When work and life sink to exciting new depths

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
The crew of the HMAS Duchaineux had a brief sabbatical in Geraldton last week.
Camera IconThe crew of the HMAS Duchaineux had a brief sabbatical in Geraldton last week. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

There’s no height requirements for people who want to be submariners.

Nor is there a great deal of space between ceiling and floor.

On a tour of his submarine last week, Lieutenant Cameron Eadie was asked what the navy does when someone reasonably tall enlists.

“Not much,” Lt Eadie chuckled.

“They just have to walk around with a bent neck.”

On the HMAS Duchaineux, it can get a bit cramped.

There are narrow corridors, tiny toilets and five people to each living quarter, which are roughly the size of a closet.

Personnel are only allowed to shower once every three to four days. A wet towel and a wipe keeps them clean in the interim.

Lieutenant Cameron Eadie has spent 20 years as a submariner.
Camera IconLieutenant Cameron Eadie has spent 20 years as a submariner. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

There’s more space in the weapons room, where several beds are fitted underneath a line of hovering, underwater missiles.

Lt Eadie enjoys sleeping there, but he said not everyone could stomach it.

“Had a tour in here not too long ago and one guy took one look at the weapons and had to leave,” he said.

“You could see it in his face, he had started to sweat.”

The lieutenant is one of 60 men and women at sea for several weeks on a training exercise.

Two chefs on board prepare 180 meals a day, including a second dinner at midnight.

They follow a routine with food; Mexican every Monday, burgers every Wednesday and pizza on Saturdays.

There’s gym equipment to keep fit and a TV room to relax. While at sea, there’s no contact with loved ones.

HMAS Duchaineux Captain Brad Francis said that was one of the more challenging aspects of being a submariner.

That, along with the absence of personal space.

“It’s reasonably claustrophobic, so you have to learn to live in close proximity with other people for long periods of time, and for some people that can take a while to get used to,” Capt. Francis said.

“But we keep a pretty busy program and the time spent off working is for eating and sleeping usually, so it keeps time moving pretty quickly.”

Captain Brad Francis in front of the HMAS Duchaineux at Geraldton Port. The submarine weighs 3000 tonne, is 70 metres long, eight metres wide and four-storeys high. Most of it sits underwater.
Camera IconCaptain Brad Francis in front of the HMAS Duchaineux at Geraldton Port. The submarine weighs 3000 tonne, is 70 metres long, eight metres wide and four-storeys high. Most of it sits underwater. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

The crew docked at Geraldton Port on Australia Day to take shore leave.

They left on January 30 for a two-day underwater trip to Perth and were scheduled to arrive on February 1.

The home port of HMAS Duchaineux is Fleet Base West in WA.

The submarine will this year celebrate 18 years since it was commissioned.

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