Cleaning up Pangiamotu Island – CONTACT magazine

Australian Defense Force personnel have restored a tsunami-damaged monument that marks the spot where Tonga’s first Catholic mass was celebrated in 1842 on the island of Pangaimotu.

LEGEND: Able Seaman Marine Personnel Operations Christina Heron cleans up dead vegetation on Pangaimotu Island, Tonga. Account by Lieutenant Brendan Trembath. Photo by Leading Seaman David Cox.

HMAS Adelaide The ship’s crew and the embarked armed forces undertook general clean-up duties on the island and took the time to clean up debris from the monument due to its importance to the island community.

Navy Chaplain Kate Lord said a dozen Navy and Army personnel cleared the cross and cut overgrown vegetation around it.

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“The cross was covered in black soil, sand and ash from the tsunami last month, and vegetation obscured the view,” Chaplain Lord said.

“It was nice to see everyone coming together, picking up a broom, a spade or a saw.

“Hopefully when the sun shines on it, it can be seen from the main island and inspire people in their faith.”

The ADF team also cleaned a large rope decorating a low wall around the monument.

The first Catholic mass in Tonga was celebrated by Father Joseph Chevron under a large banyan tree.

“The Christian faith is very important to the people of Tonga,” Chaplain Lord said.

LEGEND: Navy sailors Seaman Harrison Southern-Gale, left, and Seaman Georgia Wild help restore the Catholic Monument on Pangaimotu Island, Tonga. Photo by Corporal Robert Whitmore.

The rehabilitation of the monument also meant a lot to Army soldier Sergeant Alefosio Kakala.

“Coming from a Catholic background, the Pangiamotu cross has a special place in my heart,” said Sergeant Kakala, who is from Tonga.

LEGEND: Australian Army soldier Sergeant Alefosio Kakala on the flight deck of HMAS Adelaide. Photo by Corporal Robert Whitmore.

Navy sailor Master Seaman Jacob Machen led the cleanup team and said it was a rewarding task.

“There was a great atmosphere while we were working on the monument,” Master Machen said.

“When we sailed to Tonga for Operation Tonga Assist, we had no idea what we were coming to.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to Tonga, but hopefully we can give back a bit to the people by helping out with recovery operations.”

The ADF is deployed on Operation Tonga Assist 2022 as part of the Australian Government’s support to the Tongan Government following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano.






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