HMS Edinburgh is currently on a six-month stint in the Southern Ocean, providing reassurance to the people of the Falkland Islands and flying the flag for the UK in this remote part of the world.
The Portsmouth-based destroyer, in the company of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Black Rover, recently made the three-day passage from East Cove Military Port in the Falklands to King Edward Point on South Georgia, in sight of the island’s capital, Grytviken.
The trip south had a three-fold aim: to remind the sparse population of the UK’s continued interest in the island; to allow soldiers to train in a cold weather environment; and to give Edinburgh’s sailors the chance to operate a warship in a challenging environment.
The journey to South Georgia took the ship into the Antarctic Convergence Zone, where the warmer waters of the Atlantic meet those of the frozen continent, and meant that the ship’s company had to keep a constant watch for icebergs.
Once in the confined waters of King Edward Cove, there was a chance to offload troops from A Company, 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, known as ‘The Tigers’.
Also glad to get ashore was journalist Liz Roberts, who joined the destroyer for the trip south to record programmes for Falkland Islands television and radio about the day-to-day life of a warship patrolling this part of the world.
While she was off gathering material and The Tigers were conducting cold weather training, the ship’s company were getting to know the local human and wildlife populace - the former in the shape of the British Antarctic Survey scientists who operate a research base at King Edward Point.
All returned to the ship awestruck by the beauty of the island - and conscious that it should not be spoiled by visitors.
HMS Edinburgh’s Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Russell, said:
South Georgia is a unique - and fragile - environment. It needs protection in every sense of the word.
We had to be very conscious of ‘bio-security measures’ when landing personnel.
It was a great privilege to be able to experience one of the most naturally-stunning and remote places on the planet.
Edinburgh’s been away from the Solent since May 2011 and will remain in the South Atlantic until the tail end of the year. In a varied deployment so far she’s visited Angola and Cape Town before a rough crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to begin her Falklands patrol.
She’s due to return to South Africa imminently for her mid-deployment maintenance period before resuming her duties.