|An NZDF Seasprite helicopter flew 23 government staff and seven tonnes of vital equipment and supplies from HMNZS Otago to hard-to-reach areas in the Kermadec Islands in its first operational mission with an offshore patrol vessel.|
September 22, 2016 - The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has just completed a mission to the remote Kermadec Islands, where it supported vital scientific work including the upgrade of New Zealand’s first line of defence against tsunamis.
The mission, carried out by the Royal New Zealand Navy’s offshore patrol vessel (OPV) HMNZS Otago and one of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s newly acquired Seasprite helicopters, provided logistics support to the Department of Conservation, MetService and GNS Science. It marked the SH-2G(I) Seasprite’s first operational mission with an OPV.
“The NZDF’s support was the linchpin for all this scientific work to be completed. Operating a Seasprite from an OPV has further increased our ability to support other government agencies,” Lieutenant Commander Andrew Sorensen, the Commanding Officer of Otago, said.
One of the primary tasks for the GNS team was to upgrade the two tsunami gauge sites, at Fishing Rock and Boat Cove, on Raoul Island.
“With the Seasprite we were able to access these hard-to-reach areas. Otago’s crew also helped our team complete the maintenance work on the gauges,” GNS Science Volcanologist Brad Scott said.
The Seasprite also flew a GNS volcano chemist to Green Lake, one of two crater lakes on Raoul Island, to check the volcano and crater lake for seismic activity and to repair the seismic station there.
“Our work in the Kermadecs is vital for the public safety in New Zealand. The tsunami gauges are the country’s first line of defence against tsunamis and we are grateful for NZDF’s support,” Mr Scott said.
Geoff Woodhouse, Operations Manager of the Department of Conservation’s (DoC) Whangarei District Office, said having the Seasprite support an OPV in the resupply mission to Raoul Island fast-tracked the completion of all scheduled tasks to just one day.
“As a result, the three agencies were able to carry out additional work,” Mr Woodhouse said.
The GNS team used the extra time to collect geological samples from Darcy Point and to take aerial infrared photographs of Cheeseman and Curtis Island and the Raoul Island caldera. DoC representatives conducted additional surveillance checks for rats at Denham Bay, on Raoul Island, and an aerial invasive weed search on Raoul and Meyer islands. MetService staff carried out routine maintenance checks on the automatic weather station on the island, and installed a lightning detection sensor to serve as an early detection and warning system.
“Maintaining MetService’s remote offshore weather stations is a difficult task even at the best of times. But with the support of the NZDF we have more certainty that we can achieve our objectives,” Steve Knowles, the MetService’s Observations Network Operations Manager, said.
“Time on the island is always short and for this trip to Raoul Island Otago was a fantastic resource. Having the Seasprite on board meant we could move equipment quickly and safely from ship to shore. As a result, our team was able to complete a complex maintenance program on schedule.”