Outside of the Grand Fleet there was the East Asia Squadron under Admiral von Spee with the cruisers Scharnhorst, and Gneisnau forming the core and the light cruisers Leipzig and Nürnberg. The light cruiser Emden was based in the home port, the Chinese concession of Tsingtao for defence. Smaller groups included the Schutztruppe in East Africa based at Dar Es Salaam (which consisted of the light cruiser Konigsberg) and the Australian station, based at Apia, tasked with patrols of the German islands of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Marianas, Marshal Is., Naura, Palau and Papau New Guinea. The vessels attached to the station were the survey vessel Planet and the Bussard class cruiser Cormoran.
Cormoran (Cormorant) was laid down in 1890 at Danzig with final completion on 25th July 1893.
Meanwhile her sister ship Geier (Vulture) was dispatched to replace her on the Australian station. The Geier had previously replaced another Bussard class cruiser, See-Adler, in East Africa and sailed from Taganyika for Tsingtao and stopped at Singapore to recoal and resupply. Hearing rumours of war about to break in Europe and aware of being in a British port the cruiser and her collier Bochum fled the Royal Navy and headed out to sea on the 29th July. Royal Navy intelligence passed to Admiral Jerream of the Chinese station stated that the Gneisnau instead of Geier had fled Singapore which shows how unreliable the observations and intelligence could be.
The Geier and Bochum managed to avoid the Royal Navy virtually disappearing and becoming a virtual threat that could have been a threat to merchant vessels and troop transports making the journey without escorts. She, like Emden and Spee's squadron were ghosts that were everywhere and nowhere. However Geier received orders from the admiralty to find the other vessel from the Australian squadron, the SMS Planet which was heading to Yap island to defend the important German Radio and supply base in the Caroline Islands. Once found she was to transfer her guns and torpedo tubes to the already lightly armed (3 revolver cannons) Planet and defend the island from any attack as best they could, failing that release the Planet for commerce raiding.
Geier was supposed to meet with the supply ship Tannenfels (which had also fled Singapore on the 2nd August) loaded with 8500 tonnes of coal aboard that had been bought in Batavia but the collier never appeared at the rendezvous. Luckily for the Geier they did come across the Emshorn which transferred 1300 tonnes to the German cruiser and 1700 tonnes to Bochum before departing to try and make contact with von Spee’s ships but with the British capturing and destroying German radio stations and Spee operating under W/T silence the chances of finding them was very low, especially as Spee was heading due East at a faster speed than the old Geier could muster. The only other major German warship in Asian waters did make contact and after a missed meeting at Anguar on the 20th August, Geier met with Emden and her collier Markommania at sea where the Geier’s Korvettenkapitän Grasshoff was ferried over to speak to Kapitan von Müller. No doubt they discussed the situation at length. It was decided that Geier would proceed to Anguar and not accompany Emden, possibly because she would slow down the bigger cruiser and be a liability if they were engaged by any Naval units. Geier taking on the mantle of a loan raider made things harder for the Royal Navy. With two separate units attacking targets in different areas it would cause confusion and chaos. If one were captured or sunk then the other would still be at sea. It was probably at this juncture that the decision to not get to the Planet was formalised and the junction at Yap Island written off, Geier would not make it before the Allies arrived and if they did they would surely be outnumbered, outclassed and out gunned by any Allied invasion force. Staying at sea was the only viable option.
As Emden made for the Molucca strait Geier turned for Anguar with Bochum. On arrival the empty supply ship was replaced with the supply ship Locksun (carrying 2000 tonnes of coal) and the Tsingtao (carrying 2300 tonnes of coal.) Locksun was ordered ahead to the Majuro atoll in the Marshall Islands whilst Tsingtao accompanied Grasshoff to New Hannover but Tsingtao was far from perfect as a supply ship, the coal it carried was Japanese and of a poor quality, it also had limited supplies and even lacked a water distillery for fresh water so had to use the Geier’s water distillery which meant regular stops to transfer water.
On the 4th September at the island of Kusaie Geier surprised and captured the British freighter SS
With the amount of neutral shipping, including Japanese and German, operating in Hawaiian waters it would have been exceptionally disruptive should Geier take to sea and Grasshoff must have known that his vessel would have been doomed against the two heavier Japanese units and so it was decided to plead for asylum and internment at Honolulu, an action that satisfied all three parties and on 8th November it became official and the two Japanese vessels left for San Clemente.
Three years later Geier was seized by American forces when the US joined the Allied cause against Germany. Her crew was taken into POW camps and the vessel renamed USS Schurz and refitted for escort duties. After various duties she was eventually sunk in a collision with a merchant vessel (SS Florida) which cut a sizable chunk out of her bow killing one crewman and injuring twelve. The order to abandon ship was given and on 21st June 1918 she sank beneath the waves.
The other vessel in the station, the aforementioned survey vessel SMS Planet was scuttled on 7th October 1914 at Yap island to stop her capture by the approaching Japanese expeditionary force and her crew were transferred to the SMH Cormoran II, her wreck was later salvaged by Japan in 1916. With nothing more than three 3.7 cm revolver cannons she stood little chance of defending herself or the colony nor much chance of escape. Grasshoff's decision to not go to Yap was a wise one as his vessel would not have made any difference and both vessels would have been lost that day. He, like Spee took the gamble that should (when) Germany win the war, their colonies would be returned to them.
The German Australian squadron was not a war winning squadron, thousands of miles from the High seas fleet with obsolete vessels unsuited to war with the other Imperial powers and with only a limited ability against merchant shipping as their supply bases were quickly over run. The only hope for them would be to join up with Spee's East Asian squadron but they would be a hinderance to his larger vessels as traversed the ocean for Germany and would have been destroyed quickly in any major engagement. Their fate was sealed the day Britain and Japan entered the war and it was only a matter of time before they were forced to scuttle or be interned.