The Royal Navy’s claims in this report have been disputed by Hurtigruten. For an updated version, go to WAR OF WORDS

fram1.jpgA Royal Navy icebreaker has come to the rescue of a cruise ship trapped in Antarctica.
HMS Protector broke through densely-packed ice up to four metres thick surrounding the bow of Hurtigruten expedition ship Fram, The vessel, which carries about 250 passengers, was led to safety in an operation that lasted about two hours.
protector.jpgProtector is an ice patrol ship, described as the Royal Navy’s Swiss Army knife because she is “red, versatile, and always there when you need her.”
Captain Peter Sparkes, born in Liverpool and now living near the ship’s home base in Portsmouth, said: “This is what we do … our ship’s company are highly trained and well equipped to deal with a spectrum of operations in Antarctica.”
And while Protector’s main role is as a support vessel to the British Antarctic Territory, there was a clear nod to Argentina’s threats to the nearby Falkland Islands when he added: “That we are able to do so, so readily, is a clear demonstration of the Royal Navy’s global reach and operational preparedness.”
MS Fram, designed to operate in polar waters was on its sixth annual visit to Antarctica when the incident happened last week.
Hurtigruten, based in Norway, said: “MS Fram had decided not to sail to one of its landing points of Brown Bluff in Antarctica as the ice conditions in the area that day were challenging. However, our reports state that HMS Protector was sailing in the area and they offered assistance to MS Fram so that the ship could sail to Brown Bluff. The ship was therefore escorted in and out of Brown Bluff by HMS Protector.
“This was a friendly gesture between two ships who are all part of the same ‘family’ when sailing in the remote areas of Antarctica.”
You can watch a video of the operation at HMS Protector’s page on the Royal Navy’s website.
Only hours earlier, another expedition ship, Silver Explorer, had been damaged by high seas in Drake’s Passage, en route from the South American mainland to Antarctica. The ship was taken out of service for repairs in Ushuaia, Argentina, and one cruise was cancelled. Operators Silversea announced today the January 31 cruise to Antarctica will go ahead as scheduled.

PICTURES courtesy of the Royal Navy