This is a solar eclipse – the only one of 2021, and a marvel of nature witnessed by just a few hundred people… including the crew of HMS Protector.
The Royal Navy icebreaker was in a prime position to witness the natural blackout as she patrolled the waters off South Georgia – the remote wildlife paradise and last resting place of famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Only those closer to the South Pole – Tasmania, South Africa and New Zealand’s South Island – could see even a partial eclipse.
For the full effect, however, you had to be even further south – and nearer the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the most sparsely inhabited places on the planet.
After an autumn working in the tropics around St Helena and Ascension Island, Protector is on her way to the frozen continent for her scientific mission supporting polar research and updating seafarers’ charts.
The latest leg of her journey has carried her as far as South Georgia – 900 miles from the Falklands and also sovereign British territory.
Sailors had to be up early on Saturday – 4am – to catch the moon passing in front of the sun and blocking its rays. Those who were up were treated to a 96 per cent eclipse for around 100 minutes (compared with HMS Forth being treated to a quarter eclipse back in the Falklands).
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of us in Protector,” said logistics officer Lieutenant Commander Dave Pitt.
“We got to witness a fantastic natural occurrence in one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
After a few days’ work in and around South Georgia, Protector moves on to even-more-distant British Overseas Territory: the inhospitable, uninhabited South Sandwich Islands, about 450 miles southeast of South Georgia.