11 Mar 2008CinC Fleet visits HMS Endurance in Antarctica
As part of a fact finding expedition to the Antarctic, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope flew into the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) base at Rothera on the western edge of the peninsula, to meet Endurance whilst she was alongside. The week before, she had been in uncharted waters at the base of the Antarctic Peninsula, continuing her support for BAS, putting their scientists into sites inaccessible other than by Endurance’s 2 lynx helicopters. At 67 degree’s south, it’s over 10,000 thousand miles from Portsmouth, and stepping off the plane into an ice filled world with a glacier looming above the base, temporarily stopped the Admiral in his tracks. It is hard to understand exactly what Endurance does unless you can see her in her area of operations and her remit is so large and complex, that it was a challenge to demonstrate as much as possible during his 2 day visit.
After a tour of the ship and time spent with the ships company, it was an early night after a long days travelling. The first evolution of the next day was a trip to Blaiklock Island off the peninsula. Soil Biologists from BAS have spent time here collecting samples of moss and invertebrates that live within it. These isolated islands are time machines in miniature and on them, the effects of long term climate change can be studied. The Admiral was shown some of the minute larvae that had been found for the first time in this area and may prove to be an entirely new species.
No trip to Antarctica would be complete without meeting some of the locals and a small group of Adelie penguins were standing by for inspection. At this time of year, they are moulting ready to spend the winter months at sea. Also on the island is an abandoned hut still containing supplies and fuel in case anyone potentially got stranded there. Of particular interest was a visitor’s book going back over 50 years. The Admiral wrote
“21st Feb 2008 Commander-in Chief Fleet-UK Navy. A once in a lifetime visit for someone in my position to ensure HMS Endurance continues to contribute to Science and Diplomacy in the Antarctic”
Flying back to Rothera over icebergs and the odd Minke whale, demonstrated the vastness of the ice and its immense beauty. He was met by Lt Stuart Long, who had been leading a surveying boat camp on the waters around the base for the last 2 weeks. His team demonstrated various techniques etc. After a quick lunch, a formal tour of the base followed, the highlight of which was the Marine biology aquarium. Due the to extreme cold and high oxygen levels of the water in Antarctica, marine life grows to giant proportions. A water louse as big as you hand, huge water spiders and star fish, were amongst the exhibits shown to the Admiral.
It was then back to Endurance for a series of useful meetings about Endurance’s operations with several of her closest stakeholders from BAS, the Foreign and Commonwealth office, and the UK Hydrographic office.
After an evening onboard with a selection of the Ships Company and guests, a very busy but satisfying day drew to an end.
The Admiral left Endurance to following morning having had an intense but rewarding taste of life in Antarctica, and the ships company were certainly left in no doubt about the impression they had made. After leaving, Admiral Stanhope sent his thanks by Signal, an extract of which is below.
“It is always good when a well made plan come together and this one did, in every respect. I was truly impressed by the professional manner each and every task I witnessed was conducted from flying, through survey to scientific support and equally by your people conducting them. The focus and enthusiasm for your business was very obvious in all to whom I spoke and the upbeat nature of your team was consequently of no surprise. It was great fun. I know of no other CINCFLEET in the recent past to visit you in the Antarctic, although many have tried. I was most fortunate and privileged that it all came together. Many thanks to all concerned for making it happen. Stay safe and good luck.”
Endurance has a further 2 weeks in the ice before the Antarctic winter begins to really set in and it will then be 7 months until she can get back to these distant waters.HMS Endurance [Picture: Royal Navy]
Source: Royal Navy