Following a mermaid's tale

This article has photo gallery Published on MIDN Brooke Turner (author and photographer)

Location(s): Cairns, Queensland, Brunswick Bay, Western Australia

Topic(s): HMAS Leeuwin (A245)

A view of the sunset over Brunswick Bay from the boat camp
 (photo: MIDN Brooke Turner)
A view of the sunset over Brunswick Bay from the boat camp

An innovative team from Navy’s Hydrographic Survey Red Crew have charted remote coasts off north Western Australia for the first time in almost 200 years.
 
The team, embarked in HMAS Leeuwin sailed from Cairns in early September and were tasked with charting a 50 nautical mile area, including Brunswick Bay and Prince Regent River.
 
Renowned colonial hydrographer Captain Philip Parker King was the last person to chart the area in 1820 on board the 17–metre cutter, HMS Mermaid.
 
Lieutenant Victor Korling said the existing early 19th century chart was a useful starting point for the crew.
 
“We took the charts created by Captain King in 1820 and used his data to navigate the intricate channels of Brunswick Bay, allowing us to create and update more detailed charts using modern technology,” he said.
 
Leeuwin’s
 size meant the ship could not navigate shallow parts of the coast, however the team employed the ship’s three nine-metre survey motor boats to extend their survey capability and operate from a large-scale camp ashore.
 
“Our survey teams set out on the boats each morning before sunrise, while the tide was high, and worked for 12 hours while camp minders collected firewood and prepared dinner for their shipmates,” Lieutenant Kortling said.
 
“Boat crews would return to camp and spend the evening relaxing around the camp fire and enjoying dinner in a majestic location."
 
“The detached camp concept has proven to be a great success in eliminating hours of transit time to and from Leeuwin each day and increasing our overall productivity.”
 
The charts created by the Navy team will provide other ships with closer access to the coastline and also support maritime security operations.
 
HMAS Leeuwin is one of two Leeuwin class hydrographic survey ships based in Cairns and collects data to make the passage of vessels safer.