Icebreaker HMS Protector has set sail for the Antarctic in a deployment that the ship's company believe could see them make Royal Navy history.
Protector, the Navy's only icebreaker, left Plymouth on Tuesday for Antarctica – her first visit to the frozen continent since 2019.
The survey/research ship will continue her work supporting scientists from around the world who are studying the impact of global warming.
Commanding Officer, Captain Michael Wood, said his ship's return to Antarctica "highlights the Navy and nation's determination to contribute to climate science and limit climate change".
After Protector underwent a major refit in Middlesbrough last year, Capt Wood said he was proud of the work made to "reset the ice patrol ship".
He added: "It's time now for new adventures at the other end of the world."
HMS Protector 'warmed up' for work in sub-zero temperatures by sailing into the Arctic in June to practise crunching ice, venturing further north than any Royal Navy vessel within recent memory – just 1,050 kilometres from the top of the world.
On the journey to the Antarctic, the ship will initially concentrate on surveying work in the British South Atlantic territories of Ascension Island and St Helena.
Waters around these remote islands have not been surveyed in 200 years, so Admiralty Charts – used by the Royal Navy and seafarers worldwide – need updating with the help of Protector's surveying equipment and sonars.
The ship will then move on to polar work in December, visiting UK and international research stations peppered around the British Antarctic Territory, and surveying the seabed there.
By heading into both polar circles and crossing the Equator in a single year, personnel on board HMS Protector believe they could be achieving a Royal Navy first.
The crossing of the Equator will be marked by a colourful, traditional nautical ceremony called 'Crossing the Line'.
Lieutenant Max Parsonson, who will be conducting the surveying on Protector, said: "The exciting opportunity to be able to visit the Arctic and Antarctic Circles in the space of six months, witnessing unforgettable terrain and sights including polar bears and penguins will be something to treasure for the rest of my life."
Cover image: HMS Protector sets sail for Antarctica (Picture: Royal Navy).