Navy ice ship coming home

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth            Picture: PA

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ROYAL Navy ice patrol ship HMS Protector will return home from her maiden deployment to Antarctica on Wednesday.

The 5,000-tonne ice-breaker will pass the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth at approximately 10.10am, the navy said.

Protector has spent seven months surveying and patrolling the Antarctic Peninsula.

It was her first deployment since joining the fleet last year as a £26m replacement for damaged HMS Endurance.

The ship departed Portsmouth in November last year and conducted studies for the UK Hydrographic Office, which provides 80 per cent of the world’s nautical charts.

She also helped re-supply British Antarctic Survey stations in the frozen continent.

In February, 23 sailors from the ship tackled a ferocious fire which raged through a Brazilian research base on King George Island, killing two of the base’s personnel.

A few weeks later, Protector punched through the ice in a dramatic race against time to pick up a stranded team of British Antarctic Survey scientists.

In April, the ship ventured to her most southerly point of the deployment – the Rothera research base 800 miles south of Cape Horn. There, she delivered aviation fuel in rolling seas and in temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius.

Protector’s commanding officer, Captain Peter Sparkes, said: ‘Protector’s return from her inaugural deployment to Antarctica represents a significant achievement for the ship’s company who have transformed this unique ship into a Royal Navy warship, deployed her and operated her in the most challenging environment, and recovered her safely to the United Kingdom all within 12 months.

‘We now prepare ourselves to re-deploy the ship south again in September.’