Australian Navy’s oldest ship makes the grade in New Zealand

Together with warships from the United States, Canada, Japan and Singapore, Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Darwin was scheduled to participate in the country’s International Naval Review, in celebration of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th Anniversary.

HMAS Darwin, however, changed course and headed to Kaikoura to provide humanitarian and disaster relief support at the request of the New Zealand government.

Darwin is using her embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter for the evacuation of civilians and the distribution of emergency supplies.

Commanding officer, HMAS Darwin, Commander Phillip Henry said the ship and its 200 personnel will remain flexible to any tasks that may be required.

“We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to help our close friends and neighbours in their time of need,” he said.

Despite severe weather in the region, warships made their way to the north east of the South Island to provide relief to isolated residents and tourists.

Commander Henry, himself a native of Roxburgh, New Zealand said the last minute change in tasking demonstrated the flexibility of the warship and her crew.

“In the space of a few hours we’ve gone from preparing to celebrate a birthday to sailing in a multinational task group with a disaster relief mission,” he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Darwin conducted a fuel replenishment-at-sea with HMNZS Endeavour to achieve the journey in the fastest time.

“We conducted it in a sea state of four with 35 knots of wind,” Commander Henry said.

“It was right in the upper limits of our safety margin but getting the fuel and getting ahead of the weather was an imperative.”

Darwin arrived in the region on Wednesday morning, together with HMNZ Ships Te Kaha, Te Mana, Endeavour and Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Vancouver.

Commissioned in July, 1984, Darwin is the oldest ship in the Australian fleet and named after the northern city of Darwin.

She bears the symbol of the Phoenix and the motto ‘Resurgent’, in honour of the strength and resilience of the Darwin community in rebuilding after the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy.