RFA Black Rover Visits South Georgia
Just days after sailors from HMS Argyll trekked across South Georgia, the crew of tanker RFA Black Rover were treated to a visit to the snow-laden paradise. The tanker, which has recently taken over from her sister Gold Rover in the South Atlantic, spent four days anchored in Cumberland Bay off the capital Grytviken.
Hot on the heels of frigate HMS Argyll’s visit to the remote South Atlantic island chain, the veteran tanker anchored off the capital Grytviken as she takes up her duties as Britain’s ‘floating petrol station’ south of the Equator.
The 39-year-old auxiliary has recently relieved her slightly-older sister Gold Rover, charged with providing black gold to sustain RN vessels on patrol in the South Atlantic (such as the permanent presence HMS Clyde, and whichever frigate or destroyer is assigned to the region – currently Argyll), as well as generally flying the flag for the UK around its territories in the region of which South Georgia is among the most remote and least populous (about 30 souls).
The tanker spent four days at anchor in Cumberland Bay, in sight of glaciers calving into the ocean and the snow-laden mountains.
The 50 or so crew were briefed about the importance of the island’s wildlife and eco-systems before stepping ashore at Grytviken, where experts from the British Antarctic Survey were their hosts and guides.
Once a thriving whaling station, Grytviken has now become a haven for wildlife: large numbers of seals and sea birds lined the foreshore.
Despite being out of season – it’s slap bang in the middle of the Austral winter right now – the island’s museum was opened for the visiting RFA sailors.
Others inspected the wreck of the whaler Petrel, driven ashore decades ago, and no visit to South Georgia is complete without paying homage at the grave of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, buried in Grytviken’s small cemetery alongside crew from merchant ships and some casualties of war.
To thank the island’s small populace for their hospitality during the tanker’s stay, Black Rover invited the locals aboard for an ‘all requests considered’ lunch.
Islanders listed the foods they had been unable to obtain for many months given their isolation, and Black Rover’s galley strove to meet their requests.
In the end, the menu consisted of beef steak and fresh salad, plus the odd glass of red wine. All the victuals were gratefully received by the South Georgians, whilst the RFA sailors were glad to provide not just some fresh food but also fresh faces and good company.
Press Release, July 18, 2013; Image: US Navy