- Hanlon, Michael, Lt. Commander, RAN
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Moresby I, HMAS Moresby II, HMAS Melville, HMAS Leewin
- March 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The first page of the last chapter has just turned over as 1997 will be the final year for HMAS MORESBY (II).
She is due to pay off in November after 33 years of dedicated service. She was built in 1964 at the State Dockyard Newcastle as the first Australian purpose-built survey ship. The quality of her design and build have been proven in the long life and effective service she has given over the years. The milestone of steaming one million miles was reached in October 1992 and since then the ship has steamed a further 120,000 miles.
MORESBY has been based in WA since 1974. However as most of the WA survey work has been completed she is often deployed further afield. During 1996 she circumnavigated Australia – only the fifth time the ship has done so in her 33 years. A visit to Sydney during this deployment was only the third time the ship had been in Sydney since leaving in 1974 (the visits were the Navy 75th Anniversary in 1986, once in 1995 and last year).
HMAS MORESBY I was originally a converted British O-class anti submarine escort (HMS Scipio) built in 1917. She was commissioned into the RAN in 1925 after being converted for hydrographic surveying after WW1. She was still serving at the start of WWII. As well as survey work in PNG, Torres Strait and the Barrier Reef, she spent twenty months working as an ASW escort again, before returning to survey work in PNG waters. Of particular note are the surveys she conducted under the guns of the Japanese in Milne Bay on the north-eastern coast of PNG. Another highlight was the signing of the Japanese surrender of Timor onboard MORESBY at the end of World War II. MORESBY I was finally paid off in 1946.
The current MORESBY (and FLINDERS) will be replaced by two new Hydrographic ships being built by NOEA in Cairns. The first ship LEEUWIN will be delivered in mid 1998 followed by MELVILLE a year later. They will be the same size as MORESBY but with a crew of only 45 – a significant reduction from MORESBY’s 130. The reduction is mainly due to the use of modern technology and automated systems, as well as the transfer to shore facilities of some maintenance responsibilities.
During her final chapter in 1997 MORESBY will be surveying off the North West Cape, a deep draught route in Investigator Strait in the approaches to Adelaide, and some work in Bass Strait. In the final deployment in the second half of 1997, MORESBY will return to northern waters to continue the major survey effort in the waters north-west of Darwin. She will return to her home port at HMAS STIRLING in October to prepare for decommissioning in November.