While the sun was shining on the UK Royal Navy ship HMS Protector Wednesday in the Sydney area, its members are training for less balmy conditions — breaking ice in the Arctic.

It’s a partnership between the Canadian Coast Guard and the UK Royal Navy.

“Every time you’re outside, you literally look like you’re looking into an oil painting,” said Royal Navy member Hope Millar. “It’s the most serene and the most beautiful place in the world that I’ve ever been to. ”

She’s speaking about Antarctica, where she spent three months earlier this year gaining icebreaking experience.

Wednesday, she used a simulator at the Canadian Coast Guard College to conduct a virtual icebreaking mission in Pond Inlet, Nunavut.

“It can be difficult to spot at first,” Millar said about the ice. “And obviously from what we know from the Titanic, ice is partially submerged under the water so it can be more difficult to see.”

Capt. Milly Ingham is the first female captain in the history of the UK navy.

She says being in Cape Breton is important to gain experience with Canadian Arctic ice, in part because recent world events have made the high north a place of high interest.

“There are risks and threats both from Russia and China,” said Capt. Ingham. “And I think the high north is an area that will become more contested. So as we’re looking on a 50-year planning cycle, we need to be able to operate anywhere in the world.”

Officials at the Coast Guard College were thrilled to make good on a promise to host their British counterparts.

“The (memorandum of understanding) was signed early in the fall of 2021, and of course because of the pandemic we’ve had challenges in being able to come together,” said Dena Richardson, executive director of the Canadian Coast Guard College.

“In past, we’ve had a number of opportunities to be able to engage internationally with different groups. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to do that now. Being able this week to welcome them here as a partner is just a phenomenal opportunity for everyone.”

When the Navy ship moves on to Halifax after a week in Cape Breton, there will be another important moment for women in this line of work.

“We’ve got a young girl coming from Moose Jaw, Sask., to join us in Halifax and be the captain for the day,” Capt. Ingham said. “So it sends a strong message to other young people that they can do whatever they want to do.”

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