Antarctic crew tackle Santa fun run

Andover Advertiser: HMS Protector, off James Ross Island, near the north-eastern extremity of Antarctic Peninsula HMS Protector, off James Ross Island, near the north-eastern extremity of Antarctic Peninsula

Sailors from the Royal Navy's ice patrol ship HMS Protector have been getting into the festive spirit by taking part in a Santa fun run on the ice of Antarctica.

About 20 members of the ship's company dressed up as Father Christmas for the run which was held last week in support of Protector's affiliated charity, East Anglia's Children's Hospices.

The Santas, accompanied by a Rudolph, were led by the executive officer, Commander Don Mackinnon, currently in command for this Antarctic patrol.

He said: "With 21 hours of daylight in every 24, our working day in Antarctica tends to be a long one. Yesterday, for example, our first boat group departed the ship at 0830 in the morning and the last one finally got back at 2300 that night.

"With that sort of work pace it's nice to be able to take a break from operations now and again, and do something both for fun and also to help our affiliated charity at the same time. Santa's traditional home might be the North Pole but as you can see he has helpers that visit the other one too."

The Santa run was conducted on ice in the waters surrounding Deception Island, a dormant, water-filled caldera volcano, one of only two in the world. Breaking through a sheet of snow-covered ice before coming to a planned stop, HMS Protector took position and disembarked personnel to test the ice conditions and drill ice core samples to ensure the ice was safe, before the fun runners descended by the ship's accommodation ladder.

A Royal Navy spokeswoman said: "Amid perfect weather conditions, and under the watchful eye of two seals that had taken up post next to the ship, the Santas completed their run."

Annually, East Anglia's Children's Hospices conduct nine Santa runs across Essex and East Anglia throughout the festive period, raising thousands of pounds for the charity.

It is traditional for Royal Naval ships to adopt a charity from their affiliated town so that they can raise funds whilst away from the UK.

HMS Protector is affiliated with the city of Cambridge because of its close work with the British Antarctic Survey and the Scott Polar Research Institute which are based there. HMS Protector has been affiliated with East Anglia's Children's Hospices since August.

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