HMS Prince of Wales visits volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: Arctic and Northern European Waters

Britain’s biggest warship has ventured deep inside the Arctic Circle for a rare visit to the Norwegian volcanic island of Jan Mayen – as the UK underlines its commitment to security in the high north.

HMS Prince of Wales and her escort frigate HMS Richmond sailed to the frozen unpopulated outcrop – about 340 miles north of Iceland and roughly 280 miles east of Greenland – as the aircraft carrier goes through intensive exercises in operating in the harsh cold weather of the Arctic.

Seven sailors landed on Jan Mayen to meet the Norwegian personnel stationed there, in the shadow of the glacier-covered volcano Beerenberg and surrounded by dramatic views, to forge closer bonds between Norway and the UK. 

HMS Richmond’s commanding officer, Commander Chris L’Amie, said: “Having long studied and always been fascinated by the Arctic, it is a real privilege to step ashore in Jan Mayen, strengthening the ties between the UK and Norway, our NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force partner.”

The aircraft carrier arrived at Jan Mayen – named after Dutch seafarer and explorer Jan Jacobszoon May van Schellinkhout –   in the Arctic Ocean soon after a visit to Iceland and the largest military exercises in the Arctic since the Cold War alongside NATO allies and partners.

During the exercises in Norway, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, visited HMS Prince of Wales to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to security in the Arctic and announce regular Royal Navy and Royal Marines deployments to the high north. 

Norwegian Navy Commander Thor Straten has been on board HMS Prince of Wales to work with the ship and share his extensive knowledge and experience of working in the Arctic and the effects of ice on ships.

He travelled to Jan Mayen with Prince of Wales’s commanding officer, Captain Steve Higham, and Cdr L’Amie from Richmond, alongside four other sailors.

Petty Officer Luke Witts, part of the crew on Prince of Wales, was one of those selected to go ashore and spent his 33rd birthday on the island.

“It was probably the best birthday I’ve ever had, the whole experience flying from the ship and seeing the island was amazing,” he said. “The food from the chefs was phenomenal and it was great to meet the people there.” 

HMS Prince of Wales has just completed a four-day visit to Reykjavik to show off the UK’s largest and most advanced warship to Iceland, a NATO ally and the newest member of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force.  

The ship hosted a reception of ministers and diplomats, while sailors took part in football and rugby matches against local sides as the two nations forge closer ties.

“Being the first fifth generation aircraft carrier to visit Iceland has been a proud moment for our ship’s company as we continue our operations, alongside NATO Allies and JEF partners in the Arctic,” said Capt Higham.

“Iceland and the people of the City of Reykjavik have been really welcoming to all of us, and, we are very grateful for the support we have received as we contribute to the delivery of the effects set out by the Defence Secretary in the new Arctic Strategy.”

The Joint Expeditionary Force is a UK-led security coalition, which includes the UK, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

The ship will continue north for further cold weather tests in the coming days before returning to the UK.