Divers deal with deadly sealife as well as mines in Australia

Defusing deadly mines is challenging enough.

But Portsmouth-based Royal Navy divers faced extra threats posed by Jaws, venomous snakes, poisonous octopuses when they flew half way around the world to train in Australia.  

Eighteen experts from Fleet Diving Unit 2 – the UK’s specialists in finding and neutralising mines and bombs in the shallowest waters – joined counterparts from Canada, New Zealand and the USA at Garden Island in western Australia.

Divers at HMAS Stirling invited their Allies to a three-week test of the latest equipment and techniques in the waters around the island which lies just off the west coast near Perth.

The theme of Exercise Dugong 19 was to clear a safe route for an amphibious task group to reach shore using a mix of remote-controlled and autonomous underwater vehicles as well as the divers themselves.

Dugong 19 provided a chance to maintain and develop our wartime diving skills in a challenging environment, alongside the people we would be operating with.

FDU2’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Keith Mabbott

In addition to the mines, the Australian environment presented some unique challenges for the visiting diving units: he waters around Garden Island are home to venomous tiger snakes and great white sharks... aka Jaws.

And on top of that, the shape of the mines laid in the water by the exercise organisers attracted the attention of the local blue-ringed octopus population. Their venom paralyses then kills. Every diver received a brief from their hosts on how to remain safe.

“The very shallow water community is a small yet specialist group, so it is important to conduct exercises to strengthen the bonds between participating nations,” said FDU2’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Keith Mabbott.

“These divers could be working together in the future on operations, so it is important that they understand how to operate together effectively and efficiently.

“Dugong 19 provided a chance to maintain and develop our wartime diving skills in a challenging environment, alongside the people we would be operating with.”