Royal Navy crew from Portsmouth's HMS Lancaster enjoys a stunning light show in the Arctic
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HMS Lancaster was on a solo two-week voyage to the top of the world when the Northern Lights display took place.
It was the second time the frigate had ventured into the frozen wastes on a 3,000-mile round-trip through the Norwegian Sea and into the Arctic Circle.
Known as the Aurora Borealis, the natural phenomenon – which sees the night sky come alive with swirls and streaks of green – is caused by is caused by electrically charged particles from the sun hitting the Earth’s atmosphere.
The stunning display left sailors on Lancaster awe-struck.
‘I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights during my career and they sure didn’t disappoint – what a display’ said assistant weapon engineer officer Sub Lieutenant Ollie Perry.
The ship is the latest navy vessel to operate in the high north in recent years.
As a ‘lone rider’ the Lancaster had to rely on herself for all eventualities – food, fuel, emergencies – and made a quick pit stop in the Shetland Islands to top up the fuel tanks before heading out into the open ocean.
Crews have been sharpening their skills at sea – including how to deal with emergency incidents in the frigid chill of the Arctic.
Sailors were challenged with dealing with mock fires and evacuating a casualty by helicopter.
Wildcat helicopter crew from 815 Naval Air Sqaudron, embarked on Lancaster, were scrambled to winch an ‘injured’ sailor – Midshipman Hutton – from both the flight deck and the more cluttered forecastle during the drill.
Entering the Arctic meant an age-old maritime tradition was performed: the ceremony of the Blue Nose, where King Neptune – played by Warrant Officer 1st Class Alex ‘Spud’ Spurgeon – demands a tribute from sailors who’ve never been to the Arctic before.
He boomed: ‘These sailors did appear in the northernmost reaches of my realm, bound for the dark and frosty wastes of the land of the midnight sun.’
Each was bathed in ice-cold Arctic water by Lancaster’s captain Commander Will Blackett and members of the Warrant Officers’ and Chiefs’ mess to allow them to sail beyond 66 degrees North.
To warm them back up each sailor was offered the customary ‘tot’ of rum before heading below to grab a hot shower.
Commander Blackett said that his sailors had been ‘raring to go’ and added: ‘I’m incredibly impressed with how all of my sailors have battled the arduous conditions to sustain Lancaster on our solo arctic passage.’