Australian Hydrographic Service

The Australian Hydrographic Service (formerly known as the Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Service) is the Australian Commonwealth Government agency responsible for providing hydrographic services that meet Australia's obligations under the SOLAS convention and the national interest; enabling safe navigation, maritime trade and supporting protection of the marine environment. The agency, headquartered at the Australian Hydrographic Office in Wollongong, New South Wales, is an element of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), and serves both military and civilian functions. The names Australian Hydrographic Service and the Australian Hydrographic Office are commonly abbreviated as AHS or AHO respectively.


The Australian Hydrographic Service is an element of the RAN, and serves both military and civilian functions.[1] The headquarters of the agency is at the Australian Hydrographic Office in Wollongong, New South Wales.[2] The Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) is the Department of Defence agency responsible for the publication and distribution of nautical charts and other information required for the safety of ships navigating in Australian waters. The AHO is also responsible for the provision of operational surveying support and maritime Military Geographic Information (MGI) for Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations and exercises.

The AHO has its origins in the British Admiralty Hydrographic Office, which was established in 1795. The Admiralty carried out surveys and published charts of the Australian coast throughout the 19th century in support of the defence and commercial development of the colonies. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) assumed responsibility for hydrographic surveys in 1920, and for the publication of charts in 1942. In 1946 the Federal Cabinet made the Commonwealth Naval Board responsible for the surveying and charting of Australian waters. This responsibility was confirmed in 1988 after a review of Commonwealth mapping activities.

Hydrographic services provided by the AHS include the mapping and surveying of undersea terrain and irregularities on and under the water's surface (known collectively as hydrography), the provision of nautical charts and other publications, such as tide tables and Notices to Mariners.[1] Over 400 paper charts are produced by the AHS, with conversion of these to electronic navigational chart format due to be completed in 2011.[1]

Under international agreements, the Australian charting area spans approximately one-eighth of the world's surface, extending from Cocos Island to the west, the Solomon Islands to the east, the Equator to the north, and Antarctica to the south.[3]


Leeuwin at Waterhen Dec2013
HMAS Leeuwin
Royal Australian Navy Fokker F-27-500RF Friendship Vabre
Fokker 27 formerly used by the service

Following the work of explorers, the British Admiralty established a Chart and Chronometer Depot in Sydney in 1897.[4] The depot was to supplement the activities of Royal Navy survey ships in Australian waters.[4] In 1913, the depot was taken over by the Australian government and was renamed the RAN Hydrographic Depot.[4] Despite this, survey activities were performed by Royal Navy vessels until World War I, when surveying operations were concentrated in European waters.[4]

After the war, the Admiralty decided that with higher priorities in Europe, it would provide at most a single vessel for survey operations around Australia, and the Australian government was forced to create its own hydrographic surveying service.[4] After deliberation on whether the new hydrographic service would be military or civilian operated, the government decided that surveying would be a naval responsibility, with the RAN Hydrographic Service established on 1 October 1920.[4] A single sloop, HMAS Geranium, was commissioned into RAN service to supplement the Royal Navy survey vessel, and was later fitted with a Fairey IIID seaplane to assist with surveys of the Great Barrier Reef.[5] Geranium was replaced by HMAS Moresby, but the new survey ship was placed in reserve once the Great Barrier Reef survey was completed in 1929.[6] By this point, no other survey operations (military or civilian) were being performed in Australian waters.[6]

Surveying operations did not resume in the region until World War II, when it became evident that Age of Sail-era charts of the South West Pacific desperately needed updating.[6] Requesitioned auxiliary ships, later supplemented by several Bathurst class corvettes modified into survey vessels, were used to chart the waters around the East Indies and New Guinea, with the RAN designated as the charting authority responsible for supporting Allied operations in the South West Pacific Area.[7][8] As well as updating navigational charts, RAN survey ships were also used to inspect and clear sites for amphibious landings.[9] By the end of the war, sixteen vessels were attached to the Hydrographic Service, including the frigate HMAS Lachlan and five Bathurst class corvettes.[10]

In 1946, the Australian Cabinet decided that the RAN would remain in control of all hydrographic operations in both Australian waters and areas of Australian interest.[10] RAN warships were used to survey waters around Australia as part of a national hydrographic survey.[10] In 1947, the Antarctic exploration ship HMAS Wyatt Earp was commissioned, but only one voyage was completed, and RAN hydrographic operations in the Antarctic were stopped in 1948.[10] In 1963, a resource and export boom required the Hydrographic Service to change its focus from a comprehensive national survey to the charting of new ports and shipping routes suitable for deep-draught merchant ships.[11] A purpose-built survey ship, HMAS Moresby entered service in 1964.[11] Survey of ports and shipping routes was completed by 1974.[11] From 1979 onwards, the Hydrographic Service began to provide hydrographic assistance and training to Pacific island nations.[1] During 1989 and 1990, four Paluma class survey ships entered service with the RAN, followed by two larger Leeuwin class ships in 1999.[1] In 1993, the RAN began to use Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) technology to assist in surveying: this was first fitted to a Fokker F27 aircraft, then in 2010 was installed in a De Havilland Dash 8, operated by the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight.[11]


As of 2011, the following units and equipment are assigned to the AHS:[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 172
  2. ^ Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 172
  3. ^ "Surveying Ship (AGS)". Royal Australian Navy. Archived from the original on 20 September 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 166
  5. ^ Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, pp. 166–7
  6. ^ a b c Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 167
  7. ^ Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, pgs. 167, 169
  8. ^ The Australian Corvettes, p. 2
  9. ^ Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 169
  10. ^ a b c d Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 170
  11. ^ a b c d Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 171
  12. ^ "Ships & Units". Australian Hydrographic Service website. Retrieved 26 June 2011.


ASV Wyatt Earp

The Antarctic Survey Vessel (ASV) Wyatt Earp (ASV 01/DMS 329) is a survey launch operated by the Australian Hydrographic Service since 1993. Based on the Royal Australian Navy's Fantome-class survey launches, Wyatt Earp was built specifically for hydrographic survey duties in Antarctic waters.

Australian Pilot

This title is related to Nautical issues, and is not related to aviation in AustraliaAustralian Pilot is a series of editions of Sailing Directions to navigators in Australian coastal waters.

Most editions were published by the British Admiralty Hydrographic Department.

The publication was required to be used in conjunction with the British Admiralty Notices to Mariners, nautical charts and any supplements produced.The supplements and annual updates were given the same name as the publications The first edition appeared in 1916 The 9th edition appeared in 2004 The different editions included variations of the number of volumes Australia had its own Australian Hydrographic Service created in 1920, but the British nautical charts and sailing directions continued to be published after that time. The current Australian version of the Pilot and other relevant information is found in the Marine information manual Most states of Australia have developed maritime safety maps and guides to their coastline that would complement and include the work of the British Admiralty work A system of guides from the United States also exists for the same waters covered by the Australian Pilot Earlier localised guides also existed in some states of Australia Earlier regional guides preceded Hydrographic services and relied on collation from ships records

Backstairs Passage

The Backstairs Passage is a strait in South Australia lying between Fleurieu Peninsula on the Australian mainland and Dudley Peninsula on the eastern end of Kangaroo Island. The western edge of the passage is a line from Cape Jervis on Fleurieu Peninsula to Kangaroo Head (west of Penneshaw) on Kangaroo Island. The Pages, a group of islets, lie in the eastern entrance to the strait. About 14 km wide at its narrowest, it was formed by the rising sea around 13,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene era, when it submerged the land connecting what is now Kangaroo Island with the Fleurieu Peninsula. Backstairs Passage was named by Matthew Flinders whilst he and his crew on HMS Investigator were exploring and mapping the coastline of South Australia in 1802.

Bass Strait

Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria.

Bathurst Channel

The Bathurst Channel is a narrow offshore stretch of water that links Port Davey with Bathurst Harbour in the South West region of Tasmania, Australia. The Bathurst Channel is contained within the Port Davey/Bathurst Harbour Marine Nature Reserve, and the Southwest National Park, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Cape Carnot

Cape Carnot (French: Cap Carnot) is a headland in the Australian state of South Australia located on the west side of the southern tip of Eyre Peninsula about 30 kilometres (19 miles) south west of the city of Port Lincoln. The Eyre Peninsula has a double tip; the other tip, 3 nautical miles (5.6 kilometres; 3.5 miles) to the east, is Cape Wiles. Cape Carnot is one of a number of coastal features first discovered but not subsequently named by Matthew Flinders in February 1802 and which remained unnamed. In 1913, the Government of South Australia gave the unnamed feature the name proposed by the Baudin expedition when it visited in April 1802. The name Cape Carnot honours Lazare Carnot who is notable as a "French mathematician, general and statesman, who played a prominent part in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era".The cape is considered by the Australian Hydrographic Service to be the eastern end of the Great Australian Bight. Since 2012, the waters adjoining its shoreline are within a habitat protection zone in the Thorny Passage Marine Park.

Cape Jaffa, South Australia

Cape Jaffa is a locality in the Australian state of South Australia located on the headland of Cape Jaffa on the state's south east coastline overlooking the body of water known in Australia as the Southern Ocean and by international authorities as the Great Australian Bight. It located about 245 kilometres (152 miles) south south-east of the Adelaide city centre and about 19 kilometres (12 miles) south west of the town centre of Kingston SE.The locality includes a settlement located on the north side of the headland overlooking Lacepede Bay which is also known as Cape Jaffa. The settlement includes a jetty and a marina. The locality includes part of the Bernouilli Conservation Reserve. The Marina (known as Cape Jaffa Anchorage) received development approval in January 2006. The plans allow for several stages of development. At least the first stage exists, and the marina is considered to still be "under construction" in 2018.The 2016 Australian census which was conducted in August 2016 reports that Cape Jaffa had a population of 54 people.Cape Jaffa is located within the federal division of Barker, the state MacKillop and the local government area of the Kingston District Council.

Chart datum

A chart datum is the water level that depths displayed on a nautical chart are measured from. A chart datum is generally derived from some phase of the tide. Common chart datums are lowest astronomical tide and mean lower low water. In non-tidal areas, e.g., the Baltic Sea, Mean Sea Level (MSL) is used.

A chart datum is a vertical datum and must not be confused with the horizontal datum for the chart.

Geelvink Channel

Geelvink Channel is a feature to the east of the Houtman Abrolhos in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia, that lies between the Abrolhos and the port of Geraldton.It is a feature that has whale movements and oil and gas exploration researched for effects of seismic exploration methods.

Great Australian Bight

The Great Australian Bight is a large oceanic bight, or open bay, off the central and western portions of the southern coastline of mainland Australia.

King Sound

King Sound is a large gulf in northern Western Australia. It expands from the mouth of the Fitzroy River, one of Australia's largest watercourses, and opens to the Indian Ocean. It is about 120 km long, and averages about 50 km in width. The port town of Derby lies near the mouth of the Fitzroy River on the eastern shore of King Sound. King Sound has the highest tides in Australia, and amongst the highest in the world, reaching a maximum tidal range of 11.8 metres at Derby. The tidal range and water dynamic were researched in 1997–1998.Other rivers that discharge into the sound include the Lennard River, Meda River, Robinson River and May River.

King Sound is bordered by the island clusters of the Buccaneer Archipelago to the East and Cape Leveque to the West.The traditional owners and original inhabitants of the area are the Indigenous Australians the Nimanburu, Njulnjul, Warwa peoples.The first European to explore the Sound was William Dampier who visited the region aboard Cygnet in 1688.

Philip Parker King surveyed the coastline in 1821 and named the area Cygnet Bay.The area was later visited by John Stokes and John Wickham aboard HMS Beagle in 1838. The Sound is named after the noted surveyor, Philip Parker King.In the 1880s it was one the sites in the Kimberleys of a short-lived gold rush.

Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight RAN

The Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) Flight is a unit of the Royal Australian Navy. Unlike the rest of the flying units of the RAN, it is not controlled by the Fleet Air Arm from HMAS Albatross, but instead falls under the operational control of the Australian Hydrographic Service at HMAS Cairns, providing a platform for the operation of the Laser airborne depth sounder system.

Laser airborne depth sounder

The Laser airborne depth sounder (LADS) is an aircraft-based hydrographic surveying system used by the Australian Hydrographic Service (AHS). The system uses the difference between the sea surface and the sea floor as calculated from the aircraft's altitude to generate hydrographic data.The lack of progress made in surveying Australia's territorial waters, most of which was unsurveyed or relying on Age of Sail-era charts prompted the Royal Australian Navy to seek a method of effectively surveying large areas from the air in the 1970s. The Defence Science and Technology Organisation developed the LADS system, with feasibility trials beginning 1977.The LADS system is built around a Nd:YAG laser, which emits an infra-red beam at 990 hertz. The beam is frequency doubled to produce a green laser. This is split into two beams, one infra-red, one green, by an optical coupler, with the infra-red beam aimed directly below the aircraft, and the green beam directed across the target area with a scanning mirror. The infra-red laser does not penetrate the water's surface, and its reflected pulse indicates the height of the aircraft above the surface. However, the green laser penetrates to the ocean floor, and the return pulse from the green laser indicates the height of the aircraft from the ocean floor; the difference between the two values is used to calculate the water's depth. The data from the lasers is not processed aboard the aircraft, but instead by a ground support team, with aircraft flight data and global positioning system information used to help generate hydrographic readings. The aircraft makes multiple, overlapping passes of the target area to ensure accurate data is collected. The LADS system is capable of taking 990 soundings per second, with data points positioned 2 to 6 metres (6 ft 7 in to 19 ft 8 in) apart across a swath up to 288 metres (945 ft) wide. The system is capable of working with waters up to 70 metres (230 ft) deep, and can be modified to perform land surveys of areas with an altitude variance less than 50 metres (160 ft)

LADS entered service with the AHS in 1993. The equipment was initially fitted to a Fokker F27 Friendship aircraft. In 2010, the system was installed in a de Havilland Canada Dash 8 aircraft. This is operated by the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight of the Royal Australian Navy.

Low Rocky Point

The Low Rocky Point is a location on the south west coast of Tasmania, Australia, that is used as a location for weather forecasting. It is almost due west of Hobart, it is south of Point Hibbs and north of South West Cape.

Lunitidal interval

The lunitidal interval, measures the time lag from the Moon passing overhead, to the next high or low tide. It is also called the high water interval (HWI). Sometimes a term is not used for the time lag, but instead the terms age of the tide or the establishment of the tide are used for the entry that is in the tidal tables.Tides are known to be mainly caused by the Moon's gravity. Theoretically, peak tidal forces at a given location would concur when the Moon reaches the meridian, but a delay usually precedes high tide, depending largely on the shape of the coastline and the sea floor. Therefore, the lunitidal interval varies from place to place – from 3 hours over deep oceans to 8 hours at New York Harbor. The lunitidal interval further varies within about +/-30 minutes according to the lunar phase. (This is caused by the time interval associated with the solar tides.)

Hundreds of factors are involved in the lunitidal interval, especially near the shoreline. However, for those far away enough from the coast, the dominating consideration is the speed of gravity waves, which increases with the water's depth. (It is proportional to the square root of the depth, for the extremely long gravity waves that transport the water that is following the Moon around the Earth. The oceans are about 4 km deep and would have to be at least 22 km deep for these waves to keep up with the Moon. As mentioned above, a similar time lag accompanies the solar tides, a complicating factor that varies with the lunar phases.) By observing the age of leap tides, it becomes clear that the delay can actually exceed 24 hours in some locations.

The approximate lunitidal interval can be calculated if the moonrise, moonset, and high tide times are known for a location. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Moon reaches its highest point when it is southernmost in the sky. Lunar data are available from printed or online tables. Tide tables forecast the time of the next high water. The difference between these two times is the lunitidal interval. This value can be used to calibrate certain clocks and wristwatches to allow for simple but crude tidal predictions.

Mount Benson, South Australia

Mount Benson is a locality in the Australian state of South Australia located on the state’s south-east coast overlooking Guichen Bay which is part of the body of water known in Australia as the Southern Ocean and by international authorities as the Great Australian Bight. It is about 269 kilometres (167 miles) south-east of the Adelaide city centre and 112 kilometres (70 miles) north-west of the centre of Mount Gambier.Boundaries were created on 28 January 1999 for the “long established name” whose ultimate source is a stockman named Benson who was employed by the pastoralist, Charles Bonney, and whose name was given to the hill called Mount Benson by Charles Bonney according to one source while another source indicates that the hill was named by George Grey, the then Governor of South Australia. A school operated within what is now the locality between the years 1887 and 1970.The locality contains the hill of the same name and is within the extent of the wine region of the same name. The Southern Ports Highway passes through the locality.The majority land use within the locality is agriculture with the land adjoining the coastline being zoned for conservation. The latter includes the protected area known as the Guichen Bay Conservation Park.Mount Benson is located within the federal division of Barker, the state electoral district of MacKillop and the local government area of the District Council of Robe.

Racecourse Bay, South Australia

Racecourse Bay is a locality in the Australian state of South Australia located on the state’s south-east coast overlooking the body of water known in Australia as the Southern Ocean and by international authorities as the Great Australian Bight. It is about 398 kilometres (247 miles) south-east of the state capital of Adelaide and 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of the municipal seat of Mount Gambier in the south-east of the state.Racecourse Bay consists of land formerly used as a shack site known as The Racecourse which made part of the locality of Port MacDonnell in 1996. The locality came in existence in 1999 when boundaries were created for land formerly part of the locality of Port MacDonnell. Its name which is reported as being a ‘long established name’ was derived from the bay which it overlooks.The locality consists of land between the coastline and a road known as Eight Mile Creek Road which runs from the town centre of Port MacDonnell in the west to the boundary between the localities of Eight Mile Creek and Wye in the east. The land use within the locality consists of residential use and conservation.The 2016 Australian census which was conducted in August 2016 reports that Racecoourse Bay had a population of 33 people.Racecourse Bay is located within the federal division of Barker, the state electoral district of Mount Gambier and the local government area of the District Council of Grant.

South West Cape (Tasmania)

The South West Cape is a cape located at the south-west corner of Tasmania, Australia. The cape is situated in the south-western corner of the Southwest National Park, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, approximately 140 kilometres (87 mi) southwest of Hobart in Tasmania, and about 65 kilometres (40 mi) west and a little north of the South East Cape.

The cape is bound to the southeast and southwest by the Southern Ocean and is located south of Low Rocky Point and Point Hibbs.The South West Cape Range provides a buffer between the cape and the inland wilderness area to the east and north, and the next range to the east is the Melaleuca Range.

The high point of the southern end of the range, closest to the cape is Mount Karamu at 439 m. The mount is named after the USS steam ship which foundered off the cape in 1925.Wrecks and foundering of boats up to 500 kilometres (310 mi) away in distance, are usually referred to this cape as an identification point, and mapping of the area usually uses the cape as a boundary between sections of the coast.

Survey motor boat

A survey motor boat (abbreviated SMB), is a vessel equipped for commercial and/or military hydrographic survey operations.

Ships and

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