Australian Hydrographic Office turns 100


Navy Clearance Divers from HMAS Diamantina travel towards HMAS Leeuwin in a Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat while crossing the Bay of Bengal on the way to Sri Lanka. Kayla Jackson/navy.gov.au

The Department of Defence’s national charting authority has started its birthday celebrations early.

The Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) began its centenary celebrations in Wollongong last week, in the lead-up to its 100th anniversary in October next year.

Hydrography involves looking at the physical features of oceans, coastal areas and other bodies of water to support safe navigation and other marine activities, including economic development, security, scientific research, and environmental protection.

The AHO — which controls the bureaucratic functions of the Australian Hydrographic Service — produces the nation’s 1,376 electronic and paper nautical charts, tide tables and other nautical publications for vessels navigating seas and oceans around Australia.

A part of the Royal Australian Navy and Defence, the agency deals with Australia’s hydrographic information to support maritime safety, Defence maritime operations, and the protection of the environment.

The British Admiralty Hydrographic Office was established in 1795. Prior to the establishment of the AHS in 1920, the Royal Navy was in charge of conducting hydrographic surveys and publishing charts of the Australian coast (although, there were no surveys conducted in Australian waters during World War One).

Captain John F. Robins RAN was appointed as Australia’s first Hydrographer in 1920, with the office calling Melbourne’s Rostella House home. Cyril Woodhouse was named the first cartographer in January 1921. The RAN became responsible for the publication of charts in 1942.

Since its establishment, the AHO has actively contributed to the development of Australia’s maritime industry, according to Defence.

“Of particular note is the discovery of the LADS passage in the Great Barrier Reef, which provides a safe passage for vessels through the maritime national park, both protecting this unique environment and reducing transit time for vessels operating in the area,” the department said in a statement.

“The AHO also has longstanding commitments to Australian Pacific neighbours through formal support arrangements for hydrographic services to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.”

A series of activities celebrating the office’s long history will be conducted over the coming year.

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