HMS Edinburgh visited this month South Georgia as part of her six-month South Atlantic and Falkland Islands duties which included training soldiers in a cold weather environment and give sailors the chance under such challenging conditions.
In company with tanker RFA Black Rover, the Fortress of the Sea made the three-day passage from East Cove Military Port in the Falklands to King Edward Point in sight of the South Georgian ‘capital’ Grytviken.
The trip south had a three-fold aim: to show the sparse population of the UK’s continued interest in the islands; to allow soldiers to train in a cold weather environment; and to give Edinburgh’s sailors the chance to operate a warship in a challenging environment.
The journey to South Georgia takes the ships into the Antarctic Convergence Zone – where the warmer waters of the Atlantic meet those of the frozen continent – and means there needs to be a constant iceberg watch from the ship’s company.
Once in the confined waters of King Edward Cove, there was a chance to offload troops from A Company 2 Battalion Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment. The Tigers, as the regiment’s known, (a) prefer warmer climates and (b) prefer the land to the sea – the passage to South Georgia was a bit lumpy and the soldiers set foot ashore proclaiming they were glad they were in the Army…
Also glad to get ashore was journalist Liz Roberts, who joined the destroyer for the trip south to record program for Falkland Islands television and radio about the day-to-day life of a warship patrolling this part of the world.
While she was off gathering material and the Tigers were conducting cold weather training, the ship’s company was meeting the local human and wildlife populace – the former in the shape of the British Antarctic Survey scientists who operate a research base at King Edward Point.
All returned to the ship awestruck by the beauty of the island – and conscious that it should not be spoiled by visitors.
Edinburgh’s commanding Officer, Commander Paul Russell, said: “South Georgia is a unique – and fragile – environment. It needs protection in every sense of the word. We had to be very conscious of ‘bio-security measures’ when landing personnel”.
He added it was a great privilege to be able to experience one of the most naturally-stunning and remote places on the planet.”
Edinburgh’s been away from Portsmouth since May and will remain in the South Atlantic until the tail end of the year. In a varied deployment so far she’s visited Angola and Cape Town before a rough crossing of the ocean to begin her Falklands patrol.
She’s due to return to South Africa imminently for her mid-deployment maintenance period before resuming duties.