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The Royal Navy’s HMS Protector has set a record for sailing closer to the North Pole than any other British surface ship in history.
The Plymouth-based survey ship is on her first Arctic patrol after completing an extensive overhaul in January. Since then, Protector has been conducting extensive trials and training with the goal of deploying to Antarctica later this year.
HMS Protector has spent this month in the Arctic Circle, north of 80 degrees latitude, carrying out ‘Ice Ramming Trials’ to ascertain the correct ‘Polar Code’ rating post refit.
Previously, only Royal Navy submarines, such as HMS Trenchant which punched through the ice at the Pole in 2018, have travelled further north than the position reached by survey ship reached: 80°41.5 North in the Greenland Sea, about 1050 kilometers (652 miles) from the North Pole.
“Having been nowhere near the ice in more than two years, the ship tested the strength of her engines using a specialist bollard pull in Flekkefjord, southern Norway, then began icebreaking in earnest in the Fram Strait – between Greenland and the Norwegian island chain of Svalbard,” the Royal Navy said in a statement.
On board Protector are scientists, engineers and advisors including from the Ministry of Defence and the British Antarctic Survey, as well as two Royal Navy officers who sailed into the Alaskan Arctic aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star this past winter, and ice-breaking expert Lieutenant Lauren Kowalski, also from the U.S. Coast Guard.
“This team has ventured far to one of the most amazing parts of the planet,” said Protector’s Commanding Officer Captain Michael Wood. “The chance to familiarize ourselves with this unforgiving environment has been fantastic, and re-asserts the UK’s ability to operate in the Arctic.”
While north, the ship also conducted surveys of the seabed in the Fram Strait, between 2,000 and 3,000 meters deep, and collected data about the North Atlantic currents, observed marine mammals, and helped the British Antarctic Survey on researching the polar ice cap.
After a stop in Reykjavik, Iceland, HMS Protector will return to Plymouth where she will begin preparing to return to the southern polar region in the fall.
“We are ready to get back to Antarctica. In the year the UK hosts the COP 26 Conference, our commitment to preserving and understanding this pristine continent, and the impact of climate change upon it, is more important than ever,” said Captain Wood.
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