Last week the 5,000-ton ice patrol ship HMS Protector (A173) [ex-Polarbjørn] called at a place called Grytviken, located on a frozen splinter of land called South Georgia, an isolated British territory far closer to the Antarctic continent than Europe and a base of operations for the British Antarctic Survey.
The place holds two claims to fame, one dating back 100 years ago, where Shackleton (yes, “the” Shackleton) was interred, the other being the 1982 spark that started the Falkland Islands War– during which two different battles were fought for South Georgia.
Via the Royal Navy:
Sailors from HMS Protector paid tribute to legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton – a century after he died pushing the boundaries of polar research.
Crew of the icebreaker held a memorial service at his graveside on the island of South Georgia – the latest stop for the survey ship as she heads to the frozen continent for a summer of scientific research.
The explorer – a Royal Navy reservist – died after suffering a heart attack aboard his ship Quest at the beginning of an expedition to circumnavigate Antarctica in January 1922.
He was buried in Grytviken cemetery, where Protector’s sailors – dressed in woollen sweaters in keeping with early 20th Century polar explorers – gathered for a service of remembrance to celebrate Shackleton’s achievements.
Designed for long Polar expeditions and for supporting subsea work, the Norwegian-built Protector was acquired with just a decade on her hull.
Her name has some teeth to it as she is armed with four GE M134 mini-guns, five GPMGs, and sports a helicopter deck and room for a platoon of Royal Marines who can move around at ease on three embarked Haaglund BV206 snowcats and a quartet of small boats– the largest of which is named after Shackleton’s own James Caird.
Protector now heads even further South, on to Antarctica.