The UK Royal Navy’s largest survey ship HMS Scott (H131) sailed into port for the first time since before Christmas as she returned to Falmouth from an Atlantic deployment.
The vessel arrived back in Britain at dusk on Thursday – the first landfall for the first time since December 22 in Punta Arenas in Chile after 95 days continuously at sea and sailing 13,187 nautical miles. Without a traditional homecoming due to the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation, the returning 48 sailors, led by Commander James Baker, instead received a free delivery of pasties from port staff who will now get to work carrying out maintenance on the 430ft-long vessel.
The Devonport-based ship is used to scour the world’s oceans gathering data which assists both military operations and can also update seafaring charts produced for mariners worldwide. HMS Scott has been away from the UK since the beginning of June last year, focusing her efforts in the North and South Atlantic Oceans, plus the Caribbean.
Although Scott herself has been deployed for nearly ten months, her 48 crew have not been away for longer than around 20 weeks; one-third of the ship’s company changes roughly every ten weeks to sustain the 13,000-tonne vessel on long-term operations.
It’s the first time in eight years that Scott has visited the South Atlantic, beginning in the fearsome waters between Antarctica and the southern tip of the Americas – Drake’s Passage – where the ship helped the Chileans in the search for a missing C-130 Hercules aircraft using state-of-the-art sonar scanners and other sensors. Her sailors located – and recovered – several pieces of wreckage, as well as survival equipment and one of the crew member’s bags, all handed over to Chilean authorities when the ship visited Punta Arenas.
The ship spent New Year’s Eve off the remote New Island at the western edge of the Falklands, welcoming 2020 with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne on the upper deck.
During her time around Britain’s South Atlantic territories, her sailors visited remote communities and paid their respects to their forebears lost in the 1982 Falklands conflict, notably laying a wreath over the wreck of the frigate HMS Antelope.
Scott also called at the Azores, Boston, Gibraltar, and Rio De Janeiro in her nine-and-a-half months away, sailing just short of 16,000 miles – roughly two-thirds of the distance around the world – since her last port visit in Chile in December.