The Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship has made a night-time journey through the Panama Canal to arrive in Charleston following a busy period in Antarctica.
HMS Protector took seven hours and 38 minutes to make the 77.1km (48 miles) passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic through the canal, which this year marks its centenary.
The 18-metre wide vessel travelled at an average speed of 7 knots through the canal, which at its narrowest point, measures 30 metres.
The canal, which is 26 metres (85ft) above sea level and has locks at each end to lift ships up to the artificial Gatun Lake, shortens journeys by thousands of miles.
Sub Lieutenant David Campbell was on the bridge for the transit and said: “As my first time going through the Panama Canal it was amazing to see a fantastic piece of engineering while cutting through the heart of the jungle.”
“It was a tiring night’s work but I can tick it off my experiences to-do list”, said Sub Lieutenant David Campbell.
The canal has three sets of locks, two near the Pacific and one near the Atlantic. Two bridges pass over the canal, the Bridge of the Americas, and the Centenary Bridge. A third bridge is planned.
Prior to the current HMS Protector’s canal transit, the ship spent a few days in Balboa hosting an event for a data-sharing agreement between the UK Hydrographic Office and the Panamanian Maritime Authorities.
HMS Protector left Portsmouth in October 2013 for a ‘double deployment’ to Antarctica. She spent the Austral Summer in the ice underpinning the UK’s commitment to the Antarctic Treaty and providing logistic support to sites across the Peninsula, South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia.
HMS Protector is currently in Charleston, South Carolina for a Technical Maintenance period ahead of her contingent Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief duties in case of hurricane or other events and survey tasking in the Caribbean.
HMS Protector will return to Antarctica for further work periods in September before sailing to her new homeport of Devonport in spring 2015.
Press Release, May 19, 2014; Image: Royal Navy