Nothing regular about the Regulus program

HMS Protector crew members pay an informal visit to Argentinean Antarctic Base San Martin while on patrol in the Antarctic. Protector is currently conducting the third work package of its Ice Patrol season.

HMS Protector crew members pay an informal visit to Argentinean Antarctic Base San Martin while on patrol in the Antarctic. Protector is currently conducting the third work package of its Ice Patrol season.

Lt(N) Rhys Davies, Bridge Watch-Keeper ~

The Regulus program, initiated in 2010, has seen more than 150 sailors glean international experience sailing with Canada’s partners around the world.

As part of this program, I am currently deployed with the Royal Navy as a Bridge Watch-Keeper in HMS Protector in the South Atlantic and Antarctic Ocean.

I joined the ship in October 2017 in the Falkland Islands, and soon set to sea on what was the first of five work packages of the austral summer.

First to complete was the Platform Endorsement process that, like in the Royal Canadian Navy, earns an Officer of the Watch, the Captain’s trust, and allows the officer to hold Charge of the Captain’s ship.

After a security and sovereignty patrol to South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands, not to mention some survey work for the United Kingdom Hydrography Office, Protector returned to the Falklands.

The ship was just on the point of departure when news reached us of the tragic sinking of ARA San Juan, an Argentine submarine.

Protector immediately proceeded north, making preparations en route, and joined in the search.

We remained on station, using the multi-beam sonar to scan a substantial area.

After a quick resupply and crew change, we returned on task until released by Argentina just prior to Christmas.

After a brief Christmas aboard, including a visit to Stanley’s Boxing Day horseraces, two thirds of the ship’s company returned and made preparations for work package three.

HMS Protector operates a three watch rotation; red, blue, and white watches alternate in conjunction with the work packages. The crew are flown in and out from Protector’s port of call, in this case the Falkland Islands via Cape Verde, and as a result are deployed for approximately nine months of the year. This constant rotation of personnel makes for a different culture aboard with each group of people interacting slightly differently.

Work package three consisted of transporting scientists and personnel at various sites along the Antarctic Peninsula, including the Rothera research station inside the Antarctic Circle. The crew felt good fulfilling their role as an Ice Patrol Ship; inserting personnel and equipment into a challenging polar environment brought the team together and showcased the capabilities of Protector and its crew.

The following work package saw Protector return to the Antarctic Peninsula to work with World Wildlife Fund, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators staff to conduct ecological site surveys of popular landing sites around the peninsula.

During the course of the site visits, Protector broke almost 250 nautical miles of first year ice. To see that amount of ice, coupled with the intricacies involved in navigating in poorly charted waters, has been really beneficial. I hope the lessons I am learning from the ice pilots, trained in St. Johns, NL, can be transferred to our own Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships in the near future.

Protector was also able to conduct a series of base visits to other nations working in cooperation under the Antarctic Treaty.

I also took part in several visits, including one to Argentina’s San Martin base, where the team were the first people to interact face-to-face with base members in 11 months. There is a real sense of community among people who live and work in Antarctica, and we were accommodated with the utmost hospitality.

I was extremely impressed with Argentina’s Primavera base. They have taken huge measures to study and protect the micro ecosystem found in their bay, and their pride in the facilities and research being done was evident.

Since joining Protector my confidence level in terms of dealing with the Polar environment has grown immensely. Everything from ship handling characteristics of an icebreakers hull, to being able to read and spot ice, to dealing with hurricane force winds that are pushing thousands of tonnes of ice towards you like some real life version of the classic arcade game “frogger,” my time onboard has been full of “interesting” moments.

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