Divers detect dangers in the deep

This article has photo gallery Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer), Unknown (photographer)

Location(s): Honiara, Solomon Islands

Topic(s): Australian Clearance Diving Team ONE, Operation RENDER SAFE

Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers prepare to destroy explosive remnants of war during Operation Render Safe 2016 in the Solomon Islands. (photo: Unknown)
Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers prepare to destroy explosive remnants of war during Operation Render Safe 2016 in the Solomon Islands.

A team of Royal Australian Navy clearance divers have been working with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force on Guadalcanal during Operation RENDER SAFE 16 to enhance the underwater clearance capability of the Solomon team.
 
Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officer Lieutenant Robert Kelly, of Australian Clearance Diving Team One, based in Sydney, said the Australians were mentoring in a variety of techniques and technology in underwater explosive ordnance disposal.
 
“The team is worked using their side scan sonar array to find explosive ordnance off the coast of Guadalcanal near Hells Point,” he said.
 
“There were a significant amount of sonar contacts to dive on.”
 
The Solomon Islands was the scene of heavy fighting during the Second World War at sea, on land, and in the air. 
 
The Islands were also used as a support and ammunition base; as a result, explosives remain a significant danger to this day.
 
While using the sonar array the team scanned the position of the USS John Penn, which was sunk by enemy action on 13 August 1943 off Lunga Point in an area littered with possible explosive ordnance.
 
Lieutenant Kelly said there were thousands of explosive projectiles scattered in the areas of Hells Point and Alligator Creek. 
 
“There is everything from 75mm mortars through to eight-inch artillery rounds, some of which are white phosphorus, which is very difficult to dispose of,” he said.
 
“There have been 12 islanders killed by explosive remnants of war in the past decade either by finding it accidently or by trying to make fish bombs.”
 
In Guadalcanal explosives were either detonated on site or taken to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Hells Point facility to be destroyed or neutralised under supervision.
 
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force deals with around 10,000 explosive remnants of war every year.
 
Lieutenant Kelly said the local police constantly receive phone calls about explosives and people delivered items to their doorstep every week.
 
“Operation RENDER SAFE is an excellent opportunity for us to do good work with them for the Solomon Islands community.
 
“It’s also given us an opportunity to work closely and learn about new techniques with the New Zealanders, United Kingdom and Canadian personnel,” Lieutenant Kelly said.