HMS Protector arrives in Antarctica

HMS Pro­tec­tor, the Roy­al Navy’s new ice patrol ship, has arrived in Antarc­ti­ca for the first time after her long sail south from Portsmouth.

HMS Pro­tec­tor in Maxwell Bay [Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Arron Hoare, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Her arrival, via Mon­te­v­ideo in Uruguay, coin­cid­ed with the cen­te­nary of the Roy­al Navy’s Cap­tain Scott reach­ing the South Pole. 

HMS Protector’s first task with­in the frozen wilder­ness was to dis­em­bark stores and per­son­nel for the British Antarc­tic Sur­vey teams sta­tioned on the Antarc­tic Peninsula. 

While in the British Antarc­tic Ter­ri­to­ry, a key part of HMS Protector’s duties is to make con­tact with Antarc­tic base sta­tions. Since their arrival the crew have vis­it­ed the Uruguayan base Arti­gas and the Argen­tine base Jubany. 

At Arti­gas the crew heard that the Uruguayan Pres­i­dent Jose Muji­ca was stay­ing overnight. In the spir­it of inter­na­tion­al friend­ship, the Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of HMS Pro­tec­tor, Cap­tain Peter Sparkes, donat­ed a crate of the ship’s own brand of beer, ‘Ice-Break­er’, for the Pres­i­dent to enjoy that evening. 

From Arti­gas, the crew sailed HMS Protector’s work boat Ter­ra Nova to the Argen­tine base on King George Island. Hump­back whales and pen­guins greet­ed the crew as they round­ed the head­land into Pot­ter Cove, where Jubany sta­tion is located. 

Here, HMS Protector’s state-of-the-art sur­vey motor boat James Caird IV oper­at­ed close to shore — dwarfed by a spec­tac­u­lar glacier. 

The pur­pose of the vis­it to Jubany was to hold dis­cus­sions on local co-oper­a­tion, and the teams met up again onboard HMS Pro­tec­tor the fol­low­ing day. 

While host­ing their vis­i­tors the Pro­tec­tor and Jubany div­ing teams enjoyed an extreme­ly suc­cess­ful dive in Pot­ter Cove. 

Although the weath­er was chal­leng­ing and the under­wa­ter vis­i­bil­i­ty poor, it was a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to exer­cise the Roy­al Navy divers in the cold waters of Antarc­ti­ca for the first time, and to strength­en rela­tions between HMS Pro­tec­tor and the divers based at Jubany Station. 

The next task was to install a tidal gauge at the South Kore­an King Sejong Sta­tion to update the tidal knowl­edge in a busy ship­ping area. 

Cur­rent­ly the tides are large­ly cal­cu­lat­ed on two days’ worth of his­toric data col­lect­ed over 40 years ago, so this was an invalu­able part of HMS Protector’s sur­vey work to improve hydro­graph­ic knowl­edge of the area. 

The James Caird IV under­took her first sur­vey of Pot­ter Cove using the lat­est multi­beam echo sounder. The data col­lect­ed will be sent to the UK Hydro­graph­ic Office in Taunton to update the charts of an area last sur­veyed with a lead line in the 19th century. 

As a result of how things have changed thanks to glob­al warm­ing, the sur­vey team man­aged to take the James Caird IV ‘inland’ as the glac­i­er has retreat­ed over 2km in the last 150 years. 

HMS Pro­tec­tor will con­tin­ue to under­take task­ings with­in the British Antarc­tic Ter­ri­to­ry over the next few months — vis­it­ing bases, sup­port­ing sci­en­tif­ic work and under­tak­ing hydro­graph­ic sur­vey work. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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