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FEATURE: Photo Shoot at the Top of the World

Photo: Royal Air Force Nimrod based at RAF Kinloss over The North Pole. HMS Trenchant in the background. Photography by Rick Brewell ABIPP Date: 8 May 1992


In the first of an occasional series, former RAF photographer Warrant Officer Rick Brewell (ret’d) gives behind the scenes insights into what was required to capture the stunning images he took. This article details one of the more unusual photo shoots from his 39-year service career.


In May 1992 two nuclear-powered submarines HMS Trenchant and USS Spadefish were set to break through the ice at the North Pole and rendezvous with two RAF Nimrods involved in a navigation training mission. Because compasses don’t work very well as you near the magnetic pole, the aircrews were to practise other means of navigation in this featureless and inhospitable place – the proximity of the subs provided a unique photo opportunity that I was tasked to capture.
The initial plan was for us air force guys to spend the first night at Thule AB in Greenland and then make the trip to the North Pole the next day. However, Thule was experiencing white-out conditions with drifting snow, so the night-stop was changed to Andøya AB on the northernmost island in the Vesterålen archipelago. After departing RAF Kinloss, Moray, we landed at the Norwegian base in the late afternoon of May 6; both aircraft were then prepped for an early morning departure. Although we were taking off from near the top of Norway we were still facing a round-trip of almost 3,000 miles (4,828km), plus the additional time on ‘target’ at the North Pole.


The rest of this article can be found in the October issue which is a F-4 Phantom Special. Buy your copy direct from or in leading newsagents. Alternatively, you can download a digital edition from – simply search ‘Aviation News’


Photo caption: A bubble window on the port side near the front of the aircraft was opened so I could get my shots. A North Pole image featured in the RAF calendar and others appeared in various publications. WO Rick Brewell (ret’d)/MOD




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