From the vineyard to the sea

This article has photo gallery Published on SBLT Zachary Johnson (author), LEUT Jannah Wright (photographer), LEUT Danny Finn (photographer)

Location(s): Oro Province

Topic(s): Australian Hydrographic Service, HMAS Benalla (A04), Anzac Day, 75th Anniversary

HMAS Benalla ANZAC Day 2017 Dawn Service in Madang, PNG. (photo: LEUT Jannah Wright)
HMAS Benalla ANZAC Day 2017 Dawn Service in Madang, PNG.

Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator Thomas Beddome grew up in rural Eudunda, on the outskirts of the Barossa Valley approximately 100 kilometres northeast of Adelaide, an area renowned for producing fine wine, golden crops and livestock, never envisaging he would end up living on a ship. 

Despite living far inland from the ocean, Seaman Beddome enlisted into the Hydrographic Service with ambitions of travelling the world and remote parts of Australia, seeking adventure and the chance to experience new cultures abroad as well as exploring the un-charted in hopes of making the sea a safer place for all mariners.  

As part of his role Seaman Beddome has been taking part in surveying the poorly charted waters around Cape Nelson, Papua New Guinea, aboard HMAS Benalla in company with sister-ship HMAS Shepparton; the aim being to open a shipping channel allowing the safe passage of ships with draughts up to 10 metres. 

Benalla anchored in Porlock Harbour, an isolated and remote part of the Oro Province on the north-east coast of mainland Papua New Guinea to engage with the local community and  take a break from survey operations to celebrate Easter. 

On arrival there was more than just a small Australian connection with Royal Australian Naval College trained Midshipman Leroy Wama, Papua New Guinea Defence Force Liaison Officer, on hand to help translate and welcome the crew. 

The interactions between locals were very friendly and with the assistance of Midshipman Wama, to overcome the language barrier, the locals were keen to tell stories passed down from generations, of the Second World War where allied ships would take refuge in the steep foothills of the harbour.  

Seaman Beddome and Midshipman Wama developed a strong friendship during the trip, whilst serving different nations they both shared a similar outlook. 

Seaman Beddome said that Midshipma Wama assisted the whole crew in understanding Papua New Guinea culture.  

“Locals still fish the coast in hand-made canoes and trade their produce with nearby villages the traditional way needing little outside help,” Seaman Beddome said.

“It was a real pleasure to be able to experience a little of the traditions of the region we had come to support.” 

An Anzac Day dawn service in Madang was a highlight for Benalla crew members acknowledging servicemen and family members who had fought during the World Wars. 

“The public greeted us with open arms with many photos taken and warm conversations shared,” Seaman Beddome said.  

The local population was in high spirits even though remnants of Second World War such as tanks, ships, artillery and aircraft remain some 75 years on. 

Benalla and Shepparton will continue surveying until the end of May.