Action Stations

The Experience

Flight deck of USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea

Explore the danger and drama of Navy life in this hi-tech and immersive exhibition.

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  • About


    Action Stations is an exciting new way for you to experience the compelling history of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

    Explore the danger and drama of military life at sea through a hi-tech and immersive journey that shows the inner workings of the Navy like never before.

    This exhibition reinterprets and enlivens our much-loved ex-RAN vessels: HMAS Vampire (Daring class destroyer) HMAS Onslow (Oberon class submarine) and HMAS Advance (Attack class patrol boat).

    Immersive Cinematic Experience

    The immersive cinema in Action Stations

    A thrilling short film on a giant screen with exhilarating sound will transport you inside Vampire and Onslow during operations.

    Experience the force and vastness of the ocean, the speed and power of the destroyer and the submerged stealth of the submarine.

    Leave the cinema space excited to explore the actual vessels you have just seen depicted in dramatic action at sea.

    Discovery & Exploration Space

    Visitors in the discovery and exploration space in Action Stations

    Welcome to over 100 years of Navy vessels and Navy history.

    This space features a huge interactive table with large touchscreens, highlighting a range of global political contexts from WWI to the present day, and illustrating how the RAN responds to Australia’s needs in a constantly changing world.

    You can also learn more about the submarines AE2 and AE1, as well as maritime archaeology.

    The Vessels

    Submarine HMAS Onslow in front of the waterfront pavilion

    New projections, soundscapes, lighting and music will awaken you to the very real dangers faced by a naval crew.

    Oberon-class submarine HMAS Onslow (1969-1999)

    Commissioned during the Cold War, a tense time that called for a submarine to watch, listen and collect information without being detected. Decommissioned in 1999, just weeks before coming to the Museum. It’s most secretive work was tracking Soviet submarines moving into the Arabian Gulf from Vladivostok via the Coral Sea and the Great Australian Bight.

    Daring-class destroyer HMAS Vampire (1959-1986)

    Australia’s largest museum vessel is the last of the country’s big gun ships. After this, Australia’s fighting ships were equipped with missile weaponry.

    The Daring class were the largest destroyers built in Australia. Their strong, light construction combined high speed with maximum armament.


    Visitor experience lead: Michael Harvey
    Interpretation, curators, digital curators and curatorial assistants: Dr Nigel Erskine, Donna Carstens, Melinda Robertson, Michelle Linder, Dr Stephen Gapps, Dr James Hunter, Nicole Cama, Penny Edwell, Dr Mary-Elizabeth Andrews, David Payne, Kiern Hosty, Dr Lynda Kelly
    Interpretation and design: Alex Gaffikin, Jeff Fletcher, Dr Lynda Kelly, Stephen Hain, Peter Buckley, Stephen Crane, Kevin Bray, Adam Laerkesen, Tom Wilke, Gemma Nardone, Adrienne Kabos, Heidi Riederer


    Clash of the Carriers - From 6 May 2017

    Flight deck of USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea

    As part of the War and Peace in the Pacific 75 program the museum will launch a new documentary short film in the Action Stations cinema to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea fought by the US Navy and Royal Australian Navy against the Imperial Japanese Navy.

    Funded by the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund.

    360 degree virtual reality tour

    Captain John Dikkenberg on board submarine HMAS Onslow

    Join ex-submarine commander John Dikkenberg on a fascinating 360 degree virtual reality tour of submarine HMAS Onslow, moored outside the waterfront pavilion.

    This video takes you through three operational sections of Onslow and features demonstrations, animation and archival sequences which bring the submarine to life. 

    Watch the 360 degree video >> 

    Watch the trailer


    At the 2016 NSW Architecture Awards Action Stations, designed by studioplusthree, won an award in the Small Projects Architecture category. The Waterfront Pavilion, designed by francis-jones morehen thorp, received a commendation in the Public Architecture category.


    Winner – World Architecture Festival 2016  (Display - Completed Buildings category)
    Winner – NSW Master Builders Awards 2016 (Public Buildings + Best Use of Steel)
    Winner - National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) Excellence Awards (Commercial – Small Projects)
    Winner – Sydney Design Awards 2016 - Architecture - Public or Institutional - Constructed


    Winner – Museums and Galleries of NSW - Imagine Award 2016 for Exhibition Projects (museums with 11+ staff)
    Winner - 2016 Australia Institute of Architects NSW Architecture Awards - small project architecture category – for the fitout of the Action Stations multi-use space

    Winner - 2016 Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Award (MAPDA) - Action Stations website
    Winner Silver – 2016 International Design and Communications Awards (IDCA) Best Scenography for a Permanent Exhibition 
    Highly Commended – 2016 Museums and Galleries National Award (MAGNA) Permanent Exhibition or Gallery Fit Out 


    Ticket information

    Open daily, 9.30am–5pm

    Eventbrite - Big Ticket

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    Illustration of the new warships pavilion ground viewIllustration of the new warships pavilion night time viewPhotomontage of the new Warships Pavilion with Advance and Barangaroo in the backgroundArchitect's illustration of the Australian National Maritime Museum's wharves and Warships Pavilion
  • Digital Story

    Digital Story

    The mysterious disappearance of submarine AE1

    Last known image of the AE1 submarine at sea

    Discover the story of Australia's most enduring maritime mystery — the loss of the navy’s first submarine AE1 in 1914.


  • HMAS AE1 Memorial & Competition

    HMAS AE1 Memorial & Competition

    ‘...the ocean bed their tomb’ 

    Artwork by Warren Langley, 2015, Stainless steel, LED lighting, PVC piping.

    Located in the water between the display pontoon and North Wharf pontoon just outside Action Stations, this work of art commemorates the loss, in the early months of World War I, of Australia’s first submarine AE1 with its 35 Australian and British officers and crew.

    AE1 disappeared on 14 September 1914 with all hands 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 one hundred years later AE1’s loss and location remain a mystery.

    The work takes the form of a wreath floating above the water, casting its shadow on its surface to the rhythm of the water’s movement, day and night. It is about reflection.

    According to artist Warren Langley, “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.”

    ‘...the ocean bed their tomb’ is part of the ANMM collection and is supported by the Australian Government’s ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture Fund.

    100 years of ANZAC The spirit lives 2014-2015   Australian Government coat of arms Department of Communications and the Arts

    Jeff Flectcher, Kevin Sumption, Daina Fletcher, Emilia, Catherine

    National speech competition for year 9 students 

    In a recent national writing competition for schools, Year 9 students were tasked with writing about HMAS AE1, Australia’s first submarine, lost without a trace with all 35 crew on 14 September 1914. They were asked to think about the world in the context of 1914, the significance of the submarine’s loss and its relevance to the Anzac tradition.  

    The winners were Emelia Haskey, from St Dominic’s Priory College in South Australia, and Catherine McClymont, from Annandale Christian College in Queensland. As part of the prize, the winners and their families were flown to Sydney to present their speeches at the unveiling ceremony of ‘… the ocean bed their tomb’, an art installation by Warren Langley, on 14 September 2015 – exactly 101 years after the disappearance of AE1. This wreath-shaped form of stainless steel and light floats above the waters of the museum’s basin to commemorate the men who died, and who still lie in an unknown location off Papua New Guinea.

    Emilia and Catherine spoke about commemoration, loss, duty, fear, reflection and thanks. 


    Read the winning speeches by Emilia and Catherine.

    Catherine and Amilia giving their winning speeches at the Waterfront of the museum