Navy prepares to make safe historic Tulagi Island battle sites

Published on LEUT Tony White (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Location(s): Tulagi Island, Solomon Islands

Topic(s): Operation RENDER SAFE, HMAS Labuan (II)

Locals watch as HMAS Labuan receives stores in Honiara, Solomon Islands during Operation RENDER SAFE 2013. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
Locals watch as HMAS Labuan receives stores in Honiara, Solomon Islands during Operation RENDER SAFE 2013.

HMAS Labuan, operating within an Australian led multi-national Task Force in Solomon Islands as part of Operation RENDER SAFE 13, has spent the past week working with local communities on Tulagi Island to identify the unexploded ordnance that is a legacy of Tulagi’s World War II role as a Japanese naval refuelling, communications, and seaplane reconnaissance base.

The Japanese Imperial Navy invaded Tulagi Island and established a base there in early 1942 and it was an important strategic element of their campaign against Allied forces in the Pacific.

On the 7 August 1942, the Allies attacked Tulagi Island as part of the Guadalcanal campaign. The Japanese base at Tulagi was completely overrun by US Marines supported by a US Navy carrier group.

The combination of clear water and many artefacts of war makes for good diving in the area but the scale of bombardment and artillery employed in that war means that the locals have been living with many potentially dangerous unexploded bombs ever since.

Operation RENDER SAFE specialists, operating from HMAS Labuan, worked with high technology remote sensing devices to map the items on the sea floor over the course of the week. As this work was taking place, other ships personnel were working with local communities to map out the unexploded ordnance on land.

Operations RENDER SAFE includes personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and Solomon Islands. The Operation commenced the main phase of its tasking on 8 November and concludes on 7 December 2013.

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20132060.