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HMS Endurance (A171)
An overhead view of HMS Endurance coloured bright red. About 100 metres from her are icebergs, coloured white. The sea is calm, and a deep blue.
HMS Endurance off the Antarctic Peninsula, in 2007.
Career (UK)

1990: MV Polar Circle
1991: HMS Polar Circle

1992: HMS Endurance
Operator: Royal Navy
Builder: Ulstein Hatlo
Completed: 1990
Commissioned: 21 November 1991
Out of service: 2008
Homeport: Portsmouth
Identification: Pennant number: A171
Motto: Fortitudine Vincimus
(Latin: "By Endurance We Conquer")
Nickname: The Red Plum (from the colour of her hull).
Fate: Portsmouth Naval Base
Status: Laid up
General characteristics
Class & type: Class 1A1 icebreaker
Displacement: 6,100 t (6,004 long tons)
Length: 91 m (298 ft 7 in)
Beam: 17.9 m (58 ft 9 in)
Draught: 8.5 m (27 ft 11 in)
Ice class: 1A1
Propulsion: 2 × Bergen BRG 8 Diesels, 8,160 hp (6,085 kW)
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Range: 24,600 nmi (45,600 km) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
James Caird, Nimrod, Eddie Shackleton and Dudley Docker
Complement: 126
Crew: Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Civilian researchers
Sensors and
processing systems:
Type R84 and M34 surface search radar, Type 1006 navigation radar
Electronic warfare
& decoys:

2 × 7.62mm Mk.44 Miniguns

6 × 7.62mm L7 GPMGs[citation needed]
Aircraft carried: 2 × Ice-modified Lynx HAS 3 helicopters
Aviation facilities: Full aircraft facilities and double hangar

HMS Endurance is a class 1A1 icebreaker that served as the Royal Navy ice patrol ship between 1991 and 2008. Built in Norway as MV Polar Circle, she was chartered by the Royal Navy in 1991 as HMS Polar Circle, before being purchased outright and renamed HMS Endurance in 1992. She has been out of service since 2008, when she was seriously damaged by flooding following an error during routine maintenance.


MV Polar Circle was built in Norway in 1990 by Ulstein Hatlo for Rieber Shipping. The Royal Navy chartered her for eight months as HMS Polar Circle from 21 November 1991. She was bought outright and renamed HMS Endurance on 9 October 1992.

Endurance provided a sovereign presence in polar waters, performing hydrographic surveys and supporting the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica. Her usual deployment saw her in the Southern Ocean and returning to the UK through tropical waters each year. Later, a longer, 18-month deployment was designed to maximise her time available for BAS usage.

In 1997, she made the first visit to Buenos Aires after the Falklands War and returned in 2002.[1]

In 2005, Endurance was chosen to carry HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the International Fleet Review as part of the Trafalgar 200 celebrations.

Although she enjoyed a varied, purposeful career as the UKs sole ice patrol vessel, Endurance's later years were problematic and ended in ignominy. After her 2004 docking period in Falmouth, the ship suffered a minor accident which resulted in her listing badly when the drydock she was situated in flooded up. The subsequent months after the refit were troublesome and the ship suffered numerous debilitating machinery failures. This was to become something of a theme over the next four years as the ship's crew struggled to keep her serviceable, set against more demanding challenges.[citation needed]

Docking in Puerto Belgrano 2006

During survey work in Antarctica in January 2006, the ship's engineering staff discovered her rudder was apparently loose on the stock. Her work period was cut short and she returned to Mare Harbour in the Falkland Islands for further inspections. Det Norske Veritas, the ship's assurance certification company instructed that the ship should dock at the nearest available port - the nearest large enough being Puerto Belgrano, Argentina's largest naval base, where Endurance docked in mid-March 2006. Without hotel services on board, the ship's company moved to shore-side accommodation in the city of Bahía Blanca, some twenty kilometres west of Puerto Belgrano. The rudder was removed for repairs and once on the floor of the drydock, a dockers' strike followed.[2][3] The ship remained there for nearly three weeks. Picket lines formed at the gates of the naval base, preventing Endurance's crew from relieving the stranded duty watch on board. When the strike broke, the rudder was replaced and welded into position and the ship left Puerto Belgrano in early April 2006. She returned to Portsmouth via Lisbon and to drydock again for further engineering work on the rudder and stock.

In July 2007 the United Kingdom offered Endurance to supply Argentine Antarctic bases after their ARA Almirante Irizar icebreaker suffered extensive damage in a fire.[4][5]

2008 near loss

In December 2008, while on an 18-month deployment, Endurance suffered extensive flooding to her machinery spaces and lower accommodation decks deck resulting in the near loss of the ship.[6] A serious engine room flood left her without power or propulsion,[7] and she was towed to Punta Arenas by a Chilean tug. After an extensive survey was completed, the estimates to refit the ship were put at around £30M.[8] On 8 April 2009 Endurance arrived off Portsmouth, on the semi-submersible transporter ship MV Target.[9]

The Royal Navy inquiry found that the flood happened while a sea water strainer was being cleaned, in an attempt to improve the production of fresh water. The air lines controlling a hull valve were incorrectly reconnected, resulting in the valve opening and an inability to close it.[6] The pipe installation fell below generally accepted standards, which made reconnection of the air lines ambiguous. The inquiry also found that due to manpower constraints the ship did not have a system maintainer, and that clarity of engineering command had been lost, with no-one clearly in charge of risk-management. It was fortunate that, once without propulsion, Endurance drifted over an area shallow enough for anchors to be lowered and to hold. Otherwise, Endurance would probably have been lost by flooding or running aground. The inquiry judged that the ship’s company responded well to control damage in challenging conditions.[6][10]

Many of the named ship’s company dispute the conclusions reached by the inquiry, citing that the alleged systemic and administrative shortcomings were known and overlooked by shore-based authorities, and that pressure was placed upon the ship to deploy for 18 months in a less-than-ready material state. Personal accounts of the ship’s machinery suffering badly through high-tempo cyclic usage and poor logistic support were commonplace. Endurance completed an expensive maintenance period in Portsmouth before deploying including dry docking to fix a multitude of problems encountered during the 2006–2007 deployment. This was intended to replace the scheduled docking period programmed for 2007, which would have included a full restorative ship work package. Whatever the outcome, it remains clear that Endurance badly lacked the capability to evacuate large amounts of seawater from her main machinery space in the event of emergencies like this, something that was apparent during an earlier, undocumented engine-room flooding incident in December 2006.[citation needed]

Ice Patrol - TV series

In 2009, National Geographic Channel ran a four-episode documentary series on Endurance. Five ran the same series the following year under the name Ice Patrol, with the final episode showing what happened the day the ship almost sank.[11]


On 9 September 2010, speculation in the press suggested it was likely that Endurance would be scrapped[12] and replaced with another icebreaker from Norway.[13]

On 22 March 2011, it was announced that the Royal Navy intended to hire MV Polarbjørn, to be renamed HMS Protector, for three years whilst a final decision on whether to repair or scrap Endurance is made.[14] HMS Protector was purchased in September 2013.[15]

Endurance remains in Three Basin, Portsmouth Naval Base in a preserved condition. It was announced on 7 October 2013 that Endurance will be sold for scrap, as it is not 'economically viable' to repair the damage sustained in 2008.[16]


Endurance is a class 1A1 icebreaker. Her two Bergen BRG8 diesel engines produce over 8000 shaft horsepower and can move her through up to 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) of ice at 3 knots (5.6 km/h).[17] Her propulsion system uses a computer-controlled variable-pitch propeller and stern and bow thrusters.

She carried 2 ice-modified Lynx helicopters.[17] which were highly instrumental in the making of the BBC Documentary Series, Planet Earth.

Link to Sir Ernest Shackleton

Endurance is named after the ship which Sir Ernest Shackleton used in his Antarctic expedition of 1914-1917. The names of Endurance's boats and landing craft continue the Shackleton connection: James Caird and Dudley Docker are named after boats carried by Shackleton's Endurance, Nimrod is named after the ship which Shackleton used on his Antarctic expedition of 1907-1909, and Eddie Shackleton is named after the explorer's son. The motto of Endurance, "fortitudine vincimus" ("by endurance, we conquer"), was also the Shackleton family motto.[18]



  1. "Endurance calls in at Buenos Aires". Navy News. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  2. "Argentine dock workers 'capture' Royal Navy ship". The Scotsman. 20 March 2006. Retrieved 7 June 2007. 
  3. "Argentine Navy site" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2007. 
  4. "British support to replace Argentina’s stricken "Irizar"". Mercopress. 26 April 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2007. 
  5. "Reparar el rompehielos costará US$ 113 millones" (in Spanish). La Nación newspaper. 10 July 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2007. [dead link]
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Service Inquiry into the flooding of HMS Endurance 16 December 2008" (pdf). Ministry of Defence. March 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  7. "HMS Endurance > News". Royal Navy. 17 December 2008. Retrieved 19 December 2008. 
  8. Matt Jackson (14 August 2009). "Two ships to go and Endurance future in doubt". Portsmouth News. 
  9. "Damaged Endurance set for repairs". BBC News. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009. 
  10. "HMS Endurance flood a 'near loss' incident, report says". BBC News. 18 March 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  11. "Ice Patrol on Channel 5". Five (TV channel). 30 April 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  12. Matt Jackson (16 December 200). "The Red Plum is still facing exit". The News (Portsmouth). Retrieved 16 May 2010. 
  13. Euan Stretch (9 September 2010). "Navy scrap ice breaker HMS Endurance". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  14. Navy News (22 March 2011). "New Antarctic patrol ship announced". Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  15. "GC Rieber Shipping sells the ice-breaker "HMS Protector"". 26 September 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  16. "HMS Endurance: Former ice patrol ship to be scrapped". BBC News. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "HMS Endurance 3 (Ex- Polar Circle) Ice Patrol Ship". Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  18. "HMS Endurance (archived)". Royal Navy. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 

External links

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