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.

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Odd name for this type of ship I think. Not sure what it is ‘protecting’?


Queen Elizabeth Land and other territories, depots, ships, people and the natural world.

David E Flandry

Falklands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, and BAT. She stops at Tristan da Cunha every so often.

Andy G

The environment?


British citizens working down there and territorial claims in the Antarctic perhaps?

Sceptical Richard

It must be really cool to serve on this ship. Lucky draft if you can get it…


Really cool? More like bitterly cold surely? 🙂

Sceptical Richard

Ha, ha! I asked for that one…

Nick C

The reason she is HMS Protector is that the first ice patrolship was a Second World War net layer, converted, which was called Protector. She once famously made it back for leave partially under sail when she had one shaft damaged by ice. They used awnings and reckoned to get an extra knot and a half!

Daniele Mandelli

Colleague of mine at work was on Endurance when he was in the RN. Fascinating stories.

Bruce Sellers

The commission book for what was planned to be HMS Endurance last tour makes for a highly interesting read.


I also had a close friend on the Endurance when they nearly lost her – that was his last tour

same old story of rusting old ships with lack of maintenance – was a very close run thing by all accounts

at least a lesson was learned and they have purchased a quality hull this time – this is a hard worked vessel that does far more for enviromental research and maritime patrol that is given credit for – shame it doesn’t have a hangar though

David E Flandry

Too bad she could not be replaced by a RN version of the RRS Attenborough, which has a hanger. Her costs could come lout of the aid budget. Someone should approach Cammel Laird for a cost estimate.