In the historical wake

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Alexandra Abley (author), LCDR Adam Muckalt (photographer), POPH Kev Bristow (photographer)

Location(s): Townsville, Queensland

Lieutenant Thomas Rue and Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator Alyce Houley onboard HMAS Melville while out at sea. (photo: LCDR Adam Muckalt)
Lieutenant Thomas Rue and Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator Alyce Houley onboard HMAS Melville while out at sea.

“This day prov’d as favourable to our purpose as we could wish, not a cloud was to be seen the whole day and the air was perfectly clear.”

Captain Cook’s journal rings as true today as it did on 6 June 1770, exactly 245 years ago, when His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour was conducting survey operations in the very waters where Royal Australian Navy hydrographic ship HMAS­ Melville is currently operating.

Melville has been conducting military data gathering operations to the north of Magnetic Island in the approaches to Townsville, Queensland, over the past six weeks. These bathymetric and environmental surveys aim to improve the general quality and accuracy of charting in the area – particularly important noting the increased use of the area by the deep-draught Canberra class Landing Helicopter Docks and HMAS Choules in support of amphibious training and operations. The survey also provide an opportunity to reconstitute the survey capability of the Leeuwin class hydrographic ship crews, having spent a significant period recently involved with Operation RESOLUTE undertaking border protection duties. 

There is evidence to suggest that the aboriginal inhabitants of the area were also seagoing people, regularly plying the waters between modern-day Townsville and the off-lying islands such as Magnetic and Great Palm and all the history is not lost on those sailing the waters in 2015.

"It is interesting to think that people have been in these very waters for thousands of years, and now we are here surveying these waters as Captain Cook did all those years ago," Seaman Boatswains Mate Sara Bell.

 While the equipment being used today is significantly different to that used by the crew of the Endeavour in 1770, the methods and purpose are largely the same said Commanding Officer HMAS Melville Lieutenant Commander Adam Muckalt.

"The exploratory voyages of our forebears paved the way for European settlement of Australia, and the work Melville is doing today is paving the way for the future of Navy and Australian Defence Force capability," he said. 
HMAS Melville was at Magnetic Island 245 years to the day after Cook wrote his diary entry.