First dive into history at midget submarine wreck

For the first time members of the public have had the chance to dive to the Japanese midget submarine M24 wreck off Sydney's northern beaches, NSW Minister for Heritage Gabrielle Upton announced.

M24 Midget submarine

The divers were permitted access after a public ballot to commemorate the events of 1942 when three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney harbour.

"Ten people had the rare opportunity to dive into an important part of Australia's history, and of Sydney's history," Ms Upton said.

"This was a unique chance to acknowledge the sacrifice on both sides of the conflict, and to visit an underwater site of international heritage significance in a respectful and sensitive way."

The M24 site is the only remaining midget submarine from the 1942 attack located in situ underwater. It remains the grave for two Japanese submariners.

Two groups successfully applied for permits through a public ballot to access the otherwise restricted site.

Richard Nicholls, one of the divers permitted to access the site, said conditions were fantastic for the dive and the group enjoyed amazing underwater visibility.

"One of the great joys of diving is being able to go back into the past and it was a terrific experience to see the submarine wreck teeming with fish – new life that's come from a tragedy," Mr Nicholls said.

The submarine, discovered in 2006 by a group of divers, is a protected Commonwealth Government Historic Shipwreck and is also listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

The site is actively managed by the NSW Heritage Division Office of Environment and Heritage through its Maritime Heritage Program. There are penalties of up to $1.1 million for disturbing the site.