Santas have fun in Antarctica

20 members of HMS Protector's Ship's Company took to the ice dressed as Santa Claus in support of the Ship's affiliated charity, East Anglian Children�s Hospice.''Picture: LA(Phot) Arron Hoare

20 members of HMS Protector's Ship's Company took to the ice dressed as Santa Claus in support of the Ship's affiliated charity, East Anglian Children�s Hospice.''Picture: LA(Phot) Arron Hoare

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Picture: Sarah Standing (170259-7003)

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Galloping across the ice, the crew of the navy’s Portsmouth-based icebreaker, HMS Protector, are clearly enjoying the festive spirit.

After breaking through ice for the first time, the ship’s company decided to dress up in Santa outfits and take to the frozen continent to raise cash in a charity run.

The crew were raising money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH), the 5,000-tonne ice patrol ship’s affiliated charity.

The Santa run was held on ice in the waters surrounding Deception Island, a dormant, water-filled volcano.

HMS Protector smashed her way through a sheet of snow-covered ice before coming to a planned stop.

There, the ship’s company could test the ice conditions and drill ice core samples to make sure it was safe to walk on.

Then the eager Santas – and one reindeer – made their way down the ship’s accommodation ladder before heading out into the cold.

Under perfect weather conditions, and the watchful eye of two seals which had taken up watch from a post next to the ship, the Santas began their charity run.

Commander Don Mackinnon, the executive officer who is in command of the ship for this Antarctic patrol, gathered the crew together on the ice at 10am for a warm-up before they set off on their short run.

He said: ‘With 21 hours of daylight in every 24, our working day in Antarctica tends to be a long one.

‘Yesterday our first boat group departed the ship at 8.30am in the morning and the last one finally got back at 11pm that night.

‘With that sort of work pace it’s therefore nice to be able to take a break from operations now and again, and do something both for fun and also to help our affiliated charity at the same time.

‘Santa’s traditional home might be the North Pole, but as you can see he has helpers that visit the other one too.’

HMS Protector is currently in the Antarctic carrying out inspections under the Antarctic Treaty.

The ship will be operating in the continent until April 2013.

She is there to carry out inspections of scientific stations, historic sites and vessels to make sure they are complying with the treaty.

EACH provides support to families and cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions.

This year EACH conducted seven Santa runs across Essex and East Anglia throughout the festive period.

Denise Norris-Fenn, from EACH, said: ‘We were absolutely delighted when HMS Protector became affiliated with EACH in August and are looking forward to developing our relationship.

‘The photographs of the Santa run in the Antarctic waters surrounding Deception Island are stunning and really capture the essence of what Santa runs are all about – having fun while raising vital funds for such an important cause.’

HMS Protector started life as the MV Polarbjorn, a Norwegian icebreaker and polar research vessel.

She is fitted with an echo sounder and other specialist equipment, a state-of-the-art survey motor boat, a work boat and several high-speed rigid inflatable crafts.

HMS Protector also carries specialist tracked vehicles, quad bikes and Land Rovers.

It is her mission to provide a UK Sovereign presence in the British Antarctic Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, along with their surrounding maritime areas.

The aim is to underpin their security and good governance.

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