A ROYAL Navy ice patrol ship has just finished an historic visit to Antarctica’s largest inhabited community – McMurdo Base – where about 1,000 people work during the summer months.
HMS Protector travelled through storms and gales to reach the US Antarctic Base on Ross Island, in the Ross Sea, the first time that a Royal Navy ship has visited McMurdo.
McMurdo base is the largest area of human habitation on the Antarctic continent and is a hub for stores and support to a number of other bases in the region, included the South Pole base and the New Zealand Antarctic Scott base two miles away.
There are two large laboratory complexes at McMurdo which conduct research into a wide variety of scientific disciplines and co-ordinate additional research in many other satellite stations across that part of the Antarctic continent.
During the visit to McMurdo, HMS Protector’s commanding Oofficer, Captain Rory Bryan, said: ‘This has been a real opportunity for the Royal Navy to visit McMurdo base and develop our relationship with the Antarctic community in the Ross Sea and local area.’
While there Protector’s survey team worked to improve the bathymetric data relating to the region – some of which had never been surveyed before.
Once this has been processed onboard it will be sent to the UK Hydrographic Office, New Zealand and the US to increase the understanding of the seabed and expand the areas considered safe to navigate in.
Leading Seaman (Hydrography and Meteorology) Andrew ‘Hamish’ David said: ‘It’s been very cold, but awesome, and great to get some survey work done in an area not surveyed very well before.’
Being the first time that a Royal Navy ship has visited McMurdo the ship’s company took the chance to visit Captain Robert Scott’s Discovery Hut as well as the small chapel built at the base.
Leading Seaman (Chef) Janson ‘Frenchie’ Pierre said: ‘It has been an amazing experience and a great opportunity for me to step ashore in Antarctica for the first time.’
After a day of poor ice conditions and strong winds the visitors were able to meet the New Zealand Team and were shown around the area by some of the scientists and expedition staff at Scott Base.