Royal Navy sailors have been doing their part to keep Antarctica safe and clean by removing rubbish from a remote island.
As locals watched by a group of chinstrap penguins, the crew of the icebreaker HMS Protector removed three tonnes of waste.
The crew was returning to the island of Brabant for the first time since 2017 to continue working on removing waste abandoned by an expedition in the 1980s.
Ice had previously frozen some items in place, but seven years of freezing and thawing cycles meant they could now be removed.
Lieutenant Commander Hannah Lee, who also participated in the 2017 effort, said, “It was gratifying for the ship’s company to be able to conduct a cleanup and preserve the natural beauty of Antarctica.”
Royal Navy sailors from HMS Protector have been doing their part to keep Antarctica clean by removing three tonnes of rubbish from a remote island.
The island’s residents, a group of chinstrap penguins (pictured), watched as sailors worked to remove trash left behind by a previous expedition.
While HMS Protector waited nearby, 29 members of the expedition went ashore in Zodiac boats to remove as much rubbish as possible.
Brabant Island is an uninhabited island in northwest Antarctica that was the site of a joint forces scientific mission between 1983 and 1985.
However, these expeditions left behind large amounts of trash, much of which was frozen in the ice.
In 2017, HMS Protector traveled to the remote island to begin the process of clearing up the mess.
The team removed everything from ropes and scaffolding to Sudocrem bottles and a spice rack.
But the 30 years since the site was abandoned meant that much of the remaining waste had frozen into the ground and could not be extracted.
Brabant Island is an extremely remote island in northwest Antarctica. It has only been briefly visited six times since its discovery in 1898.
Royal Navy sailors visited the island to remove rubbish left behind by a scientific expedition that spent 15 months on the island in the 1980s.
The Navy had tried to remove trash from the island before in 2017, but there was so much freezing in the ice that they had to return seven years later.
This latest effort is part of the Navy’s ‘One Ton Challenge.’
Issued by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key, this challenge asks Navy personnel to spend time removing a tonne of rubbish from a beach; goal that the crew of HMS Protector tripled.
Lieutenant Commander Lee says: “I was part of the team that did the initial clearing in 2016/17 and it was interesting to see how much the snow had melted and how much more equipment had been exposed.”
He added: “Unfortunately, we were not able to remove everything from the island due to the permafrost and the severity of the landscape, however, we have made it as safe as possible for the wildlife that lives there.”
The cleanup effort is part of the Navy’s ‘One Ton Challenge,’ which asks Navy personnel to spend time removing a ton of trash from beaches around the world.
Lieutenant Commander Hannah Lee, who took part in the clean-up, says they have not yet managed to remove all the rubbish from the island as much is still frozen to the ground.
HMS Protector (pictured) is the Royal Navy’s polar research ship and is currently deployed in the Antarctic region promoting British interests and enforcing the Antarctic Treaty.
Since its discovery, the island of Brabant has only been briefly visited six times.
Its only full-time residents are the populations of penguins and seals that make the island their home.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 seals live on the island, with elephant seals being the most numerous.
The curious chinstrap penguins, named for the distinctive markings on their heads, also live in large numbers on the island.
However, these adorable animals can appreciate having some peace and quiet again, as studies have shown that they fall asleep up to 1,000 times a day and need 11 hours of rest.
This comes amid growing concern over rising pollution levels in Antarctica.
Studies in Antarctic seawater have found that microplastics are now as bad as anywhere else on Earth.
There has also been concern about the need to clean up debris left behind by research bases and settlements in Antarctica.
Marine Garrett, who took part in the clean-up efforts on the island of Brabant, says: “At first it was quite shocking to see all the mess that was left.”
“But once we got together to pick up all the rubbish, we could instantly see the benefits of our work – quite a bittersweet feeling.”