Beach survey paves way for relief effort

ADF hydrographic and amphibious beach survey teams are finalising work to enable humanitarian assistance to begin on Pangaimotu Island in Tonga.

CAPTION: RAN sailors from a deployable geospatial support team begin surveying the beach on Pangaimotu Island, Tonga, as part of Operation Tonga Assist 2022. Left to right: Able Seaman Jesse O’Sullivan, Leading Seaman Robert Johnson, Petty Officer Eric Duthie and Able Seaman Shannae Fiddyment. Story by Captain Zoe Griffyn. Photo by Petty Officer Jake Badior.

HMAS Adelaide‘s deployable geospatial support team and the amphibious beach team have conducted terrestrial reconnaissance on the island and its approaches so Operation Tonga Assist 2022 teams can begin clean-up efforts following last month’s volcanic eruption and tsunami.

“The sea floor gradient around Pangaimotu is unusually steep, which allows HMAS Adelaide‘s landing craft to drive directly up to the shore and lower the door,” Navy hydrographer Lieutenant Thomas Leonards said.

“The whole ship is excited about this opportunity because it means personnel and equipment can land directly onto the island, which significantly reduces transfer times from HMAS Adelaide.”

The deployable geospatial support team is developing a complete picture of the island using terrestrial and previously collected sea floor data.

“The combined information will build a 3D model of what the island and surrounding sea floor topography looks like and what approaches are feasible for landing craft,” Lieutenant Leonards said.

“The terrestrial data will give situational awareness for staging areas, beach exits, and locations for personnel and equipment placement.”

At the same time, the amphibious beach team assessed the surface routes to ensure they could safely lodge on the beach to offload personnel and equipment.

CAPTION: One of HMAS Adelaide’s landing craft beaches itself on Pangaimotu Island in Tonga. Photo by Petty Officer Jake Badior.

Army officer Lieutenant Amber Conroy was ashore on Pangaimotu to prove the route for the landing craft.

“We assessed where the amphibious beach team would set up, what the beach landing site will look like and where the handover to the engineers will take place,” Lieutenant Conroy said.

“Most islands in the Pacific are surrounded by reefs and only accessible by smaller boats.

“By lodging the landing craft on Pangaimotu, we can offload vehicles onto the island, which enables engineers to have a greater effect.”

Lieutenant Conroy said she enjoys working in the amphibious environment.

“Deploying on a ship as part of an independent team that facilitates ship-to-shore movement is extremely rewarding,” Lieutenant Conroy said.

“I am proud to be part of the recovery efforts helping the people of Tonga.”

The ADF is deployed on Operation Tonga Assist 2022 as part of the Australian Government’s support to the Tongan Government following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano.





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