'HMS Protector' punched through thick Antarctic ice to help clear the way for cruise ship 'Fram' as ice floes gathered around the liner.
The Portsmouth-based survey ship broke through ice up to four metres (13ft) thick to clear a way through the Antarctic Sound – a strait at the eastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, 650 miles from South America – so the Fram could sail safely again.
The Fram, which gives tourists the chance to sample the stark beauty of the frozen wastes, had been following the icebreaker through gaps in the pack ice when she began to be surrounded by fast-moving floes, blocking her path and trapping the bow. Protector then approached the Fram from astern to break up the ice in a delicate two-hour operation, with the icebreaker moving at just two knots. The Fram was eventually released and led to safety.
“This is what we do in the ice patrol ship – we are the Royal Navy’s equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife – red, versatile and always there when you need us,” said Protector’s Commanding Officer Capt Peter Sparkes. “Protector’s ship’s company are highly-trained and well equipped to deal with a spectrum of operations in Antarctica. That we are able to do so, so readily, is a clear demonstration of the Royal Navy’s global reach and operational preparedness.”
Sub Lt Rowland Stacey of the Royal Canadian Navy, currently on exchange with the Royal Navy and serving with HMS Protector, added: “This was an extremely impressive feat – operations in ice can be very challenging, but HMS Protector made it look easy. I am delighted to be a part of this team.”