Portsmouth Royal Navy divers dodge great white shark attacks during mine exercise in Australia

A great white shark opening its mouth. Photo: Denis Scott/Corbis
A great white shark opening its mouth. Photo: Denis Scott/Corbis
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ROYAL Navy divers charged with destroying deadly mines had to dodge the threat of great white shark attacks and venomous snakes during an explosive exercise in Australia.

The team of Portsmouth-based ‘frogmen’ from Fleet Diving Unit 2 flew halfway around the world to take part in an international operation ‘Down Under’.

Royal Navy sailors have joined Exercise Dugong in Australia to hone their minehunting skills in shallow waters. The faced an added threat of having to dodge Great White Shark attacks and venomous snakes. Photo shows a diver putting his skills to the test on a mine. Image: Royal Navy

Royal Navy sailors have joined Exercise Dugong in Australia to hone their minehunting skills in shallow waters. The faced an added threat of having to dodge Great White Shark attacks and venomous snakes. Photo shows a diver putting his skills to the test on a mine. Image: Royal Navy

Joining with other explosives experts from navies in Canada, America and New Zealand, the squad’s skills were put to the test in the shallowest waters of Garden Island, western Australia.

Australian 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.

In addition to the mines, the Aussie environment presented some unique threats for the visiting divers, with the waters teeming with venomous tiger snakes and great white sharks.

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 during the exercise, which was code-named Dugong 19.

Despite the extra danger posed to his team during the exercise, FDU2’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Keith Mabbott, insisted the training was vital.

He said: ‘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.

‘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.’

The operation comes after Royal Navy divers from Portsmouth took part in the world’s largest mine warfare exercise in the globe, last month.

The International Maritime Exercise 19 involved about 5,000 personnel, 30 ships and more than 50 nations.

It took place in a vast area covering the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and the Gulf.