Portsmouth Based Sailors' Ice Run

Sailors from Portsmouth based Royal Navy 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.''

HMS Protector is currently in the Antarctic in order to support an international team conducting formal Antarctic Treaty inspections of sites across the peninsula while maintaining a UK sovereign presence in the British Antarctic Territory.

Led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with the support of the British Antarctic Survey and observers from HMS Protector, the international Antarctic Treaty team is inspecting a number of scientific stations, historic sites, cruise vessels and yachts in the Antarctic Peninsula region.

HMS Protector will be operating in and around Antarctica until April 2013.

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