South African sailors, particularly working in hydrographic and climate musterings, have had the opportunity of garnering first-hand information from their colleagues aboard HMS Protector. She ported in Cape Town harbour earlier this month as part of a worldwide voyage that has already seen her circle the globe since October last year. Since leaving the United Kingdom Protector has sailed over 18 600 nautical miles of which three thousands were across the Southern Ocean.
Close to the ice edge the bridge team encountered huge icebergs, some measuring more than half a nautical mile in diameter.
Protector sailed solo and was at times more than 1 000 nautical miles from any other ship or human settlement in Antarctica and over two thousand nautical miles from both South America and New Zealand.
It has been a busy year for HMS Protector which provides a UK sovereign presence in the British Antarctic Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and meets the UK’s obligations under the Antarctic Treaty System. Under this she provides inspections of vessels, completes hydrographic charting and support to scientific research.
In 12 months the ship has visited five different continents, 12 ports, undergone a wide-ranging maintenance package and experienced some of the world’s most inhospitable environments.
Within the Antarctic continent teams from the ship visited bases run by many countries with scientific research interests including McMurdo Base (United States) and Scott Base (New Zealand) – the visits being a first for the Royal Navy.
In another first for the Navy, close liaison with the Australian and New Zealand Fisheries Inspectors allowed HMS Protector to complete four inspections of vessels fishing for toothfish in Antarctic Waters. All were found to be operating within the guidelines of the treaty and no illegal vessels were sighted, but it provided good experience for the crew.
She is fitted with an impressive array of specialist equipment included a hull-mounted multi-beam echo sounder; a state-of-the-art survey motorboat; an 8,5m ramped workboat, seven high speed rigid inflatable and inflatable boats; three quad bikes and trailers as well as a land Rover and a pair of trailers for it.
While in Cape Town, Protector’s Executive Officer, Commander Trefor Fox, called on Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Bubele Mhlana. He also met with Captain Theo Stokes, officer in charge of Project Hotel, the SA Navy’s new hydrographic vessel.
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