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Cockatoo Island: HMAS Success Launching (1984)

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Launch of the HMAS Success education content clip 1

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

HMAS Success is launched from Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour, on 3 March 1984 in front of a huge attending crowd.

Curator’s notes

The HMAS Success is an auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) vessel, based on the French 'Durance’ class. It was the last ship to be built by Vickers Cockatoo Dockyard Pty Ltd on Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour, before the dockyard closed in 1992. The ship was launched on 3 March 1984 by Her Excellency Lady Valerie Stephen, wife of the Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen.

The occasion was extremely popular, and in front of the huge crowd Lady Stephen blessed and named the ship, then demonstrated why history has chosen women to sponsor new vessels. The RAN Band put on a polished performance for the launch. It was one of a series of high profile public events featuring the Navy during the 1980s. Two years later, in 1986, the RAN celebrated its 75th Anniversary, then in 1988 the historic Bicentennial Naval Salute was staged.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows the HMAS Success being launched from Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour on 3 March 1984 in front of a large crowd. After a number of failed attempts, Lady Valerie Stephen, wife of the then governor-general Sir Ninian Stephen, succeeds in breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow of the ship. She then launches the ship to the strains of Australia’s national anthem ‘Advance Australia fair’ played by a brass band recorded at the occasion. The camera shows the ship sliding into the water from various angles with footage of the ship intercut with shots of faces from the crowd. The band then plays ‘Sailing’.

Educational value points

  • Capturing the atmosphere of a public event such as the launch of a ship is a challenge for a filmmaker. As well as recording the actual launching, the director here has also tried to give a sense of the occasion, using a series of shots that fade into each other to create a montage. The faces of the proud workers, the cheering crowd and the hovering helicopter all combine to create an air of excitement. The selection of music, including the national anthem and the sentimental classic ‘Sailing’, supports the importance and emotion of the event.
  • Lady Valerie Stephen is the wife of Sir Ninian Stephen (1923-), who served as governor-general of Australia from 1982 to 1989, representing the Queen as head of state. The governor-general and their partner perform a range of duties, including officiating at ceremonial and public events. The governor-general’s spouse traditionally participates in celebratory occasions, attends functions and, as a patron of various voluntary associations, works to promote the activities of those associations.
  • There are several methods of launching a ship, but the one shown here, an ‘end-on’ launch, is the most widely used. In an ‘end-on’ launch, the vessel slides stern-first down an inclined slipway into the water. Other methods include the ‘side-launch’, in which the vessel enters the water side-on, or alternatively flooding a building dock with water and ‘launching’ the ship within the dock.
  • Modern ship-launching ceremonies have their origin in ancient rituals. Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures all respected the power of the sea and sought divine intervention to protect sailors and provide good fortune. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ship-launching customs included music and blessings with holy water as part of a ceremony celebrating the ritual naming of a vessel. In the late 1800s, women began being chosen to launch ships, and this quickly became customary. Champagne, the traditional drink for celebrations, became popular for launching ships in the 20th century.
  • The HMAS Success is designed to replenish other ships. She carries four Replenishment at Sea (RAS) stations and supports other vessels during prolonged operations at sea. She carries and transfers fuel, food, ammunition and other stores. Support vessels perform an important function in the Australian navy as Australia’s vast coastline demands long periods at sea and ships are therefore refuelled and reprovisioned while on duty.
  • The HMAS Success is the largest ship built in the port of Sydney and the largest built in Australia for the navy. Since her launch, HMAS Success has been involved in active service in the 1990-91 Gulf War, supporting Kuwait as part of an international force. She has also served in the INTERFET (International Force East Timor) operations in East Timor, providing logistic support.
  • The HMAS Success was the last ship to be built on Cockatoo Island before the dockyard closed in 1992 at the end of the managing company’s lease. Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour and from 1856 has been home to a dockyard. The Island’s Indigenous name is Wa-rea-mah. Work carried out at the Island has included ship construction, refitting and repair of vessels and the administration of the dockyard.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer Launch of the HMAS Success from the historical Cockatoo Island: HMAS Success Launching as a high quality video download.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

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  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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