Friday, June 09, 2006

 

The Iron Lady "HMAS Diamantina 1" has made her final voyage.

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Defence.gov.au
By Graham Davis
June 09, 2006



HOME AT LAST: HMAS Diamantina 1
is back in dry dock after repairs were
carried out to her home at the
Queensland Maritime Museum.


To help her along, she sailed with one of her last commanding officers and 11 serving RAN sailors.

Her voyage was only a few hundred metres but attracted the attention of several hundred maritime “buffs”, members of the Queensland Government and members of the public. Two Queensland Police launches even stood sentry.

Since 1980 the warship has been the prime exhibit at the Queensland Maritime Museum, situated on the southern bank of the Brisbane River.

She sat in an historic dry dock which, during WWII, was vital in the repair and maintenance of US submarines.

In recent years, however, the steel caisson holding out the river rusted through allowing water to enter the dock and raise and lower with each tide.

Adding to her problems was the development of a crack in a bilge compartment that saw water enter the hull.

Last September the Queensland Government provided $3.2 million for a contractor to remove the old caisson, take the ship out into the river, replace 70 keel blocks and once the ship was returned, install a coffer dam before building a concrete caisson. Queensland company J.F.Hull won the contract.

On May 10, it was time to return Diamantina to the dock.

Invitations had gone out to go aboard the ship for her final voyage.

Murray and Jean Ward of Mapleton eagerly accepted.

LCDR Murray Ward was her commanding officer from December 1966 until January 1969 and clearly remembers taking her to the Monte Bello atomic testing site in the Indian Ocean to allow scientists to take readings in the area.

“In those days we operated with six officers, 120 sailors and between eight and ten scientists,” LCDR Ward told Navy News.

Also invited were 11 sailors from the South Queensland naval district led by Senior Naval Officer, CMDR Bob Plath. It was their job to help secure the ship’s lines.

Also joining the ship was the Premier of Queensland Peter Beattie, his deputy and the local MP, Ms Anna Bligh, and the Minister for Public Works, Robert Schwarten, who had awarded the contract.

Ashore a large crane waited to lift the caisson into place while large pumps stood ready.

Just after 8am a pair of “pusher” and “puller” tugs took the strain and inched the warship away from the wharf and turned her about.

Originally, she was bow-in facing the bright red lightship Carpentaria.
This time she was to be bow out so that tourists using the South Bank walkway or passing Rivercats could see her finer lines.

As the old timer, built at Walkers shipyard in Maryborough and launched in April 1944, moved backwards into the dock a nostalgic Peter Grant, the president of the museum association remarked, “well…she’s making her final voyage”.

Ms Bligh said it was an honour to see the ship safely home after her first outing in a quarter of a century.

Within 24 hours of her return to the dock the steel cotter caisson was in place and the water pumped out.

Now the hull of the ship will be cleaned, inspected and painted.


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