The incident happened during V5 of the 1980/81 season, the first marine science voyage (FIBEX) of the newly refitted Nella Dan. The vessel left Melbourne on 9 January, first visiting Davis and then Mawson (3-10 February). The LARC V (Lighter, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo, 5 ton) was the standard ship-shore transport at the time, although in ANARE service the payload was less than 5 ton.
At Mawson, this particular LARC was taking cargo from the forward, starboard side of the ship. The cargo was long bundles of piping that were laid from the stern of the cargo well onto the strong-back behind the operator’s cabin. Unfortunately the cargo slid on the strong back to the outboard side, the vessel listed severely, the engine plates dislodged, and the bilge filled with water. She briefly hung sideways beside the ship on the spring lines before they snapped and she sank to 30 m depth in Mawson Harbour. Both “Larcies” had got clear into the water and were quickly recovered onto the ship.
Fortunately there was diving gear and 2 experienced recovery divers onboard, Paul Butler (incoming 1982 Mawson OiC) and Rick Burbury (Marine Science support), so a recovery exercise was launched pretty much immediately. The photo shows the bow of the recovered LARC, lifted by the ship’s derricks, just breaking the surface. From there lines were attached to the stern and the LARC was swung into a horizontal position, just underwater. The second LARC then came alongside and used a fire pump to empty her till she floated. She was towed ashore to Mawson, well after midnight, and the bilge was filled with fuel oil to prevent corrosion.
Over the next few weeks, while Nella undertook the marine science program, larcies and diesos worked to repair the craft. By the time Nella returned to Mawson (early March) she was running again, although without the engine plates she was not seaworthy. The pipes (along with heaps of other stuff from other incidents) remain on the bottom of Mawson Harbour.