CSIRO History

12 years as a CSIRO Research Vessel

CSIRO-971_Derwent-Hunter__064-New-Zealand-1957-300x227From 1950 to 1962, Derwent Hunter served as a fisheries research vessel under the ownership of the CSIRO, Australia’s leading scientific research authority.

She roamed the East Australian coast and adjacent islands reporting on fish – specifically tuna, whales, conducted salinity tests plotting the East Australian Current and much, much more. After a turbulent couple of years, sustain gin some serious damage, she was retired in 1962.

Read the following excerpts about the Derwent Hunter from the CSIRO archives.

CoResearch Article Issue No. 7, October 1959.

Lieutenant-Commander R. H. Davis, R. N. (retired) has been appointed Master of the F.R.V. “Derwent Hunter”. Commander Davis served in the Royal Navy for 20 years, nine of which were spent in submarines. He served in the R.A.N. for three years (1954-57) on loan from the R.N.

CoResearch Article Issue No. 14, May 1960.
Literary Section: Trials of the “Derwent Hunter”

It was said the “Derwent Hunter” that seldom put to sea,
With the Skipper, Mate, and one T.A., and a rollicking crew of three.
From eastern capes to western bays her trawl was often shut,
But the catch they caught was often nought and rarely worth a jot.

Now sailors drink, and sailors eat, but they don’t like raw fish,
“I’ll get a cook” said the skipper bold, “who can cook us a dainty dish.”
So very soon they got a cook, and a greasy cook was he,
He could boil an egg, he could mash a spud, and could make a cup of tea.

When they put to sea the waves were rough, and he couldn’t cook for nuts,
The sullen crew and the T.A., too, complained of their empty guts,
To save a row, they turned her bow, and made for Beauty Point,
Where they placed an ad, for a willing lad who could grill and cook a joint.

They signed on one, and soon were gone round the wild Tasmanian Coast,
And they lived like kings on steak and things, and casseroles and roasts.
They returned at last and made her fast, at the shallow end of the pier,
But as soon as he got his apron off, the cook got on the beer.

He drank all day and he drank all night, and a very full cook was he,
And when he guzzled all his pay he went back to the F.R.V.
Now the only way from piers to ship, was a wobbly narrow plank,
Head over tip went the sozzled cook, and down in the drink he sank.

They heaved him out with a Yo-heave-ho, and hung him out to dry.
When the Skipper said “You’ve got the sack” a tear was in every eye.
So away he went and the next who came, was a cook who kept things hot,
But the fires he lit were all over the ship, and not just under the pot.

He departed, too, and the hungry crew were looking gaunt and pale,
When the next ad bought, as a last resort, one cook – Hungarian – male.
Now the Slavs don’t cook the same as us, and they dearly love their hash,
And Frankie Moravic, cook grade one, was a beaut on the old goulash.

At breakfast time it was on their plates, at night it was with their tea,
They had goulash porridge and goulash jam, for soup they had goulash puree,
They marooned him ashore at dead of night, some wanted to leave him for dead,
But they tipped a pot, all piping hot, of goulash over his head.

Once more I guess, in the daily press, the same old ad is seen,
“Wanted cook, with a cookery book, for a crew that’s hungry and lean.”
And still tied up in Melbourne Port, is the good old F.R.V.,
With a Skipper, Mate, and one T.A., and a mournful crew of three.

CoResearch Article Issue No. 40, July 1962. Journey’s End.

CSIRO-971_Derwent-Hunter__065-retiring-1962-234x300“Derwent Hunter” the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography 72-foot schooner, was paid off last month after twelve years’ service as a fisheries research vessel. One of the reasons for the schooner’s retirement is the high cost of repairs to damage caused by battling seven gales in two years.

Four weeks ago the schooner returned to Sydney with 1,000 pounds gale damage to its steering and sails. The skipper, Captain Richard Davies, and the crew of five, sailed the schooner from its berth at Darling Harbour to the Government pound at Garden Island.

The chief mate, Mr Ron Spaulding, 50, of Hobart, who has been sailing ships for 35 years, lowered its flag.

CSIRO used the Derwent Hunter between 1950 and 1955 and 1959 and 1962 to trace tuna fishing grounds off the east Australian coast. It has not been decided if the schooner should be sold, or if its replacement should be bought or chartered.

CoResearch Article Issue No. 128, November 1969.

Fisheries Boat in New Role Australia’s first oceanographic vessel, the 80 ton 75 ft. schooner Derwent Hunter, has a new starring role – in a TV series. Derwent Hunter, built in Tasmania in 1945, was owned by CSIRO from 1950 to 1962. Now, christened the Pacific Lady, it is the “real star” according to TV Times, of the NLT Productions’ colour series The Rovers. The Rovers tells of the adventures of a crusty old sea salt whose schooner is hired by a wildlife photographer. The other main characters are a pretty woman reporter who shares the photographer’s exploits, the sea salt’s 11 year old grandson, a koala, a cockatoo, and a wombat.

The below decks portion of the schooner is the permanent set for the series which is being filmed on the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney.

Derwent Hunter was built as a fishing vessel for Tasmanian waters. CSIRO bought it in 1950 and used it until 1956 for research on fisheries between the Great Australian Bight and ports north of Sydney. Then the Division of Fisheries became the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography and Derwent Hunter became Australia’s first oceanographic vessel. It was used for research on the movements of water in and out of the Tasman Sea, the structure and track of the East Australian Current System, and the type, amount, and fluctuations of minute life in the area.

In 1959 the Navy made available to CSIRO facilities for oceanographic research on two frigates of 1,600 gross tons, HMAS Diamantina and HMAS Gascoyne. CSIRO ‘s oceanographic work was transferred from the Derwent Hunter, but the Division continued to use the schooner for tuna studies until 1962 when it was sold. Now it is owned by a Sydney boating enthusiast and is in charter to NLT Production for the duration of The Rovers.

A big thank you to Rob Birtles, CSIRO, for providing the information herein.