skip to primary navigation skip to content

Captain's Letter no. 5

Captain's Letter no. 5

October 2006

Dear Friends of SPRI


Time has simply not stood still this summer as I find myself once again writing to Polar Bytes. On the one hand not a great deal seems to have changed - the ship is still swarming with workers putting the finishing touches to what has been a remarkably intensive summer maintenance (effectively a refit) period, concluding work on the main engines, capstans, boats, freezers and many other equipments. On the other, these few days are frenetic with the final preparations during our final week in Portsmouth before the ship deploys for nine months on Monday 25 September. The past fortnight has been a blur of main machinery trials and whole ship training including simulated fires, floods, helicopter crashes and men overboard. I'm pleased to report that we came through all the training with flying colours and a list of 'training priorities' to keep us busy on the passage south. Most importantly, the staff of the Flag Officer Sea Training (known to all as the 'Fosties') have passed us as fit for task and safe to deploy.

So those pre-deployment preparations are now underway with a vengeance... apart from the final bits of work by the dockyard team we've been joined by new members of the Ship's Company, people are bringing personal kit onboard (IPods, cameras, books, nutty, extra duvets, oh, and tropical uniform, and cold weather clothing, and..., and...; Lord knows where it all goes!). Slowly but surely the ship is looking more shipshape and ready to sail; the refurbished Survey Motor Boats are stowed in their davits, the Lynx helicopters are being readied at Yeovilton Naval Air Station, the Ship's Company have had dental and medical checks, numerous items of stores have arrived, the ship has been fuelled (enough to go round the world non-stop), frozen and fresh food has been struck down to the freezers and storerooms. The Navigator's plan is about to be briefed, a final pre-deployment conference will be held in the Naval HQ at Northwood and a media facility has been prepared for Monday 25 September. Not to be forgotten are our families; everyone of us has a 'to do' list at home - that bit of plumbing, the car's MOT, sorting the garden, replacing the washing machine - adding to the burden of personal preparations. With that, of course, comes the dawning realisation of time away from home, many months for some, separation from parents, siblings, other halves and children - a long deployment is a major emotional undertaking for all of us.


So what lies ahead of the 8000 mile transit to Antarctica? ENDURANCE will visit Madeira and Buenos Aires on the way south, the latter being an opportunity to thank the Argentine Navy for the generous support we received during last season's deployment. From there it's down to the ice to fulfil the tasking of five work periods, two in South Georgia and three in Antarctica, including the South Shetland Islands, Rothera and Marguerite Bay, and the Erebus and Terror Gulf. There are two more work periods than normal, spanning the full Austral summer during a nine month deployment designed to maximise the ship's output for the benefit of her shareholders.

Helicopter Boat

Our Multi-Beam Echo Sounder will be heavily tasked again, drawing on the experience we gained last season to garner the data for updating our knowledge of the many poorly charted areas of Antarctica. The Survey Motor Boats will be busy inshore surveying areas that are too shallow for the ship, whilst other surveying teams will be running geodetic and tidal camps in numerous locations. The helicopters will fly many hours in support of all our tasking but especially for UKHO sponsored vertical photography and, on behalf of the BAS, to establish scientific fieldcamps ashore and resupply them during their tenure. Under the auspices of the FCO ship's teams will make informal visits to some of the many scientific bases in the Peninsula; among many organisations we will also support photographers, the BBC's Planet Earth team, media reporters, the British Schools Expedition Society and independent scientists. All this tasking will be drawn together in a coherent programme overseen by the Operations Officer and the Flight Commander and implemented by their teams.

The ship

Our work periods commence in November - Antarctica, South Georgia, Antarctica, Antarctica, South Georgia - punctuated by visits to Rio de Janeiro, the Falklands and Punta Arenas before concluding with the close of summer at the end of March. From there ENDURANCE wends her way to Tristan da Cunha, South Africa and various locations in West Africa before returning to UK in early June 2007. Her tasking during this period will focus on defence diplomacy, supporting UK interests in the South Atlantic region and the UK's South Atlantic Territories. 30 June 2007 will be an exciting day for the ship, as it is the proposed date for her to receive the Freedom of the City of Portsmouth. This great and ancient honour from the ship's affiliated city will bestow upon ENDURANCE the right to march through the city's streets with drums beating, fixed bayonets and colours flying.

A busy, demanding and fulfilling programme lies ahead of us - we hope that you will follow our activities on the Royal Navy's website and the HMS Endurance Tracking Project at: I'm sure I will also be reminded to contribute to future issues of Polar Bytes! In the meantime we wish all Friends of SPRI the best of luck for the northern winter.

Yours sincerely

Nick Lambert
Captain, Royal Navy