1. I am the applicant for the ballot process to be the permit holder identified on Permit For Entry into a Protected Zone issued under Section 15 of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 ('the permit').
  2. I acknowledge that a risk of injury, death by injury, or death by drowning exists during all diving operations and associated activities. I understand that these risks also exist during travel to and from site which is located in open water approximately 3 nautical miles off shore or any other activities associated with diving within the M24 Protected Zone.
  3. I acknowledge that, in conducting the activities permitted in the permit, there are risks of injury, death by injury, loss or damage that exist while diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone, and that there are potential unknown risks of harm arising from the M24 Protected Zone that have not been identified in the Information Pack or Safety Briefing documentation that will be provided to those applicants who are successful in the ballot process.
  4. I am aware that the wreck of the M24 is at a depth of 55 metres and that diving at this depth requires specialist training. I acknowledge that significant injury or death may result if divers do not have adequate training or if improper equipment is used.
  5. I warrant that I will ensure that each person travelling on the vessel identified under Schedule 4 of the permit (including myself), whether or not they participate in diving activities within the M24 Protected Zone:
    1. is issued with and acknowledges in writing that they have read and understood and will comply with all responsibilities and restrictions set out in the Information Pack (including the Safety Briefing documentation) that will be provided to those applicants who are successful in the ballot process
    2. is made aware of and acknowledges in writing the risks associated with diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone listed in this Disclaimer and Release and the Information Pack and Safety Briefing documentation
    3. is appropriately qualified and trained to dive at a depth of 55 metres
    4. complies with the responsibilities and restrictions set out in the Information Pack including the Safety Briefing documentation
    5. complies with the Conditions specified under Schedule 3 of the permit.
  6. I acknowledge that no supervision will be provided by The Heritage Division, Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) in relation to travel to and from and diving within the M24 Protected Zone and warrant that I am solely responsible for supervising each person travelling on the vessel identified under Schedule 4 of the permit, whether or not they participate in diving activities within the M24 Protected Zone.
  7. I warrant that I will take out and maintain all insurances reasonably necessary for undertaking the activities permitted under the permit.
  8. I acknowledge that OEH makes no guarantees or assurances of the safety of persons in relation to weather-related conditions while diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone, or the general safety of persons entering or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone.
  9. I acknowledge that OEH, its affiliated organisations and employees (together the OEH parties) take no responsibility for the safety of divers at any time including while diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone and that the OEH parties are not liable for any actions, suits, proceedings, claims, causes of action, demands, costs, losses, expenses or damages incurred in connection with any act or omission involving fault by myself in connection with diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone.
  10. I release to the full extent permitted by law OEH, its affiliated organisations and employees (together the OEH parties) from all actions, suits, proceedings, claims, causes of action, demands, costs, losses, expenses or damages which may be brought against or made upon the OEH parties and all other liabilities of any nature whether or not the OEH parties would have been aware of them, in connection with, related to or arising from diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone, the granting of the permit or any act or omission involving fault by myself in connection with diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone.
  11. In consideration of OEH granting a permit allowing me to enter into M24 Protected Zone, I indemnify and will keep indemnified at all times OEH, its affiliated organisations and employees (together the OEH parties) against all actions, suits, proceedings, claims, causes of action, demands, costs, losses, expenses or damages under statute or otherwise, which may be brought against or made upon the OEH parties and all other liabilities of any nature whether or not the OEH parties would have been aware of them, in connection with, related to or arising from or in relation to injury, death or property damage arising from diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone, the granting of the permit or any act or omission involving fault by myself in connection with diving within or travelling to or from the M24 Protected Zone.

By submitting the below form, you and your dive buddy acknowledge you have both read, understood and agree to the above conditions.

Submit ballot

The below form should be used to register for the M24 Midget Submarine diver open day ballot. Permits will be issued for two sessions:

  • Morning session - 6 divers
    (8.30am - 12.30pm)
  • Afternoon session - 6 divers
    (12.30pm - 4.30pm)

All divers submitting a ballot application will be able to nominate their preferred diving partner who will also be given a permit. This means that for each session, OEH will draw three divers from the ballot and six divers will be issued permits (per session).

All individuals who successfully receive a permit through this ballot process, must take full responsibility to organise appropriate boat access to the wreck site, noting that only one boat (per session) will be allowed to enter the M24 Protected Zone.

Ballot opens: 3 July 2017
Ballot closes: 28 August 2017 (11:59pm)

The ballot will be drawn on 13 September 2017 by the Executive Director of the Heritage Division. OEH will notify the successful divers once the ballot has been drawn.



The information you, and your dive buddy provide in this form will only be used for the purpose for which it was collected. By submitting, you and your dive buddy consent to storage, use, and disclosure of your personal information in accordance with our privacy policy. You and your dive buddy can request access and amendment of your personal information.

By submitting this form, I give permission to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) of 59-61 Goulburn Street, Sydney NSW 2000, to collect, store and use the personal information I have provided as a part of my application to enter the ballot to be issued a Permit For Entry into a Protected Zone under Section 15 of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 (the permit). I understand that my personal information:

  • is provided voluntarily and will not be disclosed to third parties by OEH without my prior consent
  • will be used for the purposes of determining the successful applicants for the ballot to be issued the permit
  • will be treated confidentially in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) and OEH's privacy webpage.

Please contact OEH's Privacy Officer on 02 9995 6080 if you would like to access or amend any details of your personal information.

Diver at M24 Midget Submarine

M24 Midget Submarine. Images courtesy of Steve Trewavas

Diver at M24 Midget Submarine

M24 Midget Submarine. Images courtesy of Steve Trewavas

Further information on the historic site

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the raid on Sydney Harbour by 3 Japanese midget submarines on 31 May to 1 June 1942.

Two of the midget submarines were destroyed almost immediately and recovered from Sydney Harbour. The third submarine (the M24) launched its 2 torpedoes sinking the former ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 on board and injuring another 10.

After the attack, the M24 successfully disappeared without a trace becoming one of Australia's greatest maritime mysteries. It wasn't until 2006 when the final resting place of the M24 was discovered by group of weekend divers calling themselves 'No Frills Divers'. The intact submarine was found sitting upright on the sea floor approximately 3 nautical miles off Bungan Head, Newport in 54 meters of water.

To ensure this highly significant and fragile maritime heritage site was protected, the M24 was listed by the Australian Government as a protected Historic Shipwreck under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, and on the NSW State Heritage Register under the NSW Heritage Act 1977.

The Australian Government's approach to the M24 is built on a 'non-disturbance' management policy to retain the site's significance in situ. It is also acknowledged that this site is more that the physical remains of a submarine. The M24 is also a grave site for the remains of the 2 Japanese Navy crew that lie entombed in the wreck.

The Heritage Division of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (under delegation from the Commonwealth) was required to implement a moratorium on recreational diving, with a no-entry protected zone around the wreck to ensure its protection. These actions allowed non-disturbance archaeological surveys of the site to be conducted and conservation measures to be undertaken.

For over 10 years a wide variety of detailed archaeological surveys, research, and conservation has been undertaken. After extensive consultation with the Japanese Government, the Heritage Division in consultation with the Commonwealth Government, has determined that the site can now be opened to limited and controlled public access on a trial basis.

It's believed that carefully managed diver site visitation will further enhance the protection and management of the wreck site by gaining the support of recreational divers in appreciating the site values.

Background on the M24 Midget Submarine

For over 60 years one of the great Australian wartime and maritime mysteries was the whereabouts of the third and last Japanese midget submarine, which invaded Sydney Harbour on the evening of 31 May 1942. That night, the harbour was full of allied naval vessels and the midget submarines were on a mission to inflict maximum damage.

Two of the midget submarines were destroyed almost immediately and recovered from Sydney Harbour within a week, but the third could not be found.

This was the only submarine able to launch its torpedoes and with terrible effect, sinking the ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 men on board and injuring another 10.

There were many theories about what might have happened to the missing submarine and many so called 'discoveries'.

It was not until November 2006, that a group of weekend divers called 'No Frills Divers' located the still intact Japanese midget submarine M24 off Bungan Head, Newport (Sydney, Australia). The submarine was entangled in nets 54 metres below on the seabed.

Wreck of the midget submarine M24. Courtesy Heritage Branch/Royal Australian Navy.

Wreck of the midget submarine M24. Courtesy Heritage Branch/Royal Australian Navy.

Like all shipwrecks the M24 has a fascinating story to tell — of the events in Sydney Harbour on the night of 31 May and the early morning of 1 June 1942; the role of the Japanese midget submarines, and the Japanese submarine campaign along Australia’s eastern seaboard during World War II.

The Heritage Branch continues to manage the site and undertakes an ongoing program of archaeological surveys.

Welcome to this web exhibition and learn more about this fascinating part of our maritime history.

Page last updated: 29 June 2017