Ice patrol ship HMS Protector leaves Portsmouth for Antarctic

HMS Protector was built in 2001 as an Antarctic research ship

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The Royal Navy's new ice patrol ship has left Portsmouth harbour for a seven-month deployment in Antarctica.

HMS Protector has been leased as a replacement for HMS Endurance, known as Red Plum, which was severely damaged by flooding off the Chilean coast in 2008.

The 5,000-tonne ice-breaking ship has completed intensive sea trials.

Capt Peter Sparkes said: "We are now ready to face the rigours of seven months in the extremely hostile environment of Antarctica."

Detailed surveying

HMS Protector was built in 2001 as an Antarctic research ship but has undergone a refit for its new role.

The ship, formerly known as MV Polarbjorn which entered Portsmouth under the Norwegian flag, was officially named HMS Protector on 1 June.

HMS Protector has been leased for three years to fulfil the Royal Navy's ice patrol role in the Antarctic while the future of HMS Endurance is being considered.

In December 2008 HMS Endurance was flooded with water from a broken valve while off the coast of Chile.

During the deployment it will carry out detailed surveying of the sea bed for the UK Hydrographic Office and help re-supply of British Antarctic Survey stations in the region.

The name Protector has a historic connection with Britain's Antarctic commitment as it was the name of the Royal Navy's ice patrol vessel between 1936 and 1968.

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