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al in ice and snow

line and with purely verbal communications from Dave – it’s rare not to be able to actually see the winchman.

“In the meantime, Lt Jon

Wade, my co-pilot, and I were really struggling to control the helicopter with some ferocious up- and down-draughts, not to mention the strong wind. “It is probably the worst conditions I have ever experienced in the mountains. “We were going from full power to no power at all in the space of just seconds to try to maintain a steady hover for Florry and Dave. “Once Dave was with the climber, though, there was no messing around – he got him into a harness really rapidly and they were immediately winched out to the helicopter – it was extremely dangerous on the ledge. “All in all, from the moment we spotted his light, to him getting in the helicopter was about ten minutes – it was really hazardous and we wanted to get in and out of there as quickly as we possibly could.”

With the climber safely on

board, the helicopter sped to Fort William, with Dave – who is also a qualified paramedic – monitoring him en-route. Once there, the strong winds continued to make life very difficult for the pilots – landing at West End car park in the town is routine for the helicopter, but the strong winds blasting down the mountains meant the crew had to make three landing attempts before getting the Sea King safely on the ground. The casualty, who had been

well-clothed and equipped, was transferred to Belford Hospital in a waiting ambulance. He was kept in briefly for

observation, but was discharged shortly after.

The helicopter then returned to the mountain to airlift the five members of the mountain rescue team off the hill. “It was really important to us to go back and recover the mountain rescue team,” continued Craig. “They had been out on foot in those awful conditions, risking their lives for some hours before we even got there. “They had done a fantastic job,

and, I have to say, with the wind at the strength it was and such poor visibility, I’m not surprised they had not managed to locate him – any shouts to try to alert him would have been lost in the wind and, ditto, they would have been unlikely to hear any cries for help from him either.” The RAF’s Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Kinloss

l Norwegian cruise ship Fram amidst the ice floes of the Antarctic Sound (above) and following HMS Protector to more open water (right)

Barracks is in charge of tasking all aviation rescue assets throughout the UK.

Their CO, Sqn Ldr Jon Heald, praised the crew’s efforts, saying: “They not only launched well within declared readiness [in dark hours, search and rescue crews and helicopters should be ready to move in 45 minutes, 15 minutes during the day], but located the casualty quickly, extracted him and managed to transfer him quickly to hospital.

likely saved his life – the response was extremely effective.”


“This prompt reaction most ‘can-do’

Gannet answered another emergency call the following day after an avalanche swept climbers around 1,000ft down the side of Bidean Nam Bian. The snowslide

claimed the

lives of four mountaineers, while the RN Sea King carried a fifth, badly-injured, climber to hospital in Fort William The helicopter was also heavily used to move members of Glencoe

l Separated by 250 years and 200 metres, Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond and HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned warship in the world, are dusted with snow in Portsmouth

and Lochaber Mountain Rescue Teams around the area as they searched for missing or buried climbers. It was somewhat quieter

in the South of the UK when Portsmouth, like many other areas, was blanketed by snow. While causing widespread

disruption to transport, business and education, it meant a brief spell of peace and quiet around the city’s naval base – and two RN photographers, PO(Phot)s Paul A’Barrow and Simmo Simpson, ventured out to record it. For some ships it was quite a change – new Type 45s HMS Diamond and Dauntless had recently returned from the much warmer climes of the Gulf and the Americas respectively. But just a stone’s throw away lay

HMS Victory, which has seen it all before in her 250-year history. The 18th-Century warship is undergoing extensive restoration work, including the removal of her three masts, bowsprit and rigging – the most comprehensive remedial work carried out on Nelson’s flagship in more than 40 years.

l Norwegian cruise ship Fram, as seen from HMS Protector

FEBRUARY 2013 : 15

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