Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship takes voyage near North Pole on her first patrol of Arctic, making her the first to travel so far north

AN ICEBREAKER vessel has made history as she sails further north than any other Royal Navy ship in history.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 9:53 am

On her first patrol of the Arctic, survey and research ship HMS Protector crunched through polar ice to within 1,050 kilometres of the top of the world as she gathered data about the ocean and environment.

Only submarines – such as HMS Trenchant which punched through the ice at the Pole in 2018 – can travel further north.

Commanding officer captain Michael Wood said: ‘This team has ventured far to one of the most amazing parts of the planet.

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Captain Mike Wood, commanding officer of HMS Protector, on the ice while conducting trials in the Arctic. Picture: Royal Navy
Captain Mike Wood, commanding officer of HMS Protector, on the ice while conducting trials in the Arctic. Picture: Royal Navy

‘The chance to familiarise ourselves with this unforgiving environment has been fantastic, and re-asserts the UK’s ability to operate in the Arctic.’

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Deployed for 330 days a year, Plymouth-based HMS Protector usually sails the waters of Antarctica and the Southern Hemisphere.

The ship’s Royal Marines’ Mountain Leader Sergeant Chris Carlisle led daily patrols on to ice floes inhabited by polar bears to set up the trial ranges and take ice samples.

HMS Protector's Hydrographic department on the ice. Picture: Royal Navy

He said: ‘The team adapted well to the Arctic. Within a week of sailing from Devonport the temperatures and conditions changed immeasurably. Everybody on-board proved they can safely do their job in the most extreme of environments.’

The ship also conducted surveys of the sea bed – between 2,000 and 3,000 metres deep in the Fram Strait – collected data about the North Atlantic currents, observed marine mammals, and helped the British Antarctic Survey with its work studying the polar ice cap.

Protector completed the most extensive overhaul in her decade-long career in the Royal Navy in January, since when she’s been conducting extensive trials and training – all with the goal of deploying to Antarctica in the autumn.

HMS Protector will begin preparing for return to the southern polar region in the autumn, a mission Captain Wood says has added significance this year.

He said: ‘We are ready to get back to Antarctica. In the year the UK hosts the COP 26 Conference, our commitment to preserving and understanding this pristine continent, and the impact of climate change upon it, is more important than ever.’

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