Coonawarra withstands Cyclone Marcus

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Coonawarra, NT

Topic(s): HMAS Coonawarra

Members of Fleet Support Unit remove fallen trees and branches from roads around HMAS Coonawarra after Tropical Cyclone Marcus. (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
Members of Fleet Support Unit remove fallen trees and branches from roads around HMAS Coonawarra after Tropical Cyclone Marcus.

HMAS Coonawarra's support to Australia's border integrity operations has continued despite the worst cyclone to hit Darwin in 30 years.

Cyclone Marcus struck the city at midday on Saturday 17th March and left 26,000 homes without electricity, 400 power lines down and hundreds of large trees toppled across major roads.

Coonawarra suffered some damage, including water ingress to several buildings and trees over roads, which restricted movement around the Navy base. 

Despite all those challenges, normal base activity was quickly restored by crews of tri-service personnel and base support staff sent out after the cyclone to clean up as soon as it was safe.

Patrol boats and HMAS Shepparton, sent to sea a day earlier to avoid the cyclone, were also back alongside Coonawarra less than 24 hours later.

Commanding Officer Coonawarra, Commander Viktor Pilicic, said the base's ability to withstand the category two cyclone and continue its support to operations was due to a strong preparation plan and the professionalism of Defence and support personnel involved in the clean-up. 

"Many of those involved in securing the base before the cyclone and restoring it to normal activity also had their own homes and families to think of," Commander Pilicic said. 

"Their service and sacrifice, and that of their families, is inspiring. They are the people you want around when the going gets tough. 

"But that is what we do here at Coonawarra - we get the job done."

Coonawarra celebrated 48 years since commissioning a day before the cyclone struck.

The base's mission is to provide logistic and administrative support to the 12 patrol boats and crews based in Darwin and to visiting naval vessels that keep Australia's maritime domain safe.

Darwin is a vitally important Navy port - a gateway to our northern neighbours and the centre from which Australia conducts its border integrity operations, which fall under Operation RESOLUTE.

Currently, almost 600 Navy men and women are based in the Darwin area, most of whom work at Coonawarra.