On a grey midsummer day in the Southern Hemisphere, the crew of HMS Scott pause for reflection over one of the Navy’s most hallowed sites. Ten meters below this spot, sitting upright, almost snapped in two, is the shattered hull of frigate HMS Antelope, torn apart by a series of explosions after bomb disposal experts triggered an unexploded device, in turn detonating the ship’s magazine.
The horrific sight which the blast left – a once-proud shipped snapped mid-ships with thick black plumes of smoke rising above San Carlos Water – provided one of the iconic images of the Falklands conflict.
Nearly 40 years later, the 13,000-tonne survey vessel sailed into the now-silent waters of San Carlos to pay her respects as she conducted a two-week patrol of the Islands
It’s the first time in eight years that Scott has visited the Islands, arriving just in time before Christmas to pick up the mail (cards, presents) waiting for her.
She typically spends summers in the North Atlantic, winters east of Suez hovering up as much data about the oceans as possible with her state-of-the-art sonar scanners and other sensors – information which is fed back to the experts at the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton for study and inclusion in future charts, documentation and guides used by Royal Navy warships on operations.
This austral summer work, however, began in earnest in the fearsome waters between Antarctica and the southern tip of the Americas – Drake’s Passage – where Scott helped the Chileans in the search for a missing Hercules aircraft.
Her sailors located – and recovered – several pieces of wreckage, as well as survival equipment and one of the crew member’s bags, all handed over to Chilean authorities when the ship visited Punta Arenas before sailing for the Falklands.
The Plymouth-based spent New Year’s Eve off the remote New Island at the western edge of the Falklands, welcoming 2020 with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne on the upper deck.
The first duty of the Twenties was a visit to nearby Weddell Island, home to around 50 people, to reassure them of the Royal Navy’s presence in the Falklands.
Fifteen members of the ship’s company were landed by small boat and met with some residents to wish them well for the new year, learn about life in this isolated part of the world, and enjoy their first close encounter with penguins.
“Having been tasked as Falkland Island’s Patrol Vessel for two weeks already, it was fantastic to finally have the chance to take some of the ship’s company ashore to meet some of the residents who live here. Weddell Island is a beautiful place and everyone who made it ashore there thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Scott’s doctor, Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Joe Callaghan from Cornwall who led the visit.