Clearance Divers feel weight of mission

This article has photo gallery Published on CAPT Anna-Lise Rosendahl (author), SGT Ricky Fuller (photographer)

Location(s): Honiara

Topic(s): HMAS Huon (M82), Australian Clearance Diving Team ONE, Operation RENDER SAFE

Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers collect explosive remnants of war from the shallow waters at Hells Point during Operation Render Safe 2016 in the Solomon Islands.  (photo: SGT Ricky Fuller)
Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers collect explosive remnants of war from the shallow waters at Hells Point during Operation Render Safe 2016 in the Solomon Islands.

Sydney-based Royal Australian Navy clearance divers hauled in over 3.5 tonnes of Second World War munitions from the water off Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in a single morning during Operation RENDER SAFE.
 
Australian Clearance Diving Team One found 82 United States 155mm high explosive projectiles covered in barnacles.
 
Petty Officer Clearance Diver John Armfield said the explosive remnants of war were found close to a village.
 
“It’s a massive find, noting it was only 40 metres off the shoreline, only in two to three metres of water and the locals are in that area all the time,” he said.
 
The Australian team worked with members from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to bring the explosive remnants of war to shore one by one.
 
The ordnance was taken to a police explosive ordnance disposal facility.
 
Petty Officer Armfield said removing munitions will make the area safer.
 
The Australian dive team also worked on land to clear unexploded munitions.
 
“Our first day out we were in the jungle working with the local police force in the villages and we were able to collect 471 pieces of unexploded ordnance in one day,” Petty Officer Armfield said.
 
“The scary thing about it is, as we went through the villages collecting the items, kids were running up with grenades, mortars and asking us if we wanted more.
 
“The villagers know where it is, the children know where it is and that’s probably the most dangerous thing.”
 
He said being involved was a rewarding experience.
 
“When you’ve got a child bringing you a grenade, you know why you’re here.”
 
Over 180 personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom were involved in the 2016 operation which ran from 12 September – 7 October.