Royal Navy Ice patrol HMS Protector has arrived in Antarctica for the first time this season after her long sail south from Portsmouth. She will spend this, the first of her four work periods in the ice this Austral Summer, supporting an international team conducting formal Antarctic Treaty inspections of sites across the Peninsula.
Led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and with the support of the British Antarctic Survey and observers from HMS Protector, the international team will inspect a number of scientific stations, historic sites, cruise vessels and yachts.
HMS Protector’s designated Antarctic Treaty Observers, who are tasked to provide specialist advice and support to the inspection team, include the Executive Officer, Medical Officer, photographer and a small team of engineers.
With a flotilla of small boats, including: the state-of-the-art survey motor boat, ‘James Caird IV’; an 8.5m ramped Work Boat, ‘Terra Nova’, and; two Pacific 22 rigid inflatable boats (‘Aurora and ‘Nimrod’), the 5,000 tons Ice Patrol Ship and her highly trained crew are well equipped to deploy personnel ashore or afloat in order to conduct these types of operations.
Undertaken jointly by the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands, the inspection program will be conducted in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty.
Under the Treaty, parties are able to conduct on-site, unannounced inspections of all installations and facilities in the region, in order to ensure observance of all of the Treaty's provisions.
Commencing the program of inspections the team deployed from HMS Protector to the Brazilian research station Comandante Ferraz.
Named after the Brazillian Navy Commander Luís Antônio de Carvalho Ferraz, a hydrographer and oceanographer, Ferraz is located in Admiralty Bay, King George Island, which is near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in the South Shetland Islands.
The inspection of Ferraz Base was particularly poignant for HMS Protector; sailors from the ship helped tackle a fire which broke out and tragically killed two Brazilians at the research station in February, during the last season in the ice.
On completion of the inspection at Ferraz, the team transited to Henryk Arctowski the Polish Antarctic Station in order to commence the second of many planned base inspections. The program of inspections will continue until mid-December.
HMS Protector’s Executive Officer, Commander Don Mackinnon said: “HMS Protector is in the Antarctic representing both the United Kingdom and the Royal Navy in order to promote peace and security in region, and to help the international inspection team determine whether parties to the Antarctic Treaty are meeting their obligations.
“The unique, signature capability of the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship, and the significant and very positive contribution it makes to regional co-operation and engagement, has never been more in important. We look forward to a long and productive season in Antarctica.”
HMS Protector will also conduct survey tasks in the South Atlantic over Christmas and New Year before returning to Antarctic waters in January – April 2013.