Royal Navy frigate visits remotest inhabited island on the planet

HMS Richmond (F239) is a Type 23 frigate commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1995. She deployed to APT(S) in August 2013. Tristan da Cunha is a British Overseas Territory located in the South Atlantic and has a population of less than 300 hardy souls.

Tristan shout for HMS Richmond as she visits remote island

The remotest inhabited island on the planet became the latest port of call for HMS Richmond on her South Atlantic patrol.

The Portsmouth-based frigate spent two days off Tristan da Cunha, which is at least 1,500 miles from the nearest human habitation.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherston, HMS Richmond

THERE’S something almost primeval about this image of a volcano rising above a thin layer of cloud.

This is Tristan da Cunha – one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world – as seen from HMS Richmond as the frigate approached the isolated South Atlantic outpost of Empire to begin a two-day stay.

As with all Royal Navy vessels who call at Tristan, which lies 1,750 miles from South Africa and more than 2,000 miles from South America (the nearest inhabited locality is another British Overseas Territory, St Helena, a mere 1,510 miles away), the frigate had to anchor offshore – the harbour at the island’s capital Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is too small to accommodate a Type 23.

After the smattering of people at Richmond’s last port of call, snow-capped South Georgia (about a dozen souls), Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is a positive metropolis with a population of 275, who lead a mostly-self-supporting life farming.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherston, HMS Richmond

Their island is dominated by the 2,100-metre (6,890ft) Queen Mary Peak shield volcano – whose base extends 3,100 metres (over 10,000ft) down to the Atlantic seabed.

On the first day of a Richmond’s visit, her CO Cdr Rob Pedre was welcomed aboard the island’s administrator and magistrate, Alex Mitham, and its police officer, Inspector Conrad Glass, to highlight some of the important roles that the Royal Navy undertakes in the South Atlantic.

The islanders reciprocated the hospitality on the second day with a reception at the administrator’s residence for a number of the Ship’s Company whilst the Commanding Officer was hosted by Mr Mitham and was able to enjoy a guided tour of the island – which is about seven miles in diameter.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherston, HMS Richmond

Unfortunately, due to poor weather, a planned golf and football match had to be cancelled, although the Portsmouth-based frigate’s 815 NAS Lynx did make the short hop ashore.

“It has been a great privilege taking HMS Richmond to the remotest British Overseas Territory in the world,” said Cdr Pedre.

“We have reassured the local British citizens that live in Tristan da Cunha and my ship’s company have enjoyed witnessing an island that few people ever get to see.”

RFA Black Rover visits South Georgia

Atlantic Patrol Task (South) is the Royal Navy’s standing deployment in the South Atlantic and comprises 1 frigate or destroyer – currently the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll – supported by 1 fleet auxiliary – currently RFA Black Rover.

In addition, the River class OPV HMS Clyde is deployed in the South Atlantic as the permanently-stationed Falkland Islands Patrol Ship.

Black Rover is all white as she visits snowy South Georgia

Just days after sailors from HMS Argyll trekked across South Georgia, the crew of tanker RFA Black Rover were treated to a visit to the snow-laden paradise.

The tanker, which has recently taken over from her sister Gold Rover in the South Atlantic, spent four days anchored in Cumberland Bay off the capital Grytviken.

RFA Black Rover

IN THE middle of the UK’s heatwave, here’s something to perhaps cool you down: tanker RFA Black Rover within sight of the snow-capped ridges and peaks of South Georgia.

Hot (or should that be cold?) on the heels of frigate HMS Argyll’s visit to the remote South Atlantic island chain, the veteran tanker anchored off the capital Grytviken as she takes up her duties as Britain’s ‘floating petrol station’ south of the Equator.

The 39-year-old auxiliary has recently relieved her slightly-older sister Gold Rover, charged with providing black gold to sustain RN vessels on patrol in the South Atlantic (such as the permanent presence HMS Clyde, and whichever frigate or destroyer is assigned to the region – currently Argyll), as well as generally flying the flag for the UK around its territories in the region…

…of which South Georgia is among the most remote and least populous (about 30 souls).

A fiery sunrise over the peaks of South Georgia

The tanker spent four days at anchor in Cumberland Bay, in sight of glaciers calving into the ocean and the snow-laden mountains.

The 50 or so crew were briefed about the importance of the island’s wildlife and eco-systems before stepping ashore at Grytviken, where experts from the British Antarctic Survey were their hosts and guides.

Once a thriving whaling station, Grytviken has now become a haven for wildlife: large numbers of seals and sea birds lined the foreshore. Despite being out of season – it’s slap bang in the middle of the Austral winter right now – the island’s museum was opened for the visiting RFA sailors. Others inspected the wreck of the whaler Petrel, driven ashore decades ago, and no visit to South Georgia is complete without paying homage at the grave of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, buried in Grytviken’s small cemetery alongside crew from merchant ships and some casualties of war.

Cadet(X) John James poses in front of the wreck of the old whaler Petrel

To thank the island’s small populace for their hospitality during the tanker’s stay, Black Rover invited the locals aboard for an ‘all requests considered’ lunch.

Islanders listed the foods they had been unable to obtain for many months given their isolation, and Black Rover’s galley strove to meet their requests.

In the end, the menu consisted of beef steak and fresh salad, plus the odd glass of red wine. All the victuals were gratefully received by the South Georgians, whilst the RFA sailors were glad to provide not just some fresh food but also fresh faces and good company.