HMS Scott left Plymouth early today for what will be her second deployment to the region; her aim will be to demonstrate the UK’s ongoing commitment to the Antarctic Treaty during the austral summer of 2010/11.
The UK was the first state to ratify the treaty, which came into force in 1961, and remains committed to upholding its core values of preserving the continent for peace and science.
During her deployment to the region earlier this year HMS Scott, based at Devonport Naval Base, surveyed 3,000 miles (4,800km) of uncharted ocean, and provided information for the safety of navigation and entirely new seabed views of interest to scientists, including newly-discovered undersea volcanoes.
The ship’s current mission will again be in support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Antarctic Survey. HMS Scott will provide data for the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office using her state-of-the-art multi-beam sonar system to collect information in the data-sparse waters of the Antarctic.
HMS Scott is built to sail through ice only up to 80cm thick and is, therefore, not officially an ice-breaker.
The ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Gary Hesling, said:
The fact that HMS Scott can undertake useful and valuable tasking, despite not being an ice- breaker, shows the utility and flexibility of the Royal Navy. It could be no more fitting that HMS Scott, named after Captain Scott, is to conduct operations in the Antarctic in the 100th anniversary year of Captain Scott’s final Antarctic expedition.
At 13,500 tons (12,250 metric tonnes) HMS Scott is the Royal Navy’s deep-water ocean survey vessel and the sixth largest vessel in the fleet. Her size is a consequence of her unique sonar, capable of surveying the deepest oceans in continuous lines of up to 400 miles (640km) in length.
The ship completed survey operations in the North Atlantic during the summer and, in preparation for this deployment, recently undertook a package of training with the staff of Plymouth-based Flag Officer Sea Training.
HMS Scott was commissioned in 1997 and has a crew of 78. She operates a crew rotation system whereby 52 are onboard at any one time during a standard 35-day operational cycle. The remainder of the crew take leave and by operating in such a manner the ship maximises her operational availability and effectiveness by being at sea for 307 days per year.
The UK has long-term strategic, scientific, environmental and sustainable resource management interests in the Antarctic, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and the wider South Atlantic.
By taking a leading role in the Antarctic Treaty system, through a policy of presence, governance and commitment to deliver our international obligations, the UK protects its interests and sovereignty.
The UK’s claim to the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) is the oldest in Antarctica dating back to letters patent issued in 1908. Claims lodged by Argentina and Chile in the 1930s and 1940s largely overlap with the BAT.
Other states which claim territory in Antarctica are Norway, Australia, France and New Zealand. Article IV of the Antarctic Treaty deals with territorial sovereignty and effectively places in abeyance all such claims, recognition and non-recognition of claims, and precludes any activity to assert any new claim or enlarge any existing claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica.