Arctic/Antarctic

HMS Forth Braves Icy Waters To Visit 'Gateway To Antarctica'

Spare sailors on board the Offshore Patrol Vessel looked for ice as the ship sailed into South Georgia.

Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Forth has paid her second visit to the 'Gateway to Antarctica'.

South Georgia is one the UK's most remote and least populous overseas territories – 850 miles from where HMS Forth is based in the Falklands.

Once ashore, sailors explored the abandoned whaling station, visited the grave of legendary Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and met South Georgia's rich wildlife including elephant and fur seals, king penguins and albatrosses.

Visits to the island are impossible in the austral autumn and winter due to the weather conditions, and the passage is still considered hazardous in spring.

Spare sailors were posted as ice lookouts, helping the regular team on the bridge to look for danger in the icy waters. 

Before the journey, Forth's crew practised general damage control, dealing with floods and machinery breakdowns in case the ship ran into an iceberg.

For the first time, Forth was able to berth at the newly-completed wharf in the island's 'capital' Grytviken.

South Georgia is home to a range of wildlife, including king penguins (Picture: Royal Navy).

The new jetty next to the British Antarctic Survey research base at King Edward Point allowed passengers to get ashore easily, rather than be ferried ashore by boat.

"The visit offered both amateur and experienced photographers alike the chance to put their snapping skills to the test and capture some stunning shots of the landscape, wildlife, and the ship," said gunnery officer Sub Lieutenant Owen Long.

"Some even went ashore after dark to conduct night photography, taking advantage of the clear air and lack of light pollution to take spectacular images of the night sky."

Chief Petty Officer Andrew Barsby, the ship's coxswain, added: "South Georgia is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I've been privileged to be able to visit one last time before I leave HMS Forth."

One of the ship's trainee officers led a small congregation in a church service in Grytviken's church, claimed to be one of the most southerly in the world.

HMS Forth's sea boat returns to the mother ship in a snow-covered fjord (Picture: Royal Navy).

For Operation Southern Sovereignty, the patrol vessel hosted 18 military and civilian personnel from Mount Pleasant Complex, the hub of UK operations in the Falklands.

Forth's 50-bunk additional mess means she can embark many more passengers than her predecessor, HMS Clyde.

Among them was Helen Havercroft, chief executive officer of the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.

"Taking passage to South Georgia in HMS Forth has been a great experience," she said.

"I've really enjoyed meeting the crew and feeling what life in a warship is like on a day-to-day basis. I hope they all enjoyed their visit and I would love to see them back in South Georgia sometime soon."

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Edward Munns, said: "A visit to South Georgia is a wonderful opportunity for many of my ship's company and it has been an honour to command HMS Forth in only her second visit to the archipelago.

"A tremendous time was had by all and I'm certain everyone onboard will hold memories of this place that they will treasure for years to come."

Cover image: HMS Forth passes a penguin in South Georgia (Picture: Royal Navy).