Sydney Royal Australian Navy mine hunter vessels destroy WWII bombs in Solomon Islands
4 October 2016
Her Majesty's Australian Ships (HMAS) Diamantina and Huon have spent two weeks finding and destroying unexploded World War II munitions in the waters around the Solomon Islands during Operation Render Safe.
The Sydney-based mine hunter vessels found over eight tonnes of projectiles and bombs during their searches around the Russell Islands, Florida Group and Honiara.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Diamantina, Lieutenant Commander Mark Northcote said the seas contain a variety of explosive remnants of war.
"We've had reports of torpedoes which unfortunately are too deep for us to find, but anything from air dropped weapons to projectiles from the ships and guns that were here in the Second World War," he said.
Clearance Diver Able Seaman Luke Woodcroft was in the Solomon Islands three years ago for Operation Render Safe and said the numbers are improving.
"I've seen some bombs, projectiles, mortars, various types of rounds. There's definitely quite a bit still remaining, however there's not as much as last time I was here in 2013, so we're definitely making an impact," he said.
The ships' crew use information gathered from the local community and search the seabed for ordnance using both technology and manpower.
"We go and search areas utilising our sonars, our vehicles and our divers and if we find something, we have the explosives and equipment on board to explosively detonate anything we find on the seabed," Lieutenant Commander Northcote said.
Explosive remnants of war remain a real danger to local communities in the South Pacific with numerous casualties every year.
"Historically there are a lot of people from the Solomon Islands that have been injured who have been trying to use these explosives for fishing or ornamental purposes, so we're just trying to make the area safer for the locals," Lieutenant Commander Northcote said.
Along with HMA Ships Diamantina and Huon, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is contributing explosive ordnance disposal specialists from the Navy and Air Force.
Over 180 personnel are involved in the ADF-led operation including teams from New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The operation runs from 12 September – 7 October 2016.