Duck! HMS Prince of Wales squeezes under Forth Bridge and heads for North Sea

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Dramatic new pictures show the second of the UK's new aircraft carriers - HMS Prince of Wales - squeezing under Forth Bridge in Scotland to reach the North Sea after setting sail for the very first time on Thursday. 

The 65,000-tonne warship left its dock in Rosyth earlier this week as it prepared for nine weeks of sea trials before heading to Portsmouth. 

Today she passed beneath the three iconic Forth crossings – lowering her main mast to do so – heading out to the North Sea. 

This now means the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy will be at sea at the same time, with the HMS Prince of Wales joining the HMS Queen Elizabeth which is currently in the North Atlantic preparing for operational training.

Today HMS Prince of Wales passed beneath the three iconic Forth crossings – lowering her main mast to do so – heading out to the North Sea

Today HMS Prince of Wales passed beneath the three iconic Forth crossings – lowering her main mast to do so – heading out to the North Sea

This now means the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy will be at sea at the same time, with the HMS Prince of Wales (pictured today) joining the HMS Queen Elizabeth which is currently in the North Atlantic preparing for operational training

This now means the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy will be at sea at the same time, with the HMS Prince of Wales (pictured today) joining the HMS Queen Elizabeth which is currently in the North Atlantic preparing for operational training

Once in the river, the £3.1 billion aircraft carrier (pictured) anchored for three days before waiting for a low tide to pass under the Firth's famous bridges today

Once in the river, the £3.1 billion aircraft carrier (pictured) anchored for three days before waiting for a low tide to pass under the Firth's famous bridges today

The 65,000-tonne warship left its dock in Rosyth earlier this week as it prepared for nine weeks of sea trials before heading to Portsmouth

The 65,000-tonne warship left its dock in Rosyth earlier this week as it prepared for nine weeks of sea trials before heading to Portsmouth

The occasion comes two years after her sister HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail from the very same site. 

Measuring 920 feet in length, the vessel squeezed out of Rosyth dockyard, leaving the Scottish basin where she was assembled this Thursday. 

The process of getting the four-acre military operating base on to the Firth of Forth represented one of the most delicate manoeuvres the warship would have to undertake.

Navigators, pilots and tug boats had the slimmest of margins to deal with as they guided the 65,000-tonne carrier out of the basin through a narrow opening during high tide.

The gap the aircraft carrier had to pass through is little more than 130 feet wide - allowing around three feet of clearance either side and one-and-a-half feet between the bottom of the ship and the sea bed.

Dramatic pictures captured the moment that the UK's second new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales departed the Forth basin today

Dramatic pictures captured the moment that the UK's second new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales departed the Forth basin today

To complete the move the mast pole on top of one of the islands, which operates on a hydraulic system, was lowered so the ship could pass under the bridges and head towards the North Sea

To complete the move the mast pole on top of one of the islands, which operates on a hydraulic system, was lowered so the ship could pass under the bridges and head towards the North Sea

HMS Prince of Wales (pictured) is expected to head into her home base of Portsmouth once sea trials have been completed, and will commission into the Royal Navy at the end of the year

HMS Prince of Wales (pictured) is expected to head into her home base of Portsmouth once sea trials have been completed, and will commission into the Royal Navy at the end of the year

Once in the river, the £3.1 billion aircraft carrier anchored for three days before waiting for a low tide to pass under the Firth's famous bridges today. 

To do so, the mast pole on top of one of the islands, which operates on a hydraulic system, was lowered so the ship could pass under the bridges and head towards the North Sea. 

The move was completed as heavy rain fell in Scotland today but that did not deter crowds

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