Saturday, July 2, 2022

HMS Protector sails (updated)

 The Royal Navy's icebreaker research ship HMS Protector sailed this afternoon (July 2) after is multi-city visit to Canada, apparently headed home to HMNB Devonport, but in any event not northward. later reported to be heading for Puerto Rico.

See my previous post "Navy News" from June 28, describing the ship and some of its features and equipment.

Although the civilian tugs Atlantic Beaver and Atlantic Oak  Fir stood by, the ship backed off its pier unaided (all five thrusters weren't needed either). 

On the ship's port side amidship it carries a 10m (34 ft.) survey motor launch named James Caird IV after Shckleton's small boat used in his legendary voyage to South Georgia. Further aft under an A-frame davit is one of two RHIBs the ship carries. They are named Terra Nova and Aurora, also named for legendary polar ships. The other RHIB is mounted on the starboard side just aft of the impressive 50 tonne capacity knuckle boom crane.

The ship also has a helicopter landing platform aft. It was mounted forward when the ship was built as Polarbjørn for G.C.Rieber Shipping of Norway, but relocated by the RN.

Speaking of Rieber, as I mentioned in the previous post, their ships were well known in Halifax at one time. Their Canadian operation, known as Carino Ltd, operated a number of ships over the years in the seal hunt, various fisheries and for research.

 Photo above at Dartmouth Marine Slip, February 22, 1970. It was rigged for herring seining, but was being prepared for the seal hunt.

Their first Canadian ship was Kvitfjell, a vessel with a storied history. Built in 1940 by Goole Shipbuilding as HMS Morris Dance T117, an armed anti-submarine trawler, it served as a convoy escort during World War II, working in West Africa. It was sold off in 1947, likely for service as a trawler. In 1951 Norwegian owners P/R Tottan converted it to a reefer cargo/sealer and renamed it Tottan. It was also converted from steam to diesel propulsion at that time, using a 6 cylinder Krupp engine built in1942. 

In 1952 it was chartered by the British government to carry the British North Greenland Expedition team members from Deptford to Young Sund, Greenland. Queen (regnant) Elizabeth II came aboard for the send-off. (She had assumed the crown on the death of her father but the coronation had not yet taken place).

In 1960 Riebers acquired the ship, renaming it Kvitfjell (white mountain). In 1967 they sent it to their Canadian subsidiary Carino Ltd. It was mainly used as a seal hunter and was available for research. It was also rigged for herring seining during a short lived herring "boom".  (GC Rieber Skinn established Carino Ltd in Newfoundland in 1957 to process seal pelts.)

In 1972 Plymouth, UK based Interfish took ownership. On September 24, 1972 it caught fire in the Skagerak and was towed to Gothenburg by a Russian tug. It was declared a total loss, but Swedish owners rebuilt and renamed it Seiko in 1973. In 1976 it had become a deep sea salvage and recovery ship named Deep Diver, under Swedish flag. By 1985 it had returned to being a fishing vessel and was renamed Sjøvik, still Swedish. It was still active in 1988 for Nordic Fishing Management Inc under Panama flag, but I don't know what happened to it after that.  

In the early 1970s A/S Rieber commissioned construction of two ships that were to be multi-purpose vessels reinforced for service in ice. They were to be capable of working the seal hunt, fishing, but predominantly in oil-related surveys and research.

The first, built in 1970 by Smedvik MV in Tjøvaag, was the 436 gt Carino The red hulled vessel was based in Halifax and was usually tied up on the north side of the Western Union Cable pier, with Kvitfjell.

Photo above in 1971 with Kvitfjell at the Cable Wharf.

The ship was lengthened in 1973, increasing its gt to 564.

 Photo above on the slip at Steel and Engine Products in Liverpool, NS in 1976. Note the standing room only enclosed crow's nest.

In 1979 Carino sold the ship to Newfoundland owners, Miller Shipping Ltd, who renamed it Fogo Isle. They found work for the ship doing seismic surveys and other work until late 1996 when it was sold to European owners.

 Its history after 1996 remains murkey. It was seized in 1997 for drug running off the Netherlands, then "converted" in 1999 to a diving support vessel. In 2007 it went to the UK, then in 2008 to Nigeria. It was reported in Lagos in 2011 but I have no information after that.

Photos above at Purdy's Wharf in Halifax.

 The second of the 1970s ships was the 991gt Arctic Explorer, built in 1974 by P Høivolds M/V in Kristiansand, Norway, and classed as an ice strengthened sealer / researcher. From 1975 on, it was under long term charter to Geophysical Service Inc (GSI) [a subsidiary of Texas Insturments Inc of Dallas, TX] and based in St.John's, NL. It was engaged in seismic data collection but was given "time off" for seal hunting and sometimes called in Halifax, usually tying up at Karlsen's wharf.

The Arctic Explorer in Halifax.

The ship's tragic sinking with nine lives lost, coincidentally, took place on July 3, 1981 shortly after it sailed from St.Anthony, NL on a seismic survey trip. The ship quickly developed a list and capsized. It carried 32 persons - eight ship's crew and 24 survey workers. Survivors reached a raft but were not rescued for two days. There is a full summary on Wikipedia under Arctic Explorer. It was assumed at the time that the ship struck a growler, but no cause for the list and sinking has ever been determined. Another account, published in Maclean's magazine July 20, 1981 has also been preserved on line at Maclean's. There are several other accounts on line, including a lengthy summary as part of legal proceedings under  Complaint of GSI.

G.C.Rieber still has a presence in Canada with Carino Ltd operating the seal processing plant in South Dildo, NL. Among its products are Omega 3 seal oil capsules and seal fur. It is no longer a vessel owner.


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