Icebreaker HMS Protector has broken a record, becoming the first Royal Navy ship to enter both polar circles within the same year. The Navy's only icebreaker, Protector left Plymouth in August for Antarctica, – her first visit to the frozen continent since 2019.
The survey/research ship has been supporting scientists from around the world studying the impact of global warming.
She will be visiting the UK and international research stations peppered around the British Antarctic Territory surveying the seabed there.
Currently, she is involved in UK/US scientific research into the penguin population and climate change in the Sandwich Islands, east of the Falkland Islands and home of some three million of marine birds.
University of Oxford’s department of zoology and Washington DC-based scientific and educational organization Oceanites, which has spent nearly three decades building up a comprehensive picture of penguin populations in Antarctica. The organization also maintains a continent-wide penguin database known which everyone in the Antarctic Treaty system relies upon and uses penguins as avatars to spread the word internationally about climate change.
Scientists have relied on a combination of direct counting, GPS mapping and interpretation of high-resolution commercial satellite imagery to calculate the size of the colonies. The rare live footage and imagery captured by HMS Protector and scientists using drones on Saunders, South Thule and Cook islands is vital for more accurate assessments of the population sizes.
The results of the joint study will be made publicly available on http://www.penguinmap.com.