Two Royal Navy officers have made history by sailing closer to the top of the world in winter than any other Briton has while on a scientific mission in the Polar Night.
Lieutenants Jacob Stein and Max Friswell came within about 1,200 miles of the North Pole aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Polar Star.
The pair, who normally serve as warfare officers on board the Royal Navy's own ice ship, HMS Protector, spent the winter on exchange while their vessel underwent a refit.
Due to the pandemic, the Polar Star has deviated from its usual mission spending the winter in the southern hemisphere, clearing Antarctic ice for supply ships to reach McMurdo Station, the main US base on the frozen continent.
Instead, the ship headed north - the first winter Arctic deployment in nearly 40 years.
The ship sailed through the Bering Sea – which separates Alaska from Russia – and continued north through the Chukchi Sea in constant darkness to reach a record latitude: 72 degrees 11 minutes North, the furthest north ever travelled by a US vessel.
Lieutenants Stein and Friswell used the experience to gain their bridge and ice piloting qualifications.
"The deployment to the Arctic on Polar Star has been a fantastic experience, especially as this is their first winter deployment to the region in nearly 40 years," said Lt Stein.
"The US Coast Guard are highly experienced in operating in the ice, and we have taken away a number of lessons that we will look to implement when we return to HMS Protector.
"It has been great to get to know and work with the US Coast Guard, and we look forward to returning the courtesy when a member of Polar Star’s crew joins HMS Protector for a reciprocal exchange later this summer," he added.
HMS Protector is currently in Devonport preparing for the training and assessment which will determine if she is ready to deploy to Antarctica in the autumn.
Cover image: Lt Stein (far left) and Lt Friswell (far right) on board the US Coast Guard's Polar Star (Picture: Royal Navy).