Operation Calypso  PODR Jim Dimond in Tulagi Harbour

After taking part in the RNZN's 70th anniversary celebrations, RESOLUTION shaped course for Papua New Guinea. A ten-day passage and a few sea sickness tablets later, RESOLUTION arrived in Simpson Harbour ready to commence operations in support of OP RENDER SAFE and OP PUKAURUA. For RES, this operation involved a hydrographic confidence survey of the Area of Operations (AO) and to identify contacts of interest in and around Simpson Harbour. The embarked Operational Survey Unit (OSU) conducted the survey of Simpson harbour as well as wharf surveys in Rabaul and Kokopo , and a beach survey in Kokopo. While surveying Simpson Harbour, RESOLUTION detected "a 20-metre long solid, man-made object." Sonar equipment from Australian minesweeper HMAS GASCOYNE later confirmed it was a submarine, though its nationality has yet to be determined. As Rabaul was Japan's major base in the Southwest Pacific during the last World War, curators and submariners say the wreck is likely to be that of a Japanese midget submarine. The Mine Countermeasures Team (MCMT) was tasked to operate in shallower areas and investigate targets with the REMUS Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). These targets included any possible unexploded ordnance (UXO) which could be identified for controlled disposal later in the operation. On completion of RESOLUTION's OP PUKAURUA, the MCMT were transferred to HMNZS WELLINGTON (WGN) to continue searching for UXO. The embarked detachment of the Operational Dive Team (ODT) on RES, was tasked to dive on, and identify any unknown contacts confirming whether or not UXO was present. The ODT detachment also operated the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) which, with greater depth capabilities, was able to identify the deeper contacts. Having all elements of LWSG embarked on RESOLUTION for the first time has worked extremely well, with each element supporting the operational aim and all being able to operate from RESOLUTION concurrently. With its mission in Papua New Guinea successfully completed, RESOLUTION sailed to Honiara, Solomon Islands to provide support to the New Zealand High Commission, conduct a search for a missing 1-3 submarine, and participate in an operation organised by the Forum Fishing Agency (OP KURUKURU) . After an overnight stop at anchor, RESOLUTION departed Honiara carrying tonnes of building materials, destined for Mono island in the northwest of the Solomons and Vella Lavella in the north. The ship's company went ashore in Mono to fix the island's local clinic. Using the ship's welfare fund, we bought the children soccer balls, cricket sets and t-shirts. Playing with those children for a day gave their parents a respite but it proved challenging for us who are not used to the warm tropical climate. Repairing the local clinic was a very rewarding task and dodging exotic spiders as big as your hand added to the day's fun and excitement .

Conducting boat operations with HMNZS Resolution in the backgroundr

Throughout RESOLUTION's visit to Mono, we were overwhelmed by the villagers' hospitality and generosity. Our usual fare consisted of crayfish, crab and a bounty of tropical fruits. To reciprocate we invited some of them to join the Captain, Officers and Senior Rates on board for an afternoon tea where chilled orange juice and Hummingbird Cake proved very popular. RESOLUTION also took part in Mono's celebrations marking the 68th New Zealand Day anniversary . The Japanese occupied Mono during their invasion of the Solomons. A joint campaign by NZ and American forces liberated the island in November 1943. Forty Kiwi soldiers died in the campaign, a sacrifice that the islanders have not forgotten. The islanders and the Kiwi contingent delivered speeches as part of the "New Zealand Day" celebrations. The villagers chanted songs whilst the ship's company performed the Navy haka and a waiata. At Vella Lavella, RAMSI personnel and members of the ship's company helped restore the war memorial, which was put up to recognize NZ's efforts in liberating the island from the Japanese and to honour the 15 Kiwi gunners who lost their lives during the operation. After two days of exploring Honiara we embarked an expert in South Pacific WWII history and two brothers collecting footage for a documentary on the RNZN's battles in the Solomon Islands.


ADR Thompson setting up for ROV operations Ewan Stevenson on board HMNZS Resolution going over maps of Tulagi Harbour

Thus began the search for the 1-3, a Japanese submarine and sister ship to the 1-1 submarine sunk by HMNZS KIWI. The 1-3 was hit by a torpedo fired from a US naval vessel and sunk after an unsuccessful attempt by American forces to tow it under capture. RESOLUTION was unable to locate the 1ยท3 either because the last known position coordinates are inaccurate or the submarine wreck had sunk beyond 300 metres, which is outside the capabilities of the ship's survey equipment. RESOLUTION then moved on to other search tasks in Savo Island and Tulaghi Harbour. Tulaghi Harbour was the site of significant naval and air engagements in WWII and was where HMNZS MOA sunk in 1943. While surveying these areas, RESOLUTION was able to identify several previously uncharted wrecks and provide more up-to-date navigational information for the area. The identified wrecks included a multiple landing craft (one of which contained a US Jeep) and a US Navy Grumman Wildcat, a carrier-based fighter aircraft. By the time this article is read, RESOLUTION will have completed her tasking in Solomon Islands, including a Pacific Fisheries Forum patrol in the Solomon Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone, and will have begun her eight day passage home.

Article as published in Navy Today Issue 164 (December 2011) magazine of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

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