25 October 2013

Voyages Extraordinaires

It's a dangerous business...going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to” ― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

Firstly, let me thank everyone who left messages of support here while I was away - your thoughts and well wishes were most appreciated.  I thought I might yield a few more details of where I've been in the last six months.

Having completed some rather intensive training over the first months of the year, we departed Sydney in April and steamed to the Middle East via Perth, Diego Garcia ( a beautiful little spot) and Kochi in India.  We then commenced our patrols as part of the Combined Maritime Force which comprises some 28 nations.  Our primary roles were piracy suppression and anti-terrorist related functions, and over the period in theatre they took us far and wide indeed.  We visited Fujairah in the UAE, and then ended up being tasked down off the Horn of Africa, through the Somali Basin where we ended up doing Search and Rescue on a disabled merchant ship with injured crew
Seahawk Helicopter winches injured crewmen off MV Perla - detail here
We then operated off the African coast and stopped at Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.  This was a pretty fascinating spot, having been the capital of German East Africa and the site of some serious fighting both on land and at sea during WW1.  In fact, we were there on the anniversary of the city being shelled by Australian Navy Cruisers which was interesting, and I managed to locate the grave of an Australian sailor from Australian cruiser Pioneer who died there in 1916.  (You can read more the RAN blockade of German east Africa here).
Ship's company of PIONEER in East African waters, 1915
From Tanzania we were back on the beat and stopped briefly in the Seychelles, which was a thoroughly beautiful spot, before battling the monsoonal conditions again.  We then did a range of patrols though the Gulf of Aden, the Straits of Bab el Mandeb and the Southern Red Sea with a brief stop in unforgettable Djibouti.  Having survived that experience, we transited the Straits of Hormuz to enter the Arabian Gulf.  We spent almost a month in there, stopping in Bahrain and Dubai, before returning to the Gulf of Aden.  After some patrolling both there and the Red Sea, we journeyed north to the city of Aqaba in the Kingdom of Jordan and what an amazing place that was.
The awesome city of Petra - made famous in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"
A number of posts to follow on that fantastic country but briefly the highlights included the ancient city of Petra, Al Karak Crusader Fortress, Wadi Rum (where a certain chap called Lawrence stirred up a spot of trouble with the locals), swimming in the Dead Sea and visiting Christ's baptism spot.  Just amazing.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Wadi Rum
Completing further patrols in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, we stopped again briefly at Fujairah before starting the trek home, fuelling at Diego Garcia and Perth en route to Sydney.
Boarding a typical Arabian dhow
Looking back at this synopsis, of course it doesn't do the deployment any justice whatsoever.  Severe seas in the Somali Basin coupled with Arabian Summer conditions made it brutally draining at times.  In the end we directly operated with military forces from over 19 countries, completed over 150 boarding of all types, some in very challenging and uncertain conditions, and two Search and Rescue missions.  Overall we steamed over 50,000 nautical miles.  It was an amazing experience to Command such a fine ship out on operations and represent our country.

PS Yes - everyone came home in one piece!


  1. Sounds like an interesting voyage. Hopefully everyone made it home in one piece.

  2. Hi Paul,

    Methinks this post is very much the tip of the iceberg (although I suspect you did not encounter many of them on your travels!) and so this makes for a tantalizing read. You were absolutely right about Wadi Rum and the picture is now featuring as my wallpaper of choice....;-) I would love to hear about this in more detail in due course.

    I think the important thing is to fully appreciate the work that the armed forces of the world carry out in their collective peace-keeping or police role in the context of how the efforts of such a dedicated few can make the lives of so many trouble and incident free. Such professionalism over an extended deployment and with the personal cost of separation from one's 'hearth and home' makes the efforts even more worthy of our respect.

    It represents a magnificent effort.

    Consider a cold one duly raised in grateful recognition!

    (and many thanks for the Wadi Rum shot!)

    All the best and I will 'ping' you over the weekend.


  3. Petra. How fricken awesome! An incredible journey but not all play (mostly work no doubt).

    That movie with some bloke called Tom Hanks in it seems to be a talking point at the moment. Good to see our Navy doing great work around this problem and not just in our region of the globe. I have an awareness of the lengths you go to with a step daughter in the Navy. (She is going to move to Canberra soon) and also a step bro in the NZ Navy.

    Looking forward to more great posts.

  4. Bravo mate, I wondered what you got up to :-)

  5. Amazing tales, adventure on the high seas and tourism to boot!
    And that's just your day job! Makes most look positively boring! ;-)

    Seriously, well done ..... and seeing Petra, priceless!

  6. An interesting life makes an interesting guy... great read and again, thank you for your service.

  7. Greate and interesting blog post! Thanks Paul!

  8. Great stuff Paul, the High Seas will be a safer place with you and your chums around.

    My wifes father was RN before, during and after WW2 and he told me a few stories of life at sea.

  9. Sounds amazing. Well done on your part.

  10. I can only imagine how tough it must be, to be away from home, family, friends, and how rough and dangerous some of those boardings and recon missions must be sometimes. No doubt about it.
    But Paul, those few paragraphs you wrote up there, sound exactly like what a good bunch of us consider the experience/adventure of a life time (let alone to be your "day job").

    Funny you quote Tolkien, because while reading your words (and letting imagination on a "go" mode), I got that same adrenaline kick you get when reading Tolkien stuff the first time.
    Glad you home safe, and please feel free to share more about your "sail-about"!

  11. wow, paul, had no idea you were on such a wide ranging sea voyage. glad you made it back. cheers, mate!

  12. Thank you all for the kind words and thoughts