News story

Royal Navy surveys remote volcanic archipelago

Royal Navy ice patrol ship HMS Protector has visited the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha to conduct the first systematic survey of the British Overseas Territory since the 1970s.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is the main settlement on Tristan da Cunha. It was forced to evacuate its entire population to England following a volcanic eruption in 1961.

In 1962 a Royal Society expedition visited the islands to assess the damage and reported that the settlement had only been marginally affected. Most families returned to Edinburgh in 1963.

Although Edinburgh remained habitable, the 1961 eruption badly affected the waters surrounding the settlement, leaving them particularly hazardous for navigation and in need of surveying.

In the first survey of the area to be conducted using modern techniques, HMS Protector used her motorboat and onboard systems to make a multibeam echo sounder survey of the Edinburgh Anchorages.

The territory is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying 1,750 miles (2,816km) from the nearest land, South Africa, and 2,088 miles (3,360km) from South America.

It consists of the main island of Tristan da Cunha itself - which measures 11km across - along with the uninhabited Nightingale Islands and the wildlife reserves of Inaccessible Island and Gough Island. It has a permanent population of 275.

During her three-day visit, HMS Protector also conducted a fishery protection patrol around the islands. Her presence reaffirms the UK’s commitment to the area and in this instance also provides a tangible survey product for the local people and economies.

Captain Peter Sparkes, HMS Protector’s Commanding Officer, said:

It is a genuine pleasure and privilege for HMS Protector and the Royal Navy to be able to help in making the waters around Tristan da Cunha safer for all seafarers; we are delighted to be here.

From Tristan da Cunha HMS Protector will begin her passage to the Antarctic.

Published 9 November 2012