The Falkland Islands' patrol vessel HMS Forth crossed 850 miles of icy ocean to patrol the waters around the South Atlantic territory’s archipelago of South Georgia. The 2,000-ton ship arrived in the Falklands at the beginning of the year as the islands’ new patrol ship, replacing the smaller HMS Clyde.
Royal Navy has said Forth is due to go to South Georgia several times a year, to engage in military training, as well as supporting local authorities and scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
Assisting with Forth’s journey, an RAF A400M Atlas Maritime Patrol aircraft scoured the stretch of ocean for floating ice.
On her maiden visit of South Georgia, HMS Forth carried Brigadier Nick Sawyer – Commander of British Forces South Atlantic Islands – as well as two dozen soldiers, air force personnel and civil servants.
Following a 53-hour crossing, those on board were treated to the scenery of Bird Island, on their way to South Georgia’s ‘capital’, Grytviken.
Formerly a busy whaling station, the village is home to a museum and post office for tourists on visiting cruise ships, as well as a British Antarctic Survey research base.
The ship’s company explored the surrounding hills, where they paid homage at the grave of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and spoke to tourists and guides from visiting ships.
A few decided to have a brief swim in the frigid 4°C waters, before respite in the BAS centre’s sauna.
“It was such a wonderful opportunity. I feel very privileged, but it was very cold swimming with seals and king penguins,” communications specialist Leading Engineering Technician Hannah Chenery said.
Lieutenant Matt McGinlay, Forth’s 1st Lieutenant, said his shipmates were spellbound for an island they called “a gateway to Antarctica”. He added: “For many of us, South Georgia was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Bob Laverty said: “The visit was a good opportunity to meet key personalities, integrate and begin to build the bonds of friendship.”