This week, we have been visited by two Royal Navy vessels; the "Type 42" Destroyer HMS York, and the Offshore Patrol Ship HMS Clyde.
|The Pilot Launch with HMS York.|
The York, with her compliment of approximately 280 military personnel had just completed a voyage to Libya to undertake taskings on behalf of the British Government with respect of the fresh tensions in the region. Her crew were therefore very pleased to be in South Georgia to take a brief period of R&R and see some of the spectacular sights the island has to offer. As usual the marine team here at KEP provided boat support to ferry the Sailors, Royal Marines, Army Soldiers and RAF Bomb Disposal (EOD) personnel ashore.
|Bringing the pilot launch away from the York at speed. My crew Matt is visible on deck. Photo: Sam Crimmin|
The RAF EOD team were here for the annual clearance of recorded items of Ordnance (E.G. Machine Gun rounds, Rocket Venturi, Smoke Grenades, Flares etc) from the hills around the BAS travel area. These items are relics of the South Georgia conflict in the early 1980s and the subsequent occupation of King Edward Point as a British Armed Forces Garrison until it was re-occupied by BAS personnel in 2001. This year, two of the items of ordnance were reported to government by myself as I had come across some items during hikes. Our standard procedure for reporting potential ordnance is to firstly mark the position with bright orange ribbon which we carry in our packs. To avoid disturbing the item, it is usual to tie the ribbon to a rock close by. Then a position is taken. This is by GPS, or geographical reference to nearby landmarks. A photo is taken if possible and then given to a Government Officer on return to base. Here are some of my photos:
|A British Army Smoke Signal Grenade.|
|A Falklands War Rocket Venturi.|
The RAF EOD were a great bunch of lads and we all had a few beers together over the few nights they stayed ashore. During the day, the peace and tranquillity was periodically interspersed with deep, ethereal booms as the team exploded another item in the mountains.
We were lucky enough to be invited to a demonstration by the team where they explained how the equipment worked. There are two different types of disposal charge. A "high order" charge which will set the device off, or blow it up completely. The charge is set above the item on a tripod and a copper slug is fired into the device, where it will obliterate the innards. This results in a large explosion and total destruction of the item. A "low order" charge will simply penetrate the device slowly and "fizz" the detonator, rendering the device harmless without a large explosion. This sort of charge is apparently used in the vicinity of buildings and other sensitive areas. Fortunately, our demonstration showed the "High Order" technique, and Tommy, the electrical engineer assisted the team in blowing a hole in a piece of 5/8th" thick steel plate. It was a great advert for the PE4 plastic explosive used, as the gut thumping bang was generated by a mere 20 grams of the stuff! The team are hoping to apply there skill clearing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) once again back in front line theatre in Afghanistan toward the end of July this year. Best of luck to them all, we will be thinking of you.
|HMS Clyde in the evening light. Photo: Sam Crimmin|
The visit was finished off on a huge high as Lieutenant Commander Wisemann of the Falkland Islands Protection Vessel HMS Clyde invited Rob (Base Commander), Tommy (Electro Eng), Katie (Team Fish), Robert (Government Officer) and myself aboard for a 2 day tour of the East Coast of the island. The vessels "rigid raider" boat (normally used to land Royal Marine Commandos into battle) came to pick us up from the wharf at 0730 on Thursday morning. We spent 2 fabulous days on board, with free access to the bridge (on the request "officer of the watch, bridge please") and great tours around Husvic, Jason Harbour, St Andrews Bay and Drygalski Fjord, 60 miles south of here near Cape Disappointment (so called by Captain Cook when he realised South Georgia was merely a small island rather than the great new land he had hoped)
|HMS York in Drygalski Fjord.|
Drygalski Fjord is a stunning 6 mile deep fjord on the South of the island. It houses a number of Glaciers and the coves, including Larsen Harbour. The mountains jut straight out of the sea and rise to 6000 meters in places. Our visit was in poor weather, with 50 knot winds blowing out of the Fjord, which unfortunately meant we were unable to go exploring on the Pacific 22 rib and Rigid Raider.
We also enjoyed a fly past by an RAF C130 Hercules over Cumberland Bay. The aircraft had made the 3 hour journey from Mount Pleasant Airbase in the Falklands to here to air drop some supplies to the Navy, however, there was a problem in finding the correct paperwork at MPA and the required authorisation could not be given to drop.
|RAF C130 Hercules over Cumberland Bay|
The bridge of the Clyde is a busy place with the Captain, Navigating Officer, Weapons Officer, XO, Midshipman and afew others often in attendance. They navigate to a high degree of accuracy using a combination of old techniques and cutting edge technology. In coastal waters the team of warfare officers will carry out fixes every 6 minutes, whereby a three point fix is achieved using the azimuth, or if 3 visual landmarks are not visible they are augmented with radar ranges. The fixes are fed into the Warship Electronic Charting Display and Information System (WECDIS) and compared with GPS data. 6 minute fixes are reduced to 3 minute and 1.5 minute fixes approaching anchorages or other tricky areas.
|An Azimuth bearing finder on Clyde's Starboard bridge wing.|
Our trip was finished off by toasting the new royal couple with a special lunch in the Petty Officers Mess. Union flags, commemorative flyers and napkins were laid and we had fish and chips with a bottle of wine. So there we were celebrating a Royal Wedding aboard one of her Majesties warships in a patriotically decorated POs mess eating fish and mushy peas with officers of the Royal Navy listening to Land of Hope and Glory on the stereo! What better way to toast the flag! The mood was light hearted, and we had a good laugh. . . . . The conversation eventually turned to spending cuts and RN job losses...
|Toasting the new Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge in the PO's Mess.|