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HMS Enterprise boldly goes into Arctic on scientific mission

21 October 2022
Survey ship HMS Enterprise ventured closer to the North Pole than any other Royal Navy vessel in 2022, sailing within 1,000 miles of the top of the world.

The Devonport-based ship headed into the Arctic to update charts and scientific understanding of waters increasingly patrolled by Royal Navy warships to maintain freedom of navigation of the High North.

After receiving specific training for the mission – which saw crew facing water and air temperatures just above freezing, even at the beginning of autumn – Enterprise made for the Barents Sea off the northern coast of Norway.

Passing 66.56° North crew painted the bull ring on the bow – known as a ‘blue nose’ – a traditional seafaring ceremony to designate a ship has sailed inside the Arctic 

Using an array of equipment including single and multi-beam echo sounders, towed sensors and remotely operated bodies to gather hydrographic and oceanographic data, which will benefit scientists, fellow seafarers and Royal Navy operations.

The ship spent two months collecting information, pausing to cast a wreath into Arctic waters in tribute to all those sailors who ran the Nazi gauntlet and braved horrendous conditions to deliver supplies to the Soviet Union on convoy runs between 1941 and 1945. 

Following a short stop in the Norwegian city of Tromsø to change crew and take on supplies, sailors tackled various adventurous activities: mountain climbing, running all 15 miles around the island on which the port sits, and even braving taking a dip in the Arctic waters.

Although these waters are challenging due to the environment, they are a haven for marine life, including orcas, sperm whales and puffins.

Sub Lieutenant Sophie Savage

Enterprise resumed her data-gathering operation first in the Norwegian Sea, then in the Denmark Strait (between Greenland and Iceland).

“Although these waters are challenging due to the environment, they are a haven for marine life, including orcas, sperm whales and puffins,” said Sub Lieutenant Sophie Savage.

“After spending so much time in near constant daylight, the Northern Lights scattered across the sky were a welcome treat for the watch keepers.”

The last act in the Denmark Strait was to hold a service of remembrance over the wreck of the battle-cruiser HMS Hood. Her loss in May 1941 at the hands of Hitler’s flagship Bismarck cost more than 1,400 lives and sent shockwaves through the contemporary Royal Navy.

Enterprise conducted another crew change in Reykjavik which allowed those remaining with the ship to explore Iceland’s unique natural sights which no-one will quickly forget, then headed for Aberdeen where she hosted a number of visitors and VIPs from the maritime world/North Sea industries.

Commander Malcolm McCallum, the survey ship’s Commanding Officer, said of Enterprise’s Arctic mission: “The whole operation has demonstrated that the Royal Navy retains the ability to sustain operations in the strategically important region of the High North.” 

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