Mobile survey team home from Antarctic mission

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Lauren Rago (author), ABHSO Roek Dyer (photographer)

Location(s): Casey Station, Antarctica

Topic(s): Hydrography, Meteorology and Oceanography

Antarctic Survey Vessel Wyatt Earp surveying Newcomb Bay. (photo: ABHSO Dyer)
Antarctic Survey Vessel Wyatt Earp surveying Newcomb Bay.

The Royal Australian Navy’s Deployable Geospatial Support Team returned this week from an important six week Antarctic mission to collect essential data for nautical navigational charts and scientific research.

The five-strong team sailed from Hobart with RSV Aurora Australis on 11 December 2013 to conduct their hydrographic survey in the vicinity of Casey Station, a permanent base in Antarctica managed by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). The Officer in Charge of the Team, Lieutenant Peter Waring, said the cold climate task was challenging and fascinating.

“We conducted the survey from onboard the Australian Hydrographic Service’s nine metre Antarctic Survey Vessel, Wyatt Earp, which was embarked onboard Aurora Australis for the mission.

“We deployed Wyatt Earp from the Aurora Australis seven times to collect data, measuring depth through sounding and  other general environmental observations.

“We gathered all of the information we hoped to, even more than we originally anticipated and it was really exciting because it is the first time we have used the Wyatt Earp in Antarctica since 2003-2004.

“She’s a survey launch built specifically for hydrographic survey duties in Antarctic waters and as such designed to maximise the safety of personnel and survey productivity in such an environment.”

The information collected from the Antarctic mission will be incorporated into charts which will provide mariners with the confidence to safely  navigate  in the region.

“The survey will help determine under-keel distances for vessels. It’s very rewarding to know our work will help others in such a way, essentially helping to open up a whole new part of the world,” said Lieutenant Waring.

The high quality data collected by the Navy team will also assist the AAD in conducting crucial  scientific marine research and monitoring of the environment around the Australian Antarctic stations. The AAD is a division of the Department of the Environment responsible for delivering the Australian Antarctic Program.

“The professionalism, support and dedication of the AAD is inspiring. We are all really impressed with their work and appreciate how welcome they made us onboard the Aurora Australis.

The Aussie Navy team were not the only passengers made to feel welcome onboard Aurora Australis. During the deployment, the DSGT were onboard when 52 passengers were rescued from the Russian-flagged MV Akademik Shokalskiy which was trapped in sea ice in the Commonwealth Bay region for more than a week early in the year.

“The rescue was exciting and added a whole new dynamic to the deployment. It was certainly complex operation that relied on good weather and a number of steps to achieve; it ended well for all,” said Lieutenant Waring.

Aurora Australis is an Australian icebreaker owned by P&O Maritime Services, regularly charted by the AAD for research cruises in Antarctic waters and to support Australian bases in Antarctica.

Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, said the Australian Hydrographic Service is a vital Australian Defence Force capability with a valuable national role.

“The countries that are party to the Antarctic Treaty have reiterated the importance of efforts to conduct surveys and improve charts in the region.

“Australia plays its part by completing surveys and through participation in the International Hydrographic Organisation’s Hydrographic Commission on Antarctica.

“This team’s successful survey is another example of our working Navy,” said Rear Admiral Barrett.

The Royal Australian Navy’s hydrographic ships, aircraft and people chart more than one eighth of the world’s surface stretching as far west as Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean, east to the Solomon Islands, and from the Equator to the Antarctic.

The Australian Hydrographic Service is also the Australian Defence Force agency responsible for the provision of operational surveying support and maritime Military Geographic Information for Australian Defence Force operations and exercises.

The members of the DGST team for the 2013-2014 Antarctic Survey are:

  • Lieutenant Peter Waring
  • Petty Officer Hydrographic Systems Manager Graham Campton
  • Petty Officer Marine Technician Michael Cameron
  • Leading Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator Cameron Rea
  • Able Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator Roek Dyer

Deployable Geospatial Support Team on Research Support Vessel Aurora Australis, from left, POHSM Graham Campton, ABHSO Roek Dyer, LEUT Peter Waring RAN, POMT Michael Cameron, LSHSO Cameron Rea.

Deployable Geospatial Support Team on Research Support Vessel Aurora Australis, from left, POHSM Graham Campton, ABHSO Roek Dyer, LEUT Peter Waring RAN, POMT Michael Cameron, LSHSO Cameron Rea.