Portsmouth warship HMS Mersey kept busy on island-hopping odyessy in the Caribbean
From seeing Mother Nature's destructive fury to humanity's insatiable appetite for pleasure and leisure '“ the team from HMS Mersey have seen it all on their island-hopping adventure in the Caribbean.
The Portsmouth-based ship has measured up against some of the largest cruise liners in the world and witnessed the devastation on Montserrat where large swathes of the island remain off limits following the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano 20 years ago.
Two decades later, two-thirds of the British territory remain off-limits, including the former capital Plymouth, but the sailors were given the rare opportunity to look around this ‘forbidden zone’ when the patrol ship paid a three-day visit to the island.
‘Visiting the island’s devastation highlighted the significant impact the eruption has had on Montserrat over the past two decades,’ said Surgeon Lieutenant Thomas Clingo, Mersey’s medical officer, who toured abandoned homes and communities with shipmates.
Since the mid-90s, the island’s 5,000 inhabitants have lived on the north side where a new capital is being built at Little Bay.
As well as visiting the island, Mersey also hosted dignitaries for lunch, discussing how the navy could help in event of an emergency, as well as giving police, customs and defence force members engineering and navigational tips.
Such co-operation with the local authorities continued 1,100 miles away in the Bahamas where the Royal Bahamian Defence Force was given an insight into everything Mersey’s 40 or so ship’s company might face from fire, flood and breakdowns to providing medical assistance.
‘It was fantastic to meet people from completely different backgrounds, to share experiences, swap stories and show the Bahamians what we do on board Mersey,’ said Sub Lieutenant David King.
The visit to the Bahamas also gave Mersey’s sailors some downtime to enjoy the sands and hotels of one of the world’s most popular beach destinations.
The patrol ship was given a berth in an empty cruise liner port when she arrived, but soon found herself dwarfed by five mighty liners disgorging tourists, including the 110,000-tonne Carnival Freedom and the 70,000-tonne Carnival Ecstasy.
Mersey also conducted a series of exercises with the defence force.