26 September 2021: September is slipping away and the trees are starting to show signs of cooler weather. Still a few good weeks of being on the water and enjoying the benefits of a maritime life. Saw this piece (somewhat edited) and thought about how unusual it would be to see this in one of our local marinas. Courtesy of ABC Australia.
By the time Australia gets the first of its next fleet of submarines, J-7 will be 113 years old, and won't have sailed anywhere in a century.
J-7 may be a familiar sight to dozens of sailors who stride past her every day at Sandringham Yacht Club, but most Melburnians won't even know she's there.
Once one of the fastest submarines in the world, the only place she's going these days is deeper into the mud.
"She was quite remarkable," the Sandringham Yacht Club's historian Graeme Disney said.
"She had a range of 5,000 miles. That's extraordinary for First World War times."
So how did this once cutting-edge submarine built for the British Navy end up rusting away next to fancy yachts and speed boats in a marina in Melbourne? Because everything new eventually becomes obsolete, and then you have to either throw it away or find some other use for it.
In J-7's case, it was a bit of both.
The fastest thing under the water
In the early days of World War I, Britain heard rumours that the Germans were building a fleet of U-boats capable of speeds much greater than any British submarine.
The rumours turned out to be false, but the British built a new class of submarines anyway.
The J-class submarines were capable of speeds of up to 19 knots at the surface, making them the fastest submarine in the world at the time.
They didn't see a lot of action during the war, but did manage to sink a U-boat and damage a couple of warships.
One of the subs, J-6, was accidentally sunk by a British ship after the captain mistook the J on the vessel's conning tower for a U and assumed it was a German submarine.
At the end of the war, Britain gave the six remaining J-class submarines to Australia as a gift.
Australia hadn't had much luck with submarines to that point, losing the only two it had during World War I within a year of their construction.
If the Australian government thought they were getting a great deal, they must've been remarkably disappointed when the J-class fleet limped into Australian waters in July 1919.
After an expensive refit, the submarines were put into service, with four of them based at Osborne House in Geelong, and two in Sydney.
The six submarines lasted just a few years in the Royal Australian Navy, with big cuts to defence spending sealing their fate in 1922.
The subs were expensive to run and the general feeling in the government was that the country didn't really need them. The enemy was defeated, who were they protecting us from? Dolphins?
The Melbourne Salvage Company bought four of them, which were used for bombing practice outside Port Phillip Heads by Australian aircraft in 1926.
The pilots must've needed the practice as it was reported in The Argus that no direct hits were made, but no bomb landed "more than about 200 feet away".
The wrecks of those four submarines are popular dive sites. Another of the J-class submarines lies in about 6 metres of water at Swan Island, near Queenscliff.
In the mid-1920s, Sandringham Yacht Club had hoped to buy HMAS Cerberus, which had been the depot ship for the six J-class submarines, and sink it as a breakwater.
They missed out, but instead bought the J-7 which was sunk in
1930. [ed: as a breakwater]
Years later a stone breakwater was built, once again rendering the J-7 obsolete when all it was required to do was sit in the water and stop waves from crashing.
When the club's marina was built, it was considered too expensive to remove the sub and, anyhow, many of the members were quite attached to it.
""My guess is it will just be allowed to rust away."[But] It's our sub," Graeme Disney said.
Can you imagine having the slip next door to this? No matter how bad your boat looks, it will surely appear pristine next to J-7!
See you next time.