Hydrographic ships on-task overseas

Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), LSIS Kayla Jackson (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Leeuwin (A245)

Navy Clearance Divers from HMAS Diamantina travel towards HMAS Leeuwin in a Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat while crossing the Bay of Bengal on the way to Sri Lanka. (photo: LSIS Kayla Jackson)
Navy Clearance Divers from HMAS Diamantina travel towards HMAS Leeuwin in a Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat while crossing the Bay of Bengal on the way to Sri Lanka.

When 19 year old Seaman Siobhan von Prott joined the Navy as a Hydrographic Systems Operator in 2018, she expected to spend much of her time at sea charting coastlines within Australian waters.

Instead she’s deployed to Sri Lanka in HMAS Leeuwin, a journey of roughly ten thousand nautical miles and the furthest she’s ever been from home.

Seaman von Prott, from Nowra in New South Wales said the deployment had taught her a great deal about what Navy’s Hydrographic Force can do. 

“It was good working on the bridge using the different single-beam and multi-beam systems we have onboard, watching them in real time, adjusting settings to get the best from the systems and also working on the quarterdeck deploying the towed side-scan SONAR,” Seaman von Prott said.

“I have a better understanding of my job as a whole and this deployment has given me an in-depth look at the capabilities of the systems onboard.” 

Leeuwin’s deployment to Sri Lanka has coincided with HMAS Melville’s deployment on Operation SOLOMON ISLANDS ELECTION ASSIST, while HMA Ships Mermaid and Paluma are conducting regional engagement activities in the vicinity of Manus Island.

The concurrent deployments mark the first time four Hydrographic Vessels have been deployed on-task overseas since the Second World War.

Commander Australian Hydro METOC Group, Commander Adam Muckalt said these activities represented a transition towards more military-focused operations; including freedom of manoeuvre exercises, anti-submarine warfare and strategic oceanographic data collection.

“Our Leeuwin and Paluma Class ships have spent most of their time in commission operating around the Australian coastline, contributing to the Australian Hydrographic Office’s national nautical charting programme,” Commander Muckalt said.

“But recently we’ve seen a move towards full-spectrum environmental data collection that improves both safety of navigation for charting and activities that support military operations.”

Commander Muckalt said thorough preparation was vital to achieving concurrent operations across Navy’s Hydrographic Force.

“The materiel support arrangements as the ships were deployed posed some challenges; however, the majority were overcome by early contingency planning,” he said.

“In addition to the deployment of Leeuwin, Melville, Paluma and Mermaid, we have supported additional operations in the Australian Antarctic Territories, with the deployment of a Mobile METOC Team, two Deployable Geospatial Support Teams and the Laser Airborne Depth Sounding (LADS) flight.”