Spectacle of Sydney ships 'to rival the Olympics'

By Greg Ansley

A ship from the Australian Navy. Photo / AP
A ship from the Australian Navy. Photo / AP

On October 4, 1913 the new battlecruiser HMAS Australia steamed out of the mist into Sydney Harbour, in company with the cruisers Melbourne and Encounter and three destroyers.

For the first time, the Australian Navy was showing its muscle to mark the arrival of its newest ship, cheered by hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders, in a naval review that sparked a fervent bout of nationalism.

Yesterday, the crowds were out again as 16 tall ships, including the Spirit of New Zealand, sailed into Sydney for this weekend's international fleet review. This morning the 21st century seapower arrived from Jervis Bay on the New South Wales coast, where dozens of ships from 17 nations had earlier assembled.

They range from Tongan and Melanesian patrol boats to frigates, destroyers, guided missile cruisers and support ships from navies as distant as Nigeria, China, France, Spain, Britain, Japan and Southeast Asia.

In the fleet is the New Zealand frigate Te Mana, on its way to a four-month deployment to anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

The fleet will be reviewed by Prince Harry, and tomorrow the celebration continues with a flyover by air force jet fighters, patrol aircraft and helicopters, and performances by 10 military bands, including the New Zealand Navy band.

Later, the harbour will explode with a huge 30-minute fireworks display launched from barges in the harbour, city rooftops and the decks of warships.

A lightshow from the harbour bridge, ships and on land will project the navy's history on to the sails of the Opera House, the bridge's pylons and the roof of the National Maritime Museum on Darling Harbour.

The show will include flyovers choreographed to specially composed music.

The State Government estimates the celebration will pump A$50 million ($56.5 million) into the New South Wales economy.

State Tourism Minister George Souris said the scale would rival the 2000 Olympics harbourside spectacular.

"This weekend is perhaps the mega-weekend of them all," he said. "The city and the state is in big welcome mode."

- NZ Herald

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