Rare and Significant Cruise Ship Event

Its fair to say the Cruise Ship Industry isn’t very popular at the moment. Cruise Ships that regularly service the East Coast of Australia and Pacific Ocean, spend most of their time underway and full of passengers. The only time they stop is for refueling, restocking, passenger embarking or disembarking and crew changes. Usually this all occurs at the same time with military precision. As part of Australia’s COVID-19 mitigation, once Cruise Ships had offloaded their passengers they were no longer allowed to remain docked at ports around Australia. There was simply no room for them. As a result they were left drifting around off the coast of our major Capital Cities with skeleton staff on board.

The Queen Elizabeth was anchored 25NM off Gladstone at Fairway buoy off and on for approximately 2 weeks. This ship has never been able to dock in Gladstone anyway due to its impressive size, but it was easily distinguishable from the Coal Ships when viewed from Boyne or Tannum Beaches. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the best while it was here and we were unable to take our boat out to capture it. Then news came in that more Cruise Ships were on their way to anchor off Gladstone. At least 5 more had began their voyage up to Gladstone when new Government decisions came in instructing all Cruise Ships to leave Australian waters all together. The Queen Elizabeth left Fairway Buoy, returning to Brisbane to refuel and restock prior to departing for an International destination.

We thought we’d lost the opportunity to capture this unique event until two Carnival Cruise ships decided to use Fairway Buoy off Gladstone as their place to refuel and restock before their big journey. The Carnival Spirit and the Carnival Splendor are both previous visitors to the Gladstone region (pre COVID-19). Luckily for us this very small 12hr window where both ships would be anchored up, aligned with an equally small gap in the weather and a plan was made to head out in our boat.

No, we didn’t fly our drone 25NM out to Fairway Buoy from the mainland (Yes, we were actually asked that).

The first thing boaties notice as you head offshore is how quickly the water colour turns blue as the depth increases. Because its been so windy lately, the water around the harbour is quite murky. As we passed Facing Island heading out towards Fair Buoy the water soon turned crystal clear. The two cruise ships parked right next to each other were our obvious destination, growing bigger and bigger as we neared their location. Once close enough we launched the drone noting that the Carnival Spirit was receiving supplies on the port side and a Bunker Vessel was refuelling on starboard side, so extra vessels were in the area. The Ships looked magnificent on the flat blue ocean.

When travelling around the stern of the Carnival Splendor we noticed life boats (tenders) were being deployed. Surely this some sort of planned exercise?? We watched as three boats entered the water and began a short trip over to the Carnival Spirit. Assuming that the ‘Spirit’ merely had a better lunch menu that day, we packed up and headed off fishing. Little did we know we had captured a rare and significant event.

After a wet and windy return trip that afternoon, we posted one of the pics (below) which received a lot of attention. It was shared more than 135 times in a couple of days reaching over 36k people. Many of these shares were from crew members on board the vessels who provided us with more info.

Due to global travel restrictions Carnival was going to use both unused Cruise Ships to help get the crew members home. At the time, this had never happened before. Crews from each ship were split up, with some groups required to swap vessels to allow a better chance of getting them closer to their personal destinations. This was the rare ship to ship crew transfer we had captured. The Splendor took the Indonesian crew members as it was heading for Bali / Jakarta and the Spirit took the rest as it was heading to Manila, Philippines which had a better chance of finding flights home for crew members. Both ships left Australian waters within hours of our visit and who knows if or when we’ll see them again.

We also grabbed some video which we will compile at some stage.


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Auckland Point Ship Loader Deconstruction Time Lapse

Gladstone Ports Corporation contacted us with an interesting project, to capture the de-construction of two two large ship loaders on Auckland Point Wharf. A project which could take up to six months. Removal of the Ship Loaders and eventually the Gantry Structure is all part of the East Shores upgrade, which will include modifications to allow larger Cruise Ships to visit Gladstone. A project worth over seven million dollars.


We had been developing some long term time lapse camera systems for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to get one out in the field. Planning to record a time lapse for up to six months is much more complex than sticking a camera on a tripod to capture a sunset. Several factors must be considered such as: access to the site, location and view from camera, type of camera, battery power, exposure to elements, photo frequency, data storage and hours of work.

The system we developed uses an external battery and monitoring system, and kept fully charged by a solar panel and regulator. The time lapse period was going to be over Summer and although the camera was protected from the elements inside a box, we added a temperature controlled fan to provide cooling if it got too hot inside.

We captured the removal of the first ship loader from a walkway on the second ship loader. This second ship loader was then wheeled into the same position to be removed. Most of this action was collected from on top of a large concrete block.



We captured up to 300 photos per day, 1800 per week, and almost 8000 per month.

In the months from September through to December, work on the Ship Loaders paused many times so Auckland point could be set up for visiting Cruise Ships. We used this opportunity to capture the Ships arriving and departing as well.


The Cruise Ship time lapse video can be seen HERE

We also created a video to show to midway progress of the ship loader removal HERE

We checked on the time lapse many times throughout the project. Most of the times we visited were outside work hours, so as not to interrupt the guys from Extreme Engineering. This meant we got to see some pretty impressive sunrises and sunsets from the Auckland Point wharf. Looking out over the harbour, watching all sorts of vessels come and go.


Eventually work was completed and both Ship Loaders were completely disassembled and removed. Our time lapse camera was there for just over 5 months to successfully record all the action. The camera housing did a great job at protecting the equipment inside from months of extreme weather such as scorching hot days, strong wind, salt water spray, grinding dust, oxy cutting slag, rain and storms.


Processing that many photos was another mission in itself. We had almost half a Terra-bite of data to sort, edit and develop into a short time lapse video. This took many days to complete.

The finished product can be seen HERE

We’ve continued to develop our time lapse systems to include remote monitoring. This basically means some or all of the photos recorded by our time lapse camera get uploaded to a remote viewing platform so the client can view live updates on their device from anywhere in the world. See some examples below.

If you’d like to capture the progress of your project with a time lapse and/or remote monitoring, please get in touch with us.

Aerial Media Gladstone – info@aerialmediagladstone.com.au or 0400500274

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Boyne Island Environmental Education Centre – Promotional Video

When the Boyne Island Environmental Education Centre (BIEEC) contacted us to discuss the creation of a promotional video for their centre, we felt very privileged. BIEEC facilitate a wide variety of science based learning activities beyond the capacity of the classroom. If you grew up around the Gladstone region there’s a high chance you’ve visited the centre yourselves, perhaps even camped there.

As we discussed the amount of activities BIEEC wanted to include in the video, we realised this wasn’t going to be a quick task. Some of the activities such as High Ropes, Bush Cooking, Team Building and Problem Solving activities were easy enough, as they were held regularly at the centre itself in Boyne Island.


A large amount of activities are held on location around the scenic Boyne Island / Tannum Sands and the greater Gladstone region. Some of these include Bike Riding, Raft Building and Testing, Surf Awareness and Rescue, Canoeing, Mangrove Walks, even camping on North West Island.


We began scheduling in as many activities as we could within the weather, tides and other work commitments. We not only had to plan and execute drone operations but also capture the action on the ground, as well as conduct interviews to tie the whole video together.

We even got to spend an incredible day following a class around Facing Island.


It took over six months to collect and edit all the footage required to produce a video showcasing what the Centre had to offer.

We thoroughly enjoyed experiencing these adventures alongside the staff and kids. It was a real pleasure to deliver this project to the BIEEC team.

Check out the video here: https://youtu.be/wvr5bLzRN-k


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Rio Tinto Yarwun – 15 Year Operation Celebration

Rio Tinto Yarwun contacted us with an aerial media request for their three sites just north of Gladstone. The media was to be used for celebrating 15 years of operation at those sites.

The brief was simple, collect what you can from outside the site boundaries. This reduced the complexity of arranging drone operations on site, on a normal work day with normal operations occurring, in such a short amount of time. Luckily our Inspire 2 has a range of lenses we can use to get wide shots and close ups while maintaining safe distances from the plant and people.

The first and most difficult location was the wharf at Fisherman’s Landing. This task required us to carry out operations from the water. We had to consider the wind, tides, weather, as well as shipping schedules to ensure there was both a Bauxite Ship and an Alumina ship berthed at the same time. On top of CASA’s drone safety rules and our operating procedures, we also had to comply with local Land and Waterside Restricted Zones for terminal security. With permissions in place the MV AMG was called on for the scenic trip up the harbour. The water was choppier than expected, but with my experienced first mate at the helm (or tiller) we safely launched and landed three flights to complete the mission.

The second location was the Refinery itself. After touching base with site security we performed several flights on the Eastern and Western boundaries. We used several lens options with different lengths of zoom to complement the wider shots. Smaller drones can and do capture brilliant footage, but the view from their standard wide angle lenses can get repetitive. At this same location we were also asked to collect some night photos and video. We used this opportunity to collect some golden hour shots as well.



The final location was the red mud dam at Yarwun. We found a safe launch site where we could view the plant equipment as well as the vast dam itself. Here we had a large wedge tailed eagle stalk our drone for a few minutes which kept the Spotter on her toes.


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Curtis Island LNG Plants

We were first contacted by Bechtel back in 2018 about collecting some up to date footage of the three LNG plants on Curtis Island. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you’ll know that US Construction company Bechtel were in charge of completing three mega LNG projects on Curtis Island, simultaneously. This made it the largest concentration of private capital investment in Australia’s history.

The three plants have been operating successfully for a number of years now, and Bechtel in Houston Texas USA were chasing some recent footage of the plants post construction. Visiting each site individually to perform our drone operations was going to over-complicate the process, so we pitched the idea of collecting what we could on the same day from our boat, over the water. Each site has its own helipad, marine exclusion zones for their day-to-day vessel berths, as well as extended LNG exclusion zones ranging from 180m to 220m for their product loading facilities.

We developed a plan that met the scope with all these considerations in mind. Once the approvals were in place, we waited for a gap in December’s windy weather, where the tide would be as high as possible, at least one LNG ship at berth and with softer afternoon sunlight. Approximately one week out we saw an opportunity, but at the same time there were some severe bush fires on the northern end of Curtis Island. Drone operations are not permitted within 5NM of a bush fire due to aviation activity associated with fire firefighting operations. Fortunately for us the fires were around three times that distance from where we planned to operate, and as the date got closer the fires were extinguished and the smoke cleared.

Conditions were quite choppy as we left Auckland creek causing the Captain to get rather wet. But as we expected, it turned out to be a magical afternoon up the northern end of the Gladstone harbour.

The mission was executed as planned and all three sites looked very impressive, nestled in behind the mangroves. We called it a day and began our sunset harbour cruise back towards Gladstone where we both received another soaking from the wind and waves out the front of RG Tanna Coal Terminal. We pulled up at Yachties boat ramp just in time for a beer.

If challenging media collection is something you’ve been putting off, please get in touch with us and we might just find a way.

Aerial Media Gladstone – info@aerialmediagladstone.com.au or 0400500274

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Boyne Smelter – Photo and Video Shoot

Local business Photopia contacted us to assist them in a Boyne Smelter (BSL) photo and video shoot. The goal was to capture the journey, from major power consumer to aluminium exporter. We identified some serious hazard concerns with some of areas we were required to fly such as HV Towers and power lines, large compass altering magnetic fields, hot stack plumes and large sea and wedge tailed eagles. If there was a job that would threaten our incident free track record, this would be it. With personnel safety being the biggest concern we planned these flights before hand and even held a meeting to discuss the operations with the BSL safety department prior to the operation.

The Smelter itself is positioned right on the coast in Boyne Island just south of Gladstone. A long conveyor belt provides it with Alumina from Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) which is situated in Gladstone itself. The final product is billet aluminium which is transported down a long road to the wharf, where it is loaded onto a ship for export.


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Gladstone Area Water Board – Photo Collection

We were contacted by the Gladstone Area Water Board to collect some ‘up to date’ photos of some of their infrastructure which included the new Offline Water Storage Facility as well as Awoonga Dam. As always we performed a Job Safety and Feasibility Assessment to ensure the request could be carried out safely and the shoot was planned for a upcoming beautiful winters day.

The first stop was the Offline Water Storage Facility at Toolooa Bends. This new dam was created as a buffer for Gladstone’s water supply, so the main pumps up at Lake Awoonga could get some long overdue maintenance. It’s actually quite a scenic view and not many people know its there, even when they drive past it everyday.

Next stop was Awoonga Dam itself. We thought it would be smarter and safer to carry out these flights from our tinny, as we could capture several locations without having to pack up and move every time to maintain a visual line of sight. Although there was a little wind, the water was still beautiful and surprisingly there weren’t many people out that day enjoying one of Gladstone’s spectacular assets.


We captured the boat ramp, picnic huts and main picnic/swimming area, then headed across the lake itself to a secluded island for some more photos. The wildlife over here was amazing, a bird watchers paradise (and fisherman’s).


Then we took the boat back and captured the dam wall from safe locations at the lookouts. The water level of the dam is the lowest it’s been in many years due to a few poor wet seasons. Great for barramundi fisherman though.

After delivering the media to the Gladstone Area Water Board, we were delighted to receive the following feedback a few weeks later.

“We’ve received some excellent feedback regarding the new images you recently captured for GAWB.

Consensus is that they are outstanding!

So I just wanted to say thank you for capturing such great images for us, with very little guidance from myself.

The attached image is our selection for the front cover our Annual Report. We love it because it illustrates both the dam wall and our recreational facilities.

I look forward to working with you again in the future”

Thanks for the opportunity GAWB!!

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Mt Larcom Show – Chainsaw Racing

The organiser of the Mt Larcom show chainsaw racing approached us back in April with a problem. This year’s Mt Larcom show was hosting the 2019 National Chainsaw Racing titles. This event was sponsored by Santos and Husqvarna and would include participants from all over the country. Up to six competitors at a time race their modified chainsaws to see who can cut three full discs from large diameter timber blocks the quickest. What he needed was an innovative way to record each race so the footage could be replayed if required to assist the three on site judges to determine the outcome. We agreed that the most cost effective solution would be to set up a GoPro attached to a tripod at either end of the six blocks. The GoPro’s could be controlled remotely and  would feedback back to an Ipad where footage could be replayed from each race, in slow motion if required.

Aerial Media Gladstone agreed to man the cameras while recording extra footage to use in a Nation Titles promotional video.

On day 1 we recorded 33 block races and 3 post rip races. 36 races in total with two video files from each race. The video resolution we recorded at meant the files were coming in at around 700mB – 1GB each!!! And because these guys were racing for sheep stations, at least 1/3 of all races required a replay from the video ref. In 6 examples the ipad quality simply wasn’t enough and we had to retire to the bunker where our laptop was waiting to import the video into our editing program to zoom right in a slow down the footage frame by frame until we had a clear result. Talk about neck and neck.

Check out a few of the close calls:

On day 2 we recorded 49 block races and 5 post rip races. By the end of the weekend (including our handheld and drone footage) we’d collected almost 200GB of video data.

Working in and around this intense sport created a few close calls. The camera tripod copped a few blows from runaway discs, starting flags and ricocheting wedges but all in all it was a successful event and the rightful winners walked away with pockets full of cash prizes, championship jackets and brand new chainsaws. What an exciting weekend!!

Here is our video wrap up of the event: