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Royal Navy ice ship HMS Protector ready to renew Antarctic environmental mission

14 November 2022
Royal Navy survey ship HMS Protector has resumed her Antarctic scientific mission, beginning four months monitoring the impact of global warming and changes to the environment.

The Royal Navy’s sole icebreaker will work in and around the Antarctic peninsula, as well as remote islands and sensitive wildlife zones, until March, when summer in the Southern Hemisphere ends.
 
She will build on her efforts 12 months ago when she helped count the penguin population, recorded the melting of glaciers and ice shelves, updated aging nautical charts of the region by scooping up the latest data with her cutting-edge sensors and generally supported the work of British and international scientists.
 
Protector spent the summer in Canada and the Caribbean – the latter working with the inhabitants and authorities in British Overseas Territories in the region to prepare for the 2022 hurricane season.
 
The ship – which is based in Plymouth when in the UK, but on a long-term scientific mission which will keep her away from home for up to five years – has spent the past few weeks in Montevideo in Uruguay, where the ship and her machinery underwent maintenance to prepare them for the rigours of operating around the frozen continent. 
 
In addition to the maintenance work, her sailors and Royal Marines enjoyed the opportunity to experience one of South America’s most vibrant cities, renew ties with the Armada Nacional (Uruguayan Navy), Antarctic Institute of Uruguay, schools, the AEDS (Uruguayan lifeboat organization – Protector’s engineers provided some practical assistance) and the British community. 
 
“I was lucky enough to visit various schools in Montevideo and speak to the students about the ship. They were excited to hear about the wildlife in Antarctica and the work we do there. In return, we were recommended the best places to go for a submarino [a mug of hot milk with dark chocolate] and some dulce de leche [caramelized milk],” said Sub Lieutenant Ollie Dean.
 
Sailors visited the country’s Defence Academy to explain Protector’s work and role to cadets, while officers hosted the head of the Uruguayan Navy Almirante Jorge Wilson and fellow leaders, for Trafalgar Night celebrations.

Having spent the majority of my career in the Gulf, Montevideo was a fresh and exciting prospect for me. The people were friendly despite the language barrier and the restaurants were sublime.

Leading Seaman Thomas ‘Shakey’ Stevens

Protector’s Commanding Officer, Captain Maryla Ingham, joined the UK Ambassador to Montevideo, Faye O’Connor, who hosted a Women in Leadership Forum, and championed the role of women in the armed forces.
 
Crew paid homage to sailors buried in Montevideo’s British Cemetery after the Battle of the River Plate in 1939; an outgunned flotilla of Royal Navy ships engaged the powerful German ‘pocket battleship’ Graf Spee off the coast. 
 
A wreath was laid on the grave of New Zealander Neville Milburn, a 19-year-old telegraphist, one of 36 men killed serving in cruiser HMS Achilles during the action.
 
The damaged Nazi warship fled to neutral Montevideo to effect repairs, was unable to complete them in the 72 hours and was famously scuttled in the estuary.
 
The ship herself hosted school visits for local youngsters, ex-pats, Uruguayan sailors, British Embassy staff and loaded stores on behalf of the Antarctic Institute of Uruguay for transporting to their Antarctic base of Artigas. And in down time, crew were invited to a Uruguayan BBQ and watch a football match at the Estadio Centenario. 
 
“I really enjoyed Montevideo, great food and friendly locals. A nice city to get ashore during a busy maintenance period and relax,” said Petty Officer Daniel ‘Tinks’ Tinkler.
 
Leading Seaman Thomas ‘Shakey’ Stevens added: “Having spent the majority of my career in the Gulf, Montevideo was a fresh and exciting prospect for me. The people were friendly despite the language barrier and the restaurants were sublime.”

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