HMS Montrose Aids the Fight Against Ocean Plastic

Waste on the beach at Henderson Island (Royal Navy)

By Royal Navy News 01-03-2019 08:17:47

For two days in December, the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose aided the fight against ocean plastics by recording litter levels on the beaches of four Pacific islands - including Pitcairn, the final resting place of the HMS Bounty.

The Pitcairn Islands – Pitcairn, Dulcie, Oneo and Henderson – are British Overseas Territories, and they are protected against illegal fishing and pollution. However, Pacific currents dump masses of plastic debris on their shorelines – especially on Henderson Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been dubbed "the most polluted island in the world." Upwards of 40 million pieces of plastic and other waste have been washed ashore on this small, uninhabited island, and the ocean deposits about 270 more objects on its beaches every day.

Much of that debris was captured on camera by HMS Montrose's Leading Photographer Joe Cater, whose reconnaissance imagery will be used by conservationists who are planning a clean-up operation later this year.

Pitcairn (population 52) is the only one of the four islands where human life can be found. Most of its inhabitants are descended from the mutineers who took charge of the Bounty and scuttled the ship here in 1790.

Nearly 230 years later, HMS Montrose anchored in the same spot, Bounty Bay, giving around 100 sailors and Royal Marines the opportunity to go ashore in long boats crewed by islanders. The Royal Navy had not called at Pitcairn since 2000, when Montrose’s sister ship HMS Sutherland visited during a world tour.

After tea at the residence of Pitcairn’s administrator, Nick Kennedy, with Mayor Shawn Christian – a direct descendant of lead mutineer Fletcher Christian – Montrose’s Commanding Officer was given a tour of the island, which is roughly as big as Swindon.

"This was a very special visit – one that all of us enjoyed. Rich in history and beauty the island and islanders have certainly made an impact on the ship’s company," said Commander Conor O’Neill, Montrose’s Commanding Officer.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.