The Royal Navy’s ice patrol vessel HMS Protector has arrived in Cape Town for maintenance following a busy summer season that has seen it mix scientific research and hydrographic surveying with searching for a missing Argentine submarine and diplomatic visits to several regional allies.
Africa will be the third continent in a month for HMS Protector which has sailed from Antarctica via South America where she made a port call to Buenos Aires. The rare visit, the Royal Navy’s first to Argentina since 2004, saw the vessel thanked for its involvement in the search for ARA San Juan last year and build up its relationship with fellow military icebreaker the ARA Almirante Irizar.
Her welcome in Cape Town was equally as warm with British Consul-General Ed Roman greeting them at the harbour along with a contingent from the South African National Defence Forces. The crew spent most of Sunday clearing the decks ahead of maintenance work to keep her ship shape for the months ahead.
Her next season is already looking to be another busy one with a joint UK-US scientific initiative studying the mighty Thwaites Glacier likely to require significant logistics support from the vessel with aviation fuel and supplies.
As part of forward deployment plans HMS Protector last left the British Isles in 2015 and is expected to remain in the southern hemisphere until 2020. Like other ships on permanent station its crew operates on a rotation watch system with only a portion of the crew onboard at any one time and the remainder back in the UK for training or leave.