Arctic/Antarctic

Royal Navy's Only Icebreaker Returns To Water Ahead Of Antarctic Mission

The Ice Patrol Ship has undergone a five-month revamp in a dry dock ahead of the deployment.

The Royal Navy’s only icebreaker is back in the water after spending five months undergoing a major refit.

HMS Protector is now floating on Teesside after emerging from dry dock.

The vessel underwent extensive work on her hull, as well as being prepared to carry unmanned survey devices.

After two years away from the ice, she is due to return to the Antarctic for its summer season - supporting the work of British and international scientists studying the unique environment and conducting hydrographic surveys.

Extra British Antarctic Survey (BAS) engineers and an artist from the Scott Polar Research Institute will join the Ice Patrol Ship on her voyage south.

Polar veterans, Royal Marine cold weather survival specialists and Royal Navy divers will also be on board to provide extra capability, the Royal Navy said.

During the deployment, HMS Protector will also carry out her own scientific and survey work using a Remotely Operated Vehicle in Antarctica for the first tim.

While a new, British-made aerial drone will be used to search for safe routes among the sea ice.

"This is going to be a new and fantastic experience – and definitely one to tick off the bucket list," said Lieutenant Commander Chris Gardiner, HMS Protector’s Logistics Officer.

"After all the hard work everyone has put in over the past eight months, we’re keen to get out there, do what we’re trained for and return HMS Protector to her rightful domain."

HMS Protector has been in dry dock since May undergoing a revamp (Picture: Royal Navy).

The ship underwent her revamp in Middlesbrough, with five kilometres of specialised paint being applied to her hull. 

Her engines and generators were also refurbished, while her quarterdeck was rebuilt to make more space.

Her 60-tonne crane - the largest afloat in the Royal Navy – was also removed and refurbished.

HMS Protector will take vital building materials and fuel to help with the modernisation of the British science station at Rothera, located towards the centre of the 17 million square kilometres of the British Antarctic Territory.

The ship's Commanding Officer, Captain Michael Wood, said: "For many, our journey to Antarctica and back promises the adventure of a lifetime."

The vessel and her crew will remain on Teesside until late October completing her overhaul – including re-installing her flight deck and crane – before conducting pre-deployment training in home waters.

Cover image: HMS Protector in dry dock (Picture: Royal Navy).