Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship, HMS Protector (A173) has arrived back into Plymouth after travelling 136,608 nautical miles since she departed UK shores back in 2015.
Although it was a cold morning in Plymouth, the temperature was nothing like what the ship’s company have been experiencing far away in Antarctica, where conditions can be unforgiving.
The ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain Matthew Syrett said: “HMS Protector has a unique role in the Royal Navy and we are a very unusual warship. We are bright red and white for a start and we operate in Antarctica, promoting science and enabling conservation and making sure our British interests in Antarctica are preserved.
Our deployment has been awesome – we’ve visited New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina to name a few, and in 2016 we circumnavigated Antarctica for the first time.”
The sort of studies that Protector has been involved in this year with the British Antarctic Survey and their American counterparts has included the study of a glacier, the size of England. The glacier was found to be very fragile and is breaking up. The ship has provided 175 tons of fuel along with stores to support that project as ) scientists are concerned about the possibility of a 20cm sea level rise just from that one glacier if it melts. There are no concerns immediately but scientists are looking at the long-term changes in the Antarctic.
HMS Protector has a key role in the Antarctic with the importance of survey tasking for the safety of navigation and the understanding of the environment has made it a safer place for shipping in the region and opened new areas for exploration.
HMS Protector will remain in Plymouth until next week when she heads to Middlesbrough to undergo a refit and docking period before heading back to Antarctica in the autumn.