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Journey through narrow Panama Canal as HMS Montrose continues deployment

28 November 2018
Warship HMS Montrose navigated the narrow locks and lakes of the Panama Canal to get to the Pacific Ocean and start the next phase of her deployment.

The Type 23 frigate spent seven hours crossing the waterways which join the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, saving the ship a 3,000-mile journey around Cape Horn in South America.

It was a busy day for the navigation and seamanship teams which started at the entrance of the canal, the port of Colón, and continued into the series of locks and lakes. At its narrowest, the Panama Canal stretches just 30m making it a tight fit for the 16m-wide Montrose, which is on a landmark deployment to the Middle East.

Once carefully driven into the first lock, the Plymouth-based ship was connected to a series of small trains, known as mules, and pulled through into the open water of man-made Gatun Lake.

On the other side of the lake, she started her final leg through the humid Las Cumbres surrounded by lush jungle flora, visible from the upper deck.

Seven hours after setting off, HMS Montrose passed into the Miraflores lock and entered the Pacific.

Thanks to the hard work of all on board, the transit went very smoothly.

Commanding Officer Commander Conor O'Neill

Commanding Officer of HMS Montrose, Commander Conor O'Neill, said: "Transiting the Panama Canal is another significant milestone on our global deployment and it was a great experience for all of us.

"Thanks to the hard work of all on board, the transit went very smoothly."

For crew not directly involved in the journey through the canal, there was a chance for them to learn a vital, life-saving skill and raise money for charity.

Surgeon Lieutenant Adam Sales, Montrose's medical officer, organised a sponsored CPR-athon with the aim of training the entire ship's company. At times while crossing the Pacific, the ship will be more than 2,000 nautical miles from land and their training could be crucial. 

Starting at 3.24pm, Medical Assistant Emma Southall kicked off the fundraiser by doing chest compressions on a dummy patient. Leading Medical Assistant George Turnball took over and, for the next seven hours, every member of the ship's company carried out at least four minutes of CPR.

So far, the crew has raised more than £700 for the British Heart Foundation and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.

Surgeon Lieutenant Sales said: "This was a fantastic event that could not have occurred without the support of both the medical team and the wider ship's company.

"It combined a crucial element of whole-ship medical training with an important wider message: effective CPR saves lives. Whether on a warship in the Pacific or in the UK going to the shops, you never know when you might have to use it."

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