The ship’s company of minehunter HMAS Huon packed a lot into their recent visit to Lord Howe Island, in the Tasman Sea.
Commanding Officer Huon Lieutenant Commander Jason Mullen said the 10-day deployment had been an invaluable training opportunity for the crew.
“Especially the mine warfare and clearance diving departments, achieving some great results in challenging surface conditions,” Lieutenant Commander Mullen said.
Huon was greeted by local legend and Navy Liaison Officer Clive Wilson who, at 84, is planning to retire later this year and pass the role on to his eldest son, Craig.
The crew’s primary mission was to work up the clearance diving team on board to a maximum depth of 60 meters. This highly technical dive is one of the most dangerous activities the divers participate in and is taken very seriously by all involved.
Over five days, the team, augmented by members of the Mine Warfare and Clearance Dive Group and HMAS Diamantina, conducted many dives allowing them to hone their individual skills, and work as a team at greater depths.
The work-up, which consisted of four dives to 20, 30, 42, and 60 meters, proved Huon’s capability of working to such depths. The capability that it provides to Navy was demonstrated in the United States MV22 Osprey recovery operation conducted by Australian Clearance Dive Team - One off the coast of Gladstone in August.
The team also conducted demolition serials and executed procedures for the location and disposal of a tethered buoyant mine. The crystal clear waters offered the perfect environment.
The majority of Huon’s time was spent tucked away in the lee of the 20-30 knot south-westerly trade winds. The ship’s company also took the opportunity to engage with the local community.
Six personnel visited the Lord Howe Island Central School, where they engaged with the 30 primary school students, aged between five and 12, along with the island’s five high school students undertaking their Higher School Certificate by correspondence.
Crew members spoke about life in the Navy and the career options it offers, and gave a presentation about Huon’s capabilities.
They were bombarded with questions from their enthusiastic audience members.
Huon also flexed her sporting muscles, fielding a team of touch rugby players against the local community in a friendly, but very competitive game.
The opportunity to interact with the community provided a welcome break and a great opportunity considering the tiny island, about 600 kilometres off the coast of Port Macquarie, New South Wales, has a small population and allows only 400 visitors at any one time.