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HMS Scott rocks up in Gib after two busy months surveying the Atlantic

15 February 2023
After two busy months hoovering up the secrets of the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, Britain’s biggest survey ship is taking a break from her epic deployment in Gibraltar.

HMS Scott spent the tail end of 2022 and opening weeks of this year on the other side of the Atlantic – Brazil’s northern coast and the West Indies, with brief breaks in regional ports in between her oceanographic survey work.

The Plymouth-based ship left the UK at the beginning of July last year and isn’t due to return home until this autumn.

By the beginning of December Scott had already surveyed a greater area of ocean/seabed than on any previous deployment (a swathe of the Atlantic the size of Germany).

Since then she’s continued to survey tens of thousands of square miles of the Atlantic to the latest standards courtesy of her suite of cutting-edge sonar.

The ship typically spends around a month at sea, then returns to port to take on supplies, rotate crew, conduct a bit of defence engagement, then head out into the Atlantic.

Most recently she’s renewed ties in two harbours which haven’t welcomed the Royal Navy in several years: Castries, capital of St Lucia, and Fortaleza in Brazil. 
Scott may be the largest ship in the Royal Navy’s survey flotilla (and fifth largest vessel under the White Ensign) but she was dwarfed in Castries by Anthem of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class cruise ships (168,000 tonnes… a dozen times’ the RN vessel’s displacement).

It’s the first time the Royal Navy has called on St Lucia in eight years (the last ship to visit was patrol vessel HMS Severn) so there was considerable interest in Scott’s presence during her six-day stop – from cruise passengers photographing their smaller grey neighbour to a series of engagement events fostering UK/RN/West Indies ties.

Crew laid on a capability demonstration for island leaders, Commanding Officer Commander Tom Harrison discussed some of the security challenges facing St Lucia with Acting Governor General, His Excellency Cyril Errol Charles, and also opportunities the island is seizing as the world shakes off the shackles of Covid lockdowns. 

“After a busy period over Christmas it was fantastic to be able to unwind in the tropical paradise that was St Lucia,” said Sub Lieutenant Dan Orme.

After a busy period over Christmas it was fantastic to be able to unwind in the tropical paradise that was St Lucia.

Sub Lieutenant Dan Orme

Survey work is often repetitive, but with Scott operating in the mid-ocean, often far from other seagoing traffic and certainly any light pollution – which plagues stargazing around the UK – it’s allowed the 50-strong crew to enjoy Nature unbound at times.

“Operating mid-Atlantic, Scott is often treated to fantastic astronomic and atmospheric phenomena, including this lunar halo,” explained Lieutenant Commander Phil Boak, the ship’s operations officer.

“The halo is produced by refraction or reflection of light by ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere and is a magnificent sight.”

HMS Scott left the UK at the beginning of July last year and isn’t due to return home until this autumn.

By the beginning of December Scott had already surveyed a greater area of ocean/seabed than on any previous deployment (a swathe of the Atlantic the size of Germany).

To sustain her, she takes on supplies and rotates a segment of her crew roughly once a month.

Before the Christmas/New Year stint in the central Atlantic, Scott took a short break in Fortaleza – the first RN vessel to visit since long-decommissioned destroyer HMS Gloucester back in 2009.

Scott hosted some Brazilian officers for the entry into the north coast port – they were struck by the similar training, procedures, and equipment used by both navies.

Once his ship was alongside, Commanding Officer Commander Tom Harrison called on the local Brazilian Navy headquarters, where Capitao‐de‐fregata Oliveira underlined the strength of the partnership between the two navies, outlined the challenges his navy faces policing Brazil’s long Atlantic coastline, tackling pollution and drug smuggling.

Scott’s sailors took on local sailors on the football pitch, shared damage control skills with their Brazilian counterparts and donated various gifts to a monastery for distribution among the city’s homeless population.

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