Two of the UK's Antarctic research ships have met at sea for the first time as they gear up for missions around the frozen continent.
HMS Protector and Sir David Attenborough, vessels operated by the Royal Navy and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) respectively, sailed in company in the English Channel off Devon's Start Point.
Captain Michael Wood, HMS Protector's Commanding Officer, said it was "great to see Captain Will Whatley and his fabulous ship Sir David Attenborough".
"We are looking forward to joining them in the Antarctic soon," he said.
Both ships are expected to work together extensively in Antarctic waters.
HMS Protector maps the ocean to update Admiralty Charts, delivers supplies to remote BAS bases and supports international research, mainly around the Antarctic Peninsula.
Royal Research Ship (RRS) Sir David Attenborough, which the public famously voted to call 'Boaty McBoatface' in a national poll to pick her name, carries 60 scientists and 30 crew.
The vessel performs numerous roles, including logistic support, and carries numerous autonomous craft to gather data from Antarctic Waters – including one named Boaty McBoatface.
RRS Sir David Attenborough is undergoing extensive sea trials around the UK before she debuts in the Southern Hemisphere at the end of 2021.
Gunnery officer Lieutenant Alastair Newton said it was "fantastic to see RRS Sir David Attenborough" conducting sea trials.
"It will be great to see her – and Boaty McBoatface – in the coming Antarctic season," he said.
HMS Protector has just emerged from the most extensive overhaul in her 10-year service with the Royal Navy and has now arrived in Devonport, Plymouth, after sailing down from Teesport, in Middlesbrough, for Operational Sea Training.
Operational Sea Training is the Royal Navy's rigorous assessment which determines whether ships and their crew are ready to deploy on missions thousands of miles from home.
After spending the summer around the UK, Protector is earmarked to deploy to Antarctica in the autumn, ready to work through the austral summer.
Cover image: RRS Sir David Attenborough passes HMS Protector's port side off Start Point (Picture: Royal Navy).