12 December 2023

Navy evacuates meteorologists from remote island in path of Tropical Cyclone Jasper

| Andrew McLaughlin
Start the conversation
HMAS Brisbane

HMAS Brisbane transits through the Bismarck Sea on its way back to Australia from a three-month deployment. Photo: ADF.

Four Bureau of Meteorology personnel based on a remote island in the middle of the Coral Sea have been evacuated by a Royal Australian Navy helicopter as Tropical Cyclone Jasper bears down on the North Queensland coast.

Willis Island is a 500 m long, 7.7 ha sand cay located 480 km due east of Port Douglas and is the only permanently inhabited island in Australia’s Coral Sea territories.

READ ALSO US Defense funding bill to include OK for nuclear subs, AUKUS tech for Australia

Apart from being a prolific nesting site for seabirds, it also has a small weather station manned year-round by BOM staff. The island is partly protected by a coral reef, but most of it lies at or just above sea level.

Willis Island map

Willis Island (circled in red) is a remote sand cay located 480 km east of Port Douglas. Image: Google Earth.

The weather station was established on the island in 1921 to provide early warning of cyclone activity to the mainland. In 2011, Tropical Cyclone Yasi passed directly over the island with wind gusts of at least 185 km/h, which damaged the weather station and also stripped most of the vegetation off the island.

MH-60R Seahawk

HMAS Brisbane‘s MH-60R helicopter landing on Willis Island to evacuate the meteorologists. Photo: ADF.

With Cyclone Jasper expected to impact the Queensland coast sometime this week and Willis Island being close to the predicted path, the staff were evacuated on 9 December by an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter from the Royal Australian Navy destroyer, HMAS Brisbane.

The ship was diverted to the mission under the Defence Aid to the Civil Community (DACC) arrangements while returning from a three-month Indo-Pacific regional presence deployment during which it conducted training, exercises and other engagements with Australia’s regional partners along with HMA Ships Stalwart and Toowoomba.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.