Desert visitor: Newcastle identifies stowaway

Published on LEUT Kate Moncrief (author), POEW Ben White (photographer)

Location(s): Aqaba, Jordan

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06)

HMAS Newcastle's new crew member Seaman Hoot.

 (photo: POEW Ben White)
HMAS Newcastle's new crew member Seaman Hoot.

Personnel onboard HMAS Newcastle were surprised to find an unexpected sea rider onboard after their recent port visit to Aqaba, Jordan. While patrolling the Red Sea, a small brown owl had taken residence in the starboard hanger and proved to be quite a hit with Newcastle ship’s company.

One of the crew, who was exercising in the hanger at the time, noticed what they thought was an owl statue. Then, to their surprise, it rotated its head and blinked.

Leading Seaman Combat Systems Operator (LSCSO) Tim Parkinson said the guest had given him a bit of shock during one of his physical training sessions.

“While exercising on the forecastle, I put my towel and drink bottle down and when I finished, I picked up my towel to find the owl was hiding under it.

“I guess it was dark underneath.”

The owl had taken an overwatch position near the accommodation module or the ‘Caravan of Courage’, as it is fondly referred to by its occupants.

The occupants of the module thought Command had gone too far to convince them of the luxury of their caravan living arrangements by installing a real hooting owl to lull them to sleep of an evening.

It turns out, it was not a matter of improving the ambiance of the ‘Caravan of Courage’, it was just that the owl had liked the look of Newcastle’s cheerful ship’s company and decided to come along for a ride.

The owl, now known by a number of names including ‘Mo’ and ‘Hoot’, has now taken it upon himself to conduct a ship’s tour and was last seen sitting on the forecastle, where he seems to be inspecting the vertical launch system.

Newcastle’s Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Luke Miller, is an avid bird watcher and photographer, so was thrilled to have the opportunity to indulge in his hobby of bird watching and nature photography so far out at sea.

“As soon as I heard we had such an interesting visitor I grabbed my camera and rushed to the hanger to capture the rare sight,” the ship’s twitcher said.

“I did some quick research and it seems the little brown owl may be a Desert Eagle Owl or Pharaoh Owl, which originates from Egypt.”

Lieutenant Timothy Craig, one of Newcastle’s Maritime Aviation Observers or ‘birdies’ was disappointed that he did not get the chance to improve inter-maritime aviation liaison with the Middle Eastern visitor.

“I heard people talking about the owl but when I went over to the starboard hanger it had gone, I was pretty disappointed,” he said.

As the ship closed the Arabian coast, the owl was seen to ascend into the heavens and has hopefully found a new home.

HMAS Newcastle continues patrolling the Middle Eastern Area of Operation as part of Operation SLIPPER and will hand over to HMAS Melbourne in the coming weeks.