Steve and I flew back to rejoin HMS PROTECTOR alongside in the Falkland islands from RAF BRIZE NORTON on 10 Dec 14. After a watch handover the ship sailed for a brief period of operations around the Antarctic Peninsula before returning alongside East Cove Military Port in the Falkland Islands for the festive period. The ship again departed for the Antarctic Peninsula on 28 Dec 14 with a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) inspection team onboard. PRTR’s tasking was to inspect various stations and any vessels encountered to ensure compliance with regulations. It was a period in which HMS PROTECTOR lived up to its name as the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship.
For Steve it was only his second visit to Antarctica. Consequently, Steve will cover the majority of our exploits during Ice Patrol 2 of the 2014/15 season, as he has already started to, and I’ll chip in every now and then. During his first time on board (four months in 2012) he ticked off three (Antarctic Petrel, Adelie Penguin and Snow Petrel) of his four Antarctic target species. Unsurprisingly the forth (Emperor Penguin) was now very much top of his list.
On Friday 9 Jan 15 PRTR entered Martel Inlet of King George Island in the South Shetland Islands to conduct a formal inspection of Ferraz Station (Brazilian). As per normal I strolled aft across the main deck to the Combined Tech Office to start work to be informed of a very large brown bird perched on the Quarter Deck. A brief glance confirmed the species identity as a sub-Antarctic (Brown/Great) Skua Catharacta antarctica. I returned with my camera to photograph what is a real brute of a bird. It wasn’t phased by my presence and as I snapped away I failed to notice the metal ring on its right leg.
Fortunately, it and a second metal-ringed bird remained on board throughout the time PRTR held station off Ferraz Station enabling me to confirm the number on both rings.
I have subsequently received the life histories of the two individuals from the Hiddensee Bird Ringing Centre. Both birds were ringed as adults in Nov 2004 making them at least eleven years old.
After a successful inspection PRTR departed King George Island and headed for Half Moon Island (IBA), located in the McFarlane Strait between the much larger Livingstone and Greenwich Islands, where the ship was to formally inspect Camara Station (Argentine) the following day. On passage the ship encountered a Chinese Krill Trawler. It was the second Krill Trawler to be inspected, and the first a few days before, was the first time the Royal Navy had inspected a fishing vessel in Antarctic waters.
Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)