Archive for June, 2011

June 25, 2011

Goodbye Timor-Leste, hello FSM

by Priya Chandra

Just got back from 4 days onboard HMAS Betano (one of the Navy’s Landing Craft Heavy ships). I was there with a photographer and a videographer writing stories, taking images and creating video news articles on the veterinarians – if you want to see the pieces we wrote please check out over the next couple of days.


The ships are really small – only 44 metres in length and are designed to transport stuff and people onto beaches where bigger ships can’t go. They’re also really old and yet being onboard was a great experience.

Not just because I was back doing Royal Australian Navy things – though that was a big part of it – it was more the atmosphere on the smaller ships. A true sense of being invited to stay at someone’s house and live with their family for a short while. Everyone went out of their way to welcome us and look after us with great food, beer issues and outdoor movies every night.

Certainly the Americans were amazed at the level of hospitality and came back raving about the food (like everyone does). I certainly believe that the Royal Australian Navy trains some of the best cooks and gives them the skills to not only cook to a routine but also think on their feet.

I turned up and told the chef that I was vegetarian that day – from then on there was always a meal available for me to eat regardless of what else was on the menu. Contrast that to my current ship where the chefs still can’t remember to put aside a bowl of veggies for me before adding bacon to the main vegetable dish!

We were accommodated in shipping container style modules on the tank deck – it sounds spartan but it was actually quite nice, air conditioned and the beds were very comfortable. The only downside was that the toilets and showers were in the main part of the ship which meant a bit of a hike in the morning and evening when getting ready.

Back on Cleveland now though and about to head off for the final leg of the adventure – Federated States of Micronesia. Seriously can’t wait, it sounds like an amazing place and then finally of course Hawaii!

And just so you know I really was in East Timor – here’s me at the base of the Jesus Statue after climbing 580 steps to the top!


June 15, 2011

Over half way!

by Priya Chandra

After a slightly longer than expected port visit to Darwin we’re now on our way to East Tiimor with a whole new bunch of people onboard, including a new medical contingent from Australia. More names to learn!

Quite nice to be underway again – there’s something really soothing about sitting outside and just watching the ship cut through the waves, or lying in one’s rack feeling the motion of the ship. I am so grateful that I don’t get sea-sick though – one of my new cabin mates does get motion sick even in what to me appears relatively calm seas and she’s having a rough time of it (pun intended).

Speaking of cabin mates – I am currently experiencing the luxury of only 3 people in a 6 person cabin. The other 3 went on ahead to East Timor via HMAS Balikpapan (one of the Navy’s Landing Craft Heavy ships) to start work there before Cleveland’s arrival. Very odd (but very enjoyable) to have so much space available especially in the mornings!

Only 37 sleeps until the ship docks in Hawaii – where has the time gone? I’m trying to make the most of the last few weeks – setting up some personal 30 day challenges around physical fitness and professional development. I’ll let you know how I go!


USS Cleveland anchored off Lae – man, that was a long transit every day.

June 6, 2011

The sound of silence

by Priya Chandra

Is definitely NOT something you ever experience onboard a Navy ship. The day is governed by bells, whistles, pipes (announcements) and in the background, the persistent hum of machinery powering us along. In fact if the ship does go silent then there’s something seriously wrong!

So with that in mind, here’s some of the phrases one hears through out the day whilst at sea, as well as a recording of the Command Master Chief giving a brief on cleaning stations.

0600 – Reveille, reveille. All hands heave out.

0700 – Assemble for muster, inspection and direction.

0730 – Cleaning stations! [Edit: The play button doesn’t appear to be working sadly. To listen to the golden tones of the Command Master Chief, please click on the download link and then the filename “cmc-cleaning_stations”. Cheers, Priya]

Listen on Posterous

2155 – Tattoo, tattoo. Lights out in 5 mins. Stand by for evening prayers [and the Chaplain comes on and gives a 2 – 3 min prayer]

2200 – Taps, taps. Lights out. Maintain silence. Taps.

June 5, 2011

The things you see onboard a U.S Navy ship

by Priya Chandra

Just a few of the things I see as I travel the ship in my daily routine.

Helen hard at work in the Phot Shop:



Then there’s this sign – beware all ye who enter here! Not that it stops anyone of course. If that is the quickest way to get somewhere, then of course people are going to use it!

Hanging out on the boat deck (01 for those in the know) under the 11m RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) is a popular spot for the Aussies (and some Americans now too) on a nice day. Sometimes, if you’re not careful you can go a whole day without seeing sunshine – that is really bad for one’s morale so I try to get outside at least 1/2 hour each day.


This is the ‘upstairs’ gym. It is much cooler than the gym right in the bottom of the ship and of course one gets to look outside whilst exercising which makes a huge difference to motivation. It is often less crowded too which is nice.