A Norwegian cruise liner at risk of becoming trapped in thick ice off the coast of Antarctica was guided to safety by the Royal Navy in a two¬hour operation. Ice Patrol Ship HMS Protector broke through the densely packed ice which had surrounded the MV Fram, blocking her path and trapping the bow, as she carried passengers through the Antarctic Sound.
Fram had been following the patrol ship through the gaps in the pack ice when she was surrounded by a number of fast moving floes.
HMS Protector immediately turned back to help, approaching the Fram from astern and breaking up the ice – which was up to four metres thick.
Taking just over two hours at speeds of just two knots, the Fram was eventually released and led to safety.
Ice conditions in Antarctica are extremely variable and subject to the vagaries of the continent’s wind and local currents.
Ships can quickly become beset when the concentration of pack ice increases, which is often very quick. Once they are trapped, ships may have to wait for days, or even weeks, to escape.
HMS Protector is continuing with her patrol of the British Antarctic Territory, supporting an embarked International inspection team’s surveys of environmentally sensitive sites around the Peninsula.
In December 2007, the ship lost power and struck a glacier in Antarctica, sustaining damage to the starboard side; the collision did not affect the ship’s seaworthiness.