- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Mermaid
- March 1990 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
MERMAID, commissioned on December 4 , 1989 – Lieut. Cdr. Spencer,R AN – is the second ship in Her Majesty’s Service to bear the name and to work in Australian waters. The first MERMAID was a cutter purchased in Sydney on December 16, 1817 for the sum of 2000 pounds for use as a survey vessel. She is variously reported as being 84 or 92 tons. She was 56 feet long with a beam of 18 feet six inches and constructed of teak. In 1820, she was re-rigged as a schooner.
The surveys carried out by MERMAID included North West Australia and Van Dieman Gulf area (1818); Macquarie Harbour, Torres Strait and the Wessel Islands to Admiralty Gulf (1819); Port Macquarie (with Lady Nelson) (1819); Montague Sound to Brunswick Bay (1820). During these voyages, she was under the command of Lieutenant Phillip Parker King RN. Also aboard was Lieutenant Jon Septimus Roe RN, (later to be the first Surveyor General of Western Australia). These were the first hydrographic surveys in Australia (as distinct from voyages of discovery).
In 1823-24, MERMAID was involved in the survey and settlement of the Brisbane River area. She was commanded by Lieutenant John Oxley RN, (he was Surveyor General at the time) a well known explorer and Surveyor General of NSW. MERMAID was sold c. 1824.
The new MERMAID and her three sister ships have been purposely designed and built for the job and incorporate state of the art systems, advanced navigation and survey sensors and a sophisticated machinery and compartment monitoring system.
MERMAID will be based in Cairns from where she will undertake surveys in the Northern Australian waters where many areas are poorly charted and navigation is dangerous for both commercial and defence shipping. With ships of the calibre of MERMAID this very important national task should be completed much sooner than would otherwise have been the case. The major characteristics of the new ship’s crest are the sounding sextant and the Dugong. The sextant represents the link with traditional hydrographic survey practices while the Dugong represents the link with the ancient mermaid which derived its form and allusion from the mammal known as the Manatee or sea cow which in Australian waters is the Dugong.
The motto reflects the great trials and privations suffered in the first Australian MERMAID during her survey activities and is also part of an unofficial Hydrographic service motto – “No task too arduous”.