During their recent two-week visit to Montserrat, the personnel aboard the HMS Protector mapped the island’s coastline along with other support ashore.
A release from the British naval vessel said they spent time “mapping the coastline and seabed, helping ashore with conservation and refurbishment works, and getting involved with local community events.”
The ship’s disaster response specialists visited the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and other locations which could be important if there is a hurricane. This preparatory work is essential to understanding how best to respond if called-upon, and when paired with landing and communications exercises, gives assurance to response forces and Montserratians alike.
“When the weather is calm and the sun is shining, it’s often hard to imagine just how devastating the effects of the hurricanes that occur in the region every year, can be.” said Captain Maryla Ingham, Commanding Officer of HMS Protector. “Protector is a versatile unit that can provide support and we have been actively exploring ways to help Montserratians prepare in case either the volcano or a hurricane endangers the population.”
“Keen to put their skills to work, engineers from 24 and 59 Commando Royal Engineers assisted the local government in repair work at the Montserrat Cultural Centre whilst Protector’s seaboat took researchers from the Marine Conservation Society and Exeter University, to inaccessible beaches to conduct scientific studies aimed at preserving the native sea turtle population. “Being able to offer an extra set of hands (or more like 14 sets of hands) to projects and making a meaningful contribution to the island has been great,” said Sergeant Josh Maclaurin. “The team has performed impressively, working together with the local community on a good job well done.”
During its time in the area, the ship stayed just offshore hosting visits from Premier Joseph Farrell, Governor Sarah Tucker, and a group of young Montserratian competition winners who were given a bespoke tour and a chance to try out some of Protector’s kit. All this whilst undertaking vital surveys of the coastline – throwing out some unexpected results.
“The volcanic eruptions in 1995-7 caused all sorts of irregularities from what is on the Admiralty charts,” said Lt Cdr James Winsor, Protector’s First Lieutenant. “But
that’s where Protector comes into her own. Using our onboard hydrographic sonar and survey motor boat we were able to map the seabed, which in parts near to the recent lava flows was almost half the previously-charted depths; the data collected from an inshore survey launch from UK Hydrographic Office and ourselves will keep shipping safe, help Montserrat better define its territorial waters, and gave us some rare, impressive close-in views of the volcano itself!”
Before departing, the Protector’s best 11 took on the Montserrat All-Stars football team in a fast-paced but entertaining encounter at the FIFA-sponsored Blake’s Football Field. Some members of the ship’s company visited the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, undertook snorkelling trips with turtles alongside conservation workers and helped out at Fish & Fins – a local initiative aimed at teaching local children about water safety and environmental protection.
Protector went on to visit St. Vincent and Anguilla where her patrol continues, providing reassurance to British Overseas Territories and Commonwealth partner nations throughout the Caribbean during the Core Hurricane Season.