On 19th May 1916, Sir Earnest Shackleton, Captain Frank Worsley and Tom Crean set out on what would become the first recorded crossing of South Georgia on the penultimate leg of their Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which became recognised as an epic feat of endurance. Exactly 104 years later, the Mount Pleasant-based Royal Air Force A400M Atlas aircraft, call-sign 'Grizzly', approached South Georgia at sunrise to commence an Op COLDSTARE mission that included photographing the ice flows, patrolling vital fisheries and conducting reconnaissance in the South Georgia Maritime Zone.
The lucrative toothfish fishing season, running between May and early September each year, was well underway, with 5 licensed longliner vessels dotted along the 1000m-deep contour line circling the island. An overflight of the vessels was greeted with friendly radio calls on maritime ch16, a task that is vital for showing a patrol presence in the maritime zone.
Grizzly was tasked with conducting a patrol of the Southern Seamounts, an area of protected seabed and associated organisms totalling more than 2700sq km in size. This area provides a refuge for adult toothfish and is therefore protected from fishing all year round. Grizzly conducted maritime radar reconnaissance of the area to ensure no vessels were present.
Grizzly also conducted a morale-boosting overflight of King Edward Point and Grytviken; the location of the Government and British Antarctic Survey offices. With approximately 30 personnel on the island and visits few and far between, Grizzly was a welcome sight.
A treat for those onboard the A400M, the aircraft also flew a final loop of South Georgia to take photos of key glaciers and beaches that could be conceivable landing sites for vessels. The views throughout were incredible and made the trip a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most beautiful and remote locations on this planet.