HMAS Success 2004 – A year in perspective
- December 2004
- Kelly, WO Simon
- RAN operations, Ship histories and stories
- HMAS Success II
- Originally published in the Naval Historical Review edition (all rights reserved)
A summary of the deployments and achievements of HMAS Success in 2004
With 2004 rapidly coming to a close, the keener eyed observer may have noticed a regular absentee from Sydney’s Fleet Base East. When HMAS Success returns to Sydney in December from its current tasking with the US Seventh Fleet, the ship will have been deployed for almost nine months this year. After completing a major maintenance period in the latter half of 2003, Success was assigned the duty of the east coast operational response vessel and placed on orders of 14 days notice to move for Southern Ocean operations. New Years Eve fireworks were still in everyone’s memory when the decision to deploy Success to the Southern Ocean in support of HMAS Warramunga was made late on January 10. Recall was executed with only one intrepid individual absent (as he was hundreds of metres underground caving in Wellington, NSW).
The majority of cold weather stores that could be mustered were embarked and the ship sailed on the morning of January 13. A fast transit across the Bight ensued and the mettle of those on their first voyage was tested 300 miles south of the Leeuwin. Course was then shaped to the southwest at speed and the big AOR made a good run into the Roaring Forties in a purple patch of weather. The need for thermal underwear and submariners woollen jumpers soon became apparent and the canteen did unusually well for January in the trade of ship’s beanies. During the passage Success’ ship’s company trained hard in boarding party and steaming party skills to provide options for the Commander Task Group. Success was still several hundred miles to the north east of Heard Island when advice was received that Warramunga had successfully apprehended the illegal fishing vessel Maya V and that Success was to continue passage to the south west in the hunt for a second illegal fishing vessel. Success’ embarked flight expertly executed a difficult passenger transfer and stores VERTREP and course was shaped for the south east corner of the Heard Island McDonald Island (HIMI) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Ice in the forepeaks
Temperatures continued to decline, particularly south of the Antarctic Convergence Zone, with the sea temperature dropping to minus three degrees C. Cold fronts continued to pass with increasing frequency and ice began to form in the forepeaks below the waterline. Success was able to successfully recover a number of Maya V fishing buoys which contained vital electronic information that was able to be linked to Maya V and later sealed the prosecution case. It was during this period that Success was rewarded with the breathtaking sight of Heard Island in full as the fog cleared for a brief period late in an Antarctic day.
Mission completed, Success conducted one final sweep of the southern EEZ and then shaped course for Hobart via the great circle route. At 59 degrees 15 minutes South latitude the ship reverted to latitude sailing, when a large flow of icebergs was detected between 15-30 miles to the south. Regrettably homage to Neptune could not be paid on this occasion despite the many preparations. A change of orders for the port of Melbourne followed and course was shaped to the east north east which fortuitously afforded the viewing of several bergs of gradually diminishing size, as well as the opportunity for a few snow fights. There was some conjecture onboard whether Success had travelled further south than any commissioned RAN vessel including the 1947 voyages of HMAS Wyatt Earp and HMAS Labuan (ex LST 3501) – a detail perhaps for the historians. With fair winds and following seas Success took advantage of an improved ETA to Melbourne by conducting a short stopover in King Island to sample some of the famous fares of this island, including its cheese. After some 7,000 nautical miles steaming, Success berthed on Station Pier in Melbourne and enjoyed a well-earned shore break.
Exercise TASMANEX and New Zealand Deployment.
On sailing from Melbourne Success immediately joined the fray of Exercise TASMANEX which provided a great opportunity to regain a few skills, particularly in replenishment, that had not been exercised since October 2003 during Exercise CROCODILE. On completion, the ship returned for a short visit to its home port to re-store for the deployment to New Zealand, before sailing with HMAS Manoora and HMNZS Te Kaha. On crossing the Tasman Success proceeded independently to the port of Lyttleton. Amongst the normal activities conducted alongside in New Zealand, the Commanding Officer and Navigator attended the unveiling of the Frank Worsley Memorial in Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula. Frank Worsley was the Captain of the RSS Endurance during Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica and his many feats included the navigation of the Endurance’s lifeboat, the James Caird, across 800 miles of dangerous Antarctic seas to the island of South Georgia.
Departing Lyttleton with naval veterans and sea cadets embarked, Success proceeded to anchor in Cook Inlet in Queen Charlotte Sound, where the Commanding Officer visited the Captain James Cook Memorial, commemorating the use of the Sound during Cook’s voyages between 1770 and 1777. Success then proceeded to Wellington for an extremely successful visit. During the stay in Wellington members of the ship’s company conducted a bike ride to Auckland in support of the ship’s charity. Following the stay in Wellington a new group of sea cadets and naval veterans were embarked for the transit to Auckland, where Success berthed at HMNZS Philomel. Once again the friendship and comradeship extended by the RNZN and the local community to a visiting RAN ship was exceptional. The return trip home was compressed due to a tropical cyclone, and as a consequence of an engineering issue which regrettably shortened the programmed visits to both Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands. However, Success entertained a number of embarked guests from both islands while the opportunity was provided for a small number of ship’s company to land ashore by helicopter. Success returned home at the end of March and proceeded into a well-earned maintenance period.
The simple act of mentioning the name RIMPAC elicits memories of drinking mai- tais on the beach at Waikiki, and the land of the big PX; rest assured, these are still an important part of any visit to Hawaii. Success, in company with HMA Ships Newcastle and Parramatta sailed as the surface task group on Monday 07 June, bound for Hawaii via Fiji (Success & Newcastle) and Tonga (Parramatta). It was during the exercise phase of the deployment where the true value of a replenishment vessel like Success was demonstrated. In addition to the traditional fuel replenishments, Success also carried out the role of Task-Group Logistics Coordinator, where she also controlled and supplied a wide range of other stores, including fresh and frozen food, replacement stores and explosive ordnance. As with any deployment like this, it was essential that the proper marks of respect be paid to King Neptune during the transit of the Equator. With some one hundred pollywogs to be initiated (50 of the crew) the Royal Court and his trusty bears were kept busy (under the watchful eye of the Coxswain). With the theme of Hawaii-Five-Oh used as the wakey-wakey call, the Task Group berthed at Pearl Harbour on Friday 25 June. The ship’s company was treated to the arrival of USS John C. Stennis (CVN-67, nuclear aircraft carrier), which berthed on the opposite side of the wharf to Success.
With ten days alongside the ship’s company had plenty of opportunities to tour, shop and enjoy the hospitality which only the Americans can provide. Undoubtedly the highlight of the exercise was the dual replenishment with US Ships Tarawa and Rushmore. These behemoths easily dwarfed Success; the replenishment with Tarawa alone was performed over a three-hour period, with 950 cubic metres of fuel transferred.
Departing Pearl Harbour two days ahead of Newcastle and Parramatta, Success shaped course for the fabled port of Lahaina for a 36 hour visit before proceeding to Kealakekua Bay, on the west coast of the island of Hawaii, where the journeys of Captain James Cook RN came to an untimely end. As many of the ship’s company who could be spared made their way ashore in the ship’s boats. We found the monument, built in 1874 by the Royal Navy, to be in poor condition with paint peeling off, and lettering faded and vandalised.
Sailors set to with much enthusiasm and scraped off the loose paint with the limited tools they had managed to bring ashore. They then gave the obelisk and its lettering a fresh coat of paint. After some searching, the plaque which lies just off the shoreline marking the location where Cook fell was located. As the weather was hot and steamy, most took the opportunity for a swim over a coral reef populated by scores of brightly coloured fish. After three hours work, the monument was freshly painted and restored; there was a sense of pride in a job well done and for many a real sense of connection with an important part of our history. To bring the day to a fitting close, as Success sailed from this historic naval place, the ship’s chaplain conducted a burial at sea, scattering the ashes of five former RAN, RN, RNVR and Merchant Navy sailors.
Return to Sydney
Returning to Sydney on August 13 allowed Success to undertake a short period of vital maintenance and a limited period of respite given the loading, unloading and maintenance activities before deploying to South Asia on Monday 13 September (to operate under the tactical control of US Seventh Fleet Commander). This deployment once again proved to have its twists and turns, including a shortened visit to Darwin, and passage via Christmas Island in support of Australian sovereignty. Arriving in Singapore on 29 September after a fast passage there was little time for liberty as the ship fully fuelled and embarked stores for US cruisers, destroyers and frigates before sailing on 01 October. Over the coming weeks Success cut a swathe as far east as the southern Philippines and as far west as Sri Lanka. The busy Singapore and Malacca Straits were negotiated on many occasions as were the Straits of Johore enroute to and from our temporary base in Sembewang. The deployment once again demonstrated the versatility of Success as an AOR with the USN utilising the full cargo-carrying capability of the ship throughout.
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