The Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Protector has ventured further south than ever before, just 1,500 miles from the South Pole, as she continued her scientific work around the frozen continent.
On the latest stage of her work to improve seafaring charts of remote waters, supporting the work of British Antarctic Survey scientists, and conducting scientific studies, the Portsmouth-based icebreaker reached Marguerite Bay, roughly half-way down the western shores of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The furthest point south recorded on her charts was 68° 12’S – 8,900 miles from her home port, 1,500 miles from the southernmost point on the planet, and 850 miles from Cape Horn, the most southerly tip of South America.
As part of a demanding work period in Antarctica as the Austral summer draws to a close, Protector has been working alongside the British Antarctic Survey scientists to help them in their studies of the far South.
She first arrived at Rothera Research Station, the BAS’ most important base in the region, to deliver aviation fuel for its aircraft to use over the Austral summer and stockpile for the winter, before then sailing across Marguerite Bay.
“This voyage marked an important milestone for both the deployment and the history of the ship,” said HMS Protector’s First Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander Jason Varty. “At 68° 12’S Protector has never been as close to the South Pole.”
After Marguerite Bay, the ship then sailed north to Detaille Island to complete another part of her tasking – hydrographic surveying, to update Admiralty charts used by many of the world’s mariners.
With a small part of a previous survey to complete, the brightly-painted icebreaker arrived in the area only to find herself in extremely challenging conditions.
Tonnes of densely-packed ice – with icebergs of all shapes and sizes surrounded the ship – made surveying extremely difficult as they rely on exact measurements of tide and depth.
Petty Officer (Survey Recorder) Kerry Collins, who is on her ninth season in Antarctica, bravely led Protector’s survey motorboat team out to collect the required data, returning successfully with the measurements. HMS Protector is now continuing further north to mark the end of her fourth ice patrol.
The ship left Portsmouth in October 2013 and is to stay in the Antarctic region until 2015 conducting surveys and patrols on behalf of the UK Hydrographic Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office providing logistical support to the British Antarctic Survey organisation.
She also provides a sovereign presence in the British Antarctic Territory and delivers the UK’s commitments under the Antarctic Treaty, supporting science programmes and ensuring that expeditions and vessels are meeting their international environmental obligations.