A DRIVING instructor from Looe has swapped his Highway Code for the icebergs and penguins of Antarctica while on deployment as a Royal Naval Reservist.
Leading Seaman Nick Hickman, 42, is part of the ship's company on board HMS Protector, the Royal Navy's icepatrol ship, which is in the Antarctic region until 2015.
Mr Hickman, a father of four, was delighted for the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the Antarctic and said the latest mission was his favourite to date.
"I have never been to this part of the world before and to visit Antarctica and see the icebergs for the first time was a real highlight," he said.
"I have also really enjoyed our time in the Falkland Islands, it is steeped in history and I have really enjoyed learning about it.
"This draft on HMS Protector has been by far my favourite."
HMS Protector is conducting surveys and patrols on behalf of the UK Hydrographic Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is providing logistical support to the British Antarctic Survey organisation. She also provides a sovereign presence in the British Antarctic Territory and delivers the UK's commitments under the Antarctic Treaty, supports science programmes and ensures expeditions and vessels are meeting their international environmental obligations.
As a seaman specialist, Nick's job consists mainly of seamanship skills such as handling ropes, driving the ship's sea boats and working on the upper deck.
HMS Protector has most recently visited South Georgia where she held hydrographic and dive operations while also sending personnel ashore to clean up a beach in Cumberland Bay to preserve the habitat of local wildlife.
Dodging curious seals and penguins, a team of ten cleared a 1.5km stretch of beach of washed-up debris in just under two hours.
The sea boats, maintained by Nick's team, use a state-of-the-art MultiBeam sonar system – a single beam and towed side scan sonar.
They have the ability to get very close to the shore and are capable of ten knots but they usually survey at around three or four knots.
Once the data is gathered it is then processed on board HMS Protector and sent back to the UK.