Royal Naval icebreaker HMS Protector on her first Arctic lookout, sailed closest to the North Pole. She is the first Royal Navy ship in its history to go this far. The survey and research vessel was just 570 nm short to reach the top of the world. She scraped her way through the polar ice to collect ocean and environmental data.
The coordinates of the Plymouth-based vessel were 80 degrees 41.5 minutes North of, Greenland Sea. Only submarines have the potential to move further towards the North than this survey ship.
In January, HMS Protector, on her decade-long Royal Navy career, underwent her most comprehensive overhaul. Following that, she has been put into substantial trials and training, preparing Protector for Antarctica in autumn.
For more than two years, she was nowhere near the ice. The vessel tested its engine strength using a bollard yank in Flekkefjord, Southern Norway. She began icebreaking in between the Norwegian island chain, Svalbard and Greenland, at the Fram Strait.
The ship assessed herself thoroughly and stood out against all odds. Scientists, engineers, and advisors from the MoD and the British Antarctic Survey tested the vessel against numerous depths and types of ice. Lieutenant Lauren Kowalski (Ice-breaking expert, US Coast Guard) and two Royal Navy officers, who were part of the winter Alaskan Arctic transit, aboard Polar Star ( cutter, US Coast Guard) aided HMS Protector.
“This team has ventured far to one of the most amazing parts of the planet,” said Captain Michael Wood ( CO, HMS Protector). “The chance to familiarize ourselves with this unforgiving environment has been fantastic, and re-asserts the UK’s ability to operate in the Arctic.”
Sergeant Chris Carlisle, vessel's Royal Marines' Mountain leader, ran daily lookouts on ice sheets occupied by polar bears to collect ice samples and set trial ranges.
“The team adapted well to the Arctic. Within a week of sailing from Devonport, the temperatures and conditions changed immeasurably. Everybody on board proved they can safely do their job in the most extreme of environments," he added.
The vessel has surveyed sea beds lying at a depth of 2000-3000 meters in the Fram Strait. Moreover, the ship also helped the British Antarctic Survey to analyze the polar ice cap, by observing ocean mammals and collecting data on North Atlantic currents.
Protector will soon be sent back to the southern polar region in the autumn. Captain Wood marked that the mission has added importance this year, and said "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. "