HMAS Canberra, HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Parramatta docked at Woolloomooloo 2020

Meet Australia’s fleet | Best Sydney views | Parklife

Cool, understated elegance that belies inner sparkle and sizzle.

Find position, panorama, and a parade of shiny navy ships at Sydney’s Embarkation Park

One of Sydney’s best views is from Embarkation Park. It’s located at the Potts Point end of the famous Kings Cross thoroughfare, Victoria Street.

In one visual sweep you get the works! Look for the naval ships docked at Garden Island, the crane choreography of the CBD skyline, the historical Woolloomooloo Finger Wharf (where Russell Crowe used to live),  the Harbour doing its thing, and a backdrop of city-living at its most dense. Oh, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which makes this one of the best vantage points for NYE fireworks.

Tranquillity is just a stone’s throw from the Sydney CBD

The bold and the beautiful

There is something both stoic and statuesque about those navy ships.

The cutest sighting recently was this fleet family: Papa Bear (HMAS Canberra), Mama Bear (HMAS Brisbane) and Baby Bear (HMAS Parramatta), all enjoying the spring sun while docked at Sydney’s Woolloomooloo. You can bet their crew headed for pies with mushy peas from Harry’s Café de Wheels.

They are part of the Royal Australian Navy fleet of 50 commissioned vessels. HMAS Canberra is our 231m Landing Helicopter Dock, HMAS Brisbane a guided missile destroyer, and HMAS Parramatta an Anzac-class frigate whose crews have been manning border crossings as part of Operation Covid-19 Assist.

Popular neck-craner is the whopper L100, aka HMAS Choules, a 16,190-tonne, 176-metre long amphibious Landing Ship Dock. It’s one of the largest in Australia’s fleet.

Choules was one of three naval ships (along with HMAS Adelaide and MV Sycamore) taking part in Operation Bushfire Assist earlier this year, rescuing 1200 people and 135 pets from Mallacoota, on the south coast of NSW.

Launched in 2005 and bought from the Britain government for a cool $A100 million, she joined the Royal Australian Navy fleet in December 2011.

A war time workhorse

If she is anything like her namesake, Claude Stanley Choules, she’s here for the long haul. Choules died in 2011, aged 110 years and 63 days.

Nature styles up the park

HMAS Choules is a workhorse: she can carry 356 troops, 23 Abrams battle tanks, 150 light trucks, and assorted landing craft. The vessel can operate helicopters such as the MRH-90 Taipan, the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk and the S-70A Black Hawk. Her home, with great views, is Fleet Base East in Sydney.

Claude Choules, born in Worcestershire, England, was the last surviving combat veteran of World War 1 and the last man to serve in both world wars. He moved to Australia in 1926 and served with the RAN in World War 2 as a demolition expert, rising to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.

Claude Choules survived two world wars and died at 110.

He squeezed in a memoir, too! Claude Choules: His Autobiography, was published in 2009.

Embarkation Park sits atop a navy carpark built in 1985. A memorial to the embarkation of troops for World War 1 was erected on the site in 1921.

Health in a heartbeat

Nearby is the test of fitness that is the McElhone Stairs. This heart-pumping workout was built in 1904 of solid sandstone blocks. It has wrought iron balustrades, cast iron bollards at the Victoria Street entry and a fetching lamp-post at the foot of the stairway on Brougham Street. Pretty but punishing!

Off the grid for gawkers. See Sydney in its graphic Sunday best


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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.