Royal Navy Warship Visits Snow-Blanketed Paradise of South Georgia
It might be the height of summer in the UK but half a world away its the depths of the austral winter – as HMS Edinburgh found on a visit to the wildlife paradise of South Georgia.
The Portsmouth-based destroyer is on a six-month stint in the southern ocean to provide reassurance to the Falkland Islands and fly the flag for the UK in this part of the world.
In company with tanker RFA Black Rover, the Fortress of the Sea made the three-day passage from East Cove Military Port in the Falklands to King Edward Point in sight of the South Georgian ‘capital’ Grytviken.
The trip south had a three-fold aim: to show the sparse population of the UK’s continued interest in the islands; to allow soldiers to train in a cold weather environment; and to give Edinburgh’s sailors the chance to operate a warship in a challenging environment.
The journey to South Georgia takes the ships into the Antarctic Convergence Zone – where the warmer waters of the Atlantic meet those of the frozen continent – and means there needs to be a constant iceberg watch from the ship’s company.
Once in the confined waters of King Edward Cove, there was a chance to offload troops from A Company 2 Battalion Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment. The Tigers, as the regiment’s known, (a) prefer warmer climates and (b) prefer the land to the sea – the passage to South Georgia was a bit lumpy and the soldiers set foot ashore proclaiming they were glad they were in the Army…
Also glad to get ashore was journalist Liz Roberts, who joined the destroyer for the trip south to record programmes for Falkland Islands television and radio about the day-to-day life of a warship patrolling this part of the world.
While she was off gathering material and the Tigers were conducting cold weather training, the ship’s company were meeting the local human and wildlife populace – the former in the shape of the British Antarctic Survey scientists who operate a research base at King Edward Point.
All returned to the ship awestruck by the beauty of the island – and conscious that it should not be spoiled by visitors.
Edinburgh’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Paul Russell, said:
“South Georgia is a unique – and fragile – environment. It needs protection in every sense of the word.”
“We had to be very conscious of ‘bio-security measures’ when landing personnel.”
“It was a great privilege to be able to experience one of the most naturally-stunning and remote places on the planet.”
Edinburgh’s been away from the Solent since May and will remain in the South Atlantic until the tail end of the year. In a varied deployment so far she’s visited Angola and Cape Town before a rough crossing of the ocean to begin her Falklands patrol.
She’s due to return to South Africa imminently for her mid-deployment maintenance period before resuming duties.
Source: royalnavy, August 25, 2011;