Northbound

THe RRS Ernest Shackleton departed Stanley on the 29th April heading north for the UK, after a very busy and successful Antarctic season.

The trip north was pretty uneventful and mostly done in calm seas. This afforded the Deck Dept. the opportunity to get stuck into a myriad of jobs that they were unable to attend to whilst in the ice.

Fish Flying

Flying Fish

Flying Fish

Rod Strachan our resident Fish Nurse and ex winter BC of Rothera, managed capture these images of the Famous fish in flight. Not an easy task by any means.

We duly crossed the Equator on Saturday the 12th May and were boarded by King Neptune and his entourage in order for us to pay homage and beg safe passage onwards. After the formalities were over the initiates disappeared. A description of what ensued is provided by Deck Cadet, Matt Neill

TWO SAILORS AND A FID

Two sailors and a FiD have recently been found guilty on board the RRS Ernest Shackleton. The men, who cannot be named for legal reasons all pleaded guilty to a long list of crimes against humanity.

Victims parade

Such atrocities include, shamelessly killing clams, being a cruise ship queen and admitting to being a gardener.

Grant, Will and Rod may have all committed different crimes but their sentence was the same, covered in slops and given medicine

Captain Stevens being led astray be Neptune’s Queen

The Shackleton three were summoned to meet Neptune and Queen Martina on the main deck, the guilty were given a chance to give themselves up but instead they tried to run, like rats. It was deemed more sporting to let them hide; ‘they have no escape’ said one on looker.

After sometime, the crew went on the hunt and quickly ascertained, the guilty three had pre meditated plans to pervert the court of justice. The crew took longer than first anticipated to smoke them out.

As each was captured, their crimes were read to them and a fair trial ensued. The mob wanted blood; their chants of guilty could be heard on the bridge.  After sentencing had been carried out, the reformed three had finally appeased the lord of the sea and everybody could enjoy the BBQ.

MADEIRA

We called into Madeira the following weekend to top up our fuel tanks for the last push on to Immingham. The vessel was only in port a few hours but all who wanted to managed to get ashore and have a quick look around the town and markets.  Most were very impressed with what the Island appeared to offer.  We were all too soon on our way back to sea. Grateful for the short sunny interlude.

Fresh Produce Market

Market

Whilst in  port we tested the launching procedures of the Port lifeboat and gave some of the crew not normally involved in these operations the opportunity to use the equipment.

Second cook Julia Frode lowering lifeboat. Bosuns Mate Ray Davis,Chief Cook Danny McManamy and Steward Dave Harrigan look on

We should be arriving in Immingham on Saturday 26th May.

Words: Pat O’Hara and Matt Neill

Pics Dave Bailey, Matt Neill and Rod Strachan

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Antarctica 2011-12

We are back down south again in the Weddell Sea once again involved in the annual Halley relief operation.

We departed Immingham in the UK in early November and had a pretty uneventful trip south to Cape Town. The weather in Cape Town was glorious and all on board made the most of it, exploring Table Mountain the beaches wine farms and the Waterfront area. It was over all too soon and once again we headed down south departing on the 13th December.

We were instantly greeted by the Cape Rollers, long period swells that come in from the southwest, a portent of things to come weather-wise. Quite soon there were a few customer’s knuckling the Doctors’ door for the remedial medication. The lumpy weather, although not severe continued pretty much until we passed Bouvet Island and turned directly south. We encountered our first ice at about 58 South. Once in the pack the vessel motion settled down. We were In radio contact with the South African Vessel the SA Agulhas which was headed for Atka Bukta near the German Neumeyer station. They informed us of some of the sticky patches that they had encountered along the way which endeavoured to avoid.

We finally broke through to the shore lead on the 24th December and cruised quietly along the ice shelf  in a Westerly direction heading for Halley. Initially the Satellite picture we were receiving indicated that a huge iceberg may be blocking our way at Stancomb Wills ice tongue which juts out  substantially from the coast. However as we approached the berg was seen to drift off leaving us a gap to sail through and on to Halley.

On Christmas Day we stopped for few hours in the ice and everybody was afforded the opportunity to go for a stroll on this strange new surface. The Weather was lovely with a dark moody sky in the backgrouand. Some of the lads even took a soccer ball along to kick about. A lone Adele penguin came to greet us and was snapped at like a super-model by voracious paparazzi.  We also managed to get everybody together on the ice for a Christmas day team photograph.  Thereafter we sat down to an excellent traditional Yuletide Feast thoroughly enjoyed by all.

In the afternoon we pulled off the ice and headed for Halley making speed to arrive early on boxing day for the offloading to commence.

We arrived off Halley mid-morning and were greeted by a well laid out and prepared ramp and berthing area. We made our way in through some first year ice which was still clinging to the older more substantial stuff against the shelf.  Last year’s mooring posts were still in place and we duly tied up alongside.

A contingent from Halley came down and gave us a briefing on the do’s and don’ts around the ramp.   Thereafter cargo work got underway. This year we are not doing round the clock work, just one daily 12 hour shift.

News from the base and new build at HalleyVI was eagerly awaited. It appears as if there are still some problems to sort out at the new base before it be safely commissioned for occupation over the coming winter. We are all hoping that these problems can and will be sorted out.  Nothing it appears comes easily down here.

All too soon New Year ’s Eve was upon us and the cargo work almost complete. There was not too much fuss made on board for this. A gathering on the bridge with some mulled wine and ringing out and in of the New Year by the oldest and youngest crew members.

The first day of January sees us continuing with cargo back load. We are looking to get away from here on or about the 3rd January

Wishing all a Happy New Year

Compiled by

Pat OHara


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North Sea 2011

The Shackleton has been through quite a lot since you last heard from us down south.  We departed Stanley in April and headed North for warmer climes. We had an unscheduled stop in Cape Verde for fuel on the way north. We were only in port for a few hours before heading off on our journey once again.

On arrival in the UK in early May there was a crew change and rapid preparations for the annual FMEA trials. These trials went mostly well with a few minor recommendations. Thereafter the vessel headed off to Dry-dock in Denmark.  Another few weeks of hectic activity ensued and after completion the vessel headed for mobilisation in Aberdeen. This season the Survey Company Fugro has hired the vessel. The vessel was very soon out at sea again on its first job. Things have gone quite well with all of the clients objectives achieved so far.

Shackleton in Dusavik, Norway

Seven Oceans Pipelaying Vessel coming alongside - Dusavik

We had another crew change on the 1sttof July in Aberdeen and headed out for the Beryl field where we worked around that platform and sub sea structures for a while.

Thereafter we headed to Dusavik in Norway near Stavanger to do a client crew change and pick up some equipment. We then headed out to BALDER FSU to do more sub sea work plus the exchange of an Azimuth Thruster pod on the underside of this huge vessel.

Old Thruster coming up

Old Thruster being winched up

Old and New Thruster on supply vessel

Vessel Stril Power transferring new Thruster

New Thruster being prepared

This job involved the ROV’s coupling up cables from the surface to the already lowered old pod and then bringing it slowly up the back of the vessel via winch cables. It was then transferred onto a standby boat. This vessel also had the new unit on its deacks and this was eventually hooked up and suspended from the winch of the Bard. High wire rope workers were then employed to rig up the cabling and release mechanisms. It was eventfully lowered down beneath the vessel and the hydraulic release mechanisms activated to release it from the stern winches.

High wire act on new Thruster

The Thruster was then winched up into position by cables that run right through the ship. It is then mechanically attached to its drive mechanism on the inside of the vessel.

We are due to leave this field in the Norwegian sector around the 10th of August and head for Aberdeen. We will have a short stopover there before heading off to do about two weeks work in the Southern Sector.

It has been a very busy season for all of us on board. Already there is talk of our trip south at the end of the year and next Antarctic season and cycle continues.

This crew, under Captain Ralph Stevens, will be signing off at the end of August

Words and Images P’O’Hara

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Antarctica 2011

In the ice - The Shackleton at Home

After a rather long leave of absence the “Shackleton Blog” is once again back in action.

With a crew change completed on the 29th January in Stanley, behind us, we departed in fine weather and headed in south-easterly direction towards Halley base. The weather God’s smiled on us all the way and our cruise south was pretty uneventful. We came up to the ice shelf just north of Stancomb Wills on Sunday the 6th February and made our way down the coast encountering little ice. On Monday morning we arrived off Creek IV at Halley but the weather had turned a bit and there was a blow on which was not conducive our working cargo. The forecast for the next few days was not too good, a decision was therefore made to go ahead with our science cruise. This we duly did and headed off west into the Weddell sea in search of Weddell seals to tag.

Weddell Seal

A lot of Ice

We headed back towards Halley for the final time this season. We are about a week ahead of our program at the moment but will have to wait until the Halley personnel are finished their work for the season are ready to embark.

When we arrived off creek III we were surprised to see that a substantial amount of ice had broken off in the week that we were away. The good news is that the fresh break was pretty straight allowing us to tie up closer to ice. This helps when doing cargo work with cranes over the side and vehicles and sleds on the ice not having to get too close to the edge.

Blue Module underway

The Radio’s were soon crackling with activity and arrangements being made to start getting the return cargo down to the depot on the ice shelf.

Positioning Modules

News from the base is that things have gone pretty well with the build this year and they now have four modules up at the new location about 10km from Halley. They completed the move of the huge 200-ton Red module yesterday.  They are hoping to have all the modules up there and in position prior to departure.

Red Module Underway

Module Assembly line

Next post in week or two.

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North Sea July 2010

THe Shackleton in Den Helder harbour

THe Shackleton in Den Helder harbour

The RRS Ernest Shackleton has been through quite a bit since you heard from us. The trip north from the Falklands and arrival in Grimsby, a crew change and Dynmaic Positoioning (DP) trials.

Capt. Marshall’s team re-joined on the 20th May, after a two month break. The next day we headed out for DP trials. this was conducted just off the Humber estuary. The trials did not go too well and we headed into port with a small number of faults against the vessel. Attempts were made to rectify these faults but to no avail and we landed up sailing for Den Helder in Holland with the DP Engineer still with us.

Den Helder Canal

Den Helder Canal

Mobilisation commenced shortly after arrival in Den Helder. The Client being a local outfit called Blue-stream. Whilst in port, work on the DP system continued.

Vintage Texel Light Ship

Vintage Texel Light Ship

We eventually sailed for the work area and attempted to commence work which went well for a few days, unfortunately the DP system again played up and we headed to port once again for repair.

purser

Purser and Canal

The ship landed up spending almost three weeks in Den Helder as the DP system was thoroughly taken apart and tested with numerous new components until eventually it was made to work again. The system is very old and the manufacturers  have informed us that they can no longer guarantee support of it due to the lack of spares. The net result of this is that we will go into re-fit early this year, mid August, to get a brand new system fitted.

Dutch Navy vessel

Dutch Navy vessel

The stay in Den Helder afforded some of the ships crew the opportunity to get ashore and explore the small town. We were lucky enough to be there during their annual Historic festival one part of which was a display of Vintage Vehicles in the grounds of the extensive Maritime museum. The museum itself has many interesting exhibits, sections of old wooden vessel from times gone by and even a complete submarine that can be boarded and explored. All who had the chance to get ashore enjoyed the Jazz and music festival that followed this.

Tallship

Tallship

We are currently on contract off the German coast providing accommodation for the construction crew of a huge offshore wind farm project. The first phase of the project will consist of eighty Wind turbines of five Megawatts each. There are plans to expand it beyond this if it proves viable.

The Turbines are mounted on huge pile-driven tripods that rise from the sea-bed and are joined into one column above the surface, which rises almost 100 metres out of the water. The blades are 60 metres long making a circumference of 120 metres

S-76 on Deck

S-76 on Deck

for the whole propeller assembly. The generator units sitting atop the masts are about as big as an average house. So it is a huge engineering feat to get it all assembled. We observed them raising up one of the blade assemblies which took about six hours to get in place and securely attached.

We have been kept busy with daily helicopters between the shore and us. The personnel transfers from the Shackleton to the worksites are done by an interesting looking Vessel called Natalia Bekker. She is purpose built for this project, a catamaran design built to minimise the effect of the seas swell.

Natalia Bekker

Natalia Bekker

Lifting Blade Assembly

Lifting Blade Assembly

We are coming ot the end of our two month stint and will be relieved on or aorund the 21st of July.

Words: Pat O’Hara

Images: Dave Bailey and Pat O’Hara

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The Antarctic Peninsula And Back…

Radio Officer Patrick and the Crew got off the Mighty Ernest Shackleton in Stanley, Falkland Islands in Mid-March. Pat told me he was doing a monthly blog and would I continue with some of my own entries and so apologies for not posting this a little earlier. But we returned to Stanley expecting to do a 3-1/2 month trip onboard the vessel, and upon joining alongside at FIPASS ( the fisheries processing and storage facility ), it was confirmed we were only onboard for 2 short months !

That means we have lots of work to do and lots of places to go all in a much shorter-than-expected period onboard, so it has been busy busy busy ever since. Not that I am complaining, but it equally makes for a very short leave for Capt Marshall and his crew this time.

JBM Crew depart in Stanley FI

Alongside at Stanley FIPASS

It was a cloudy, drizzling day when the Shackleton crews changed over, but it was all blue and sunny skies for those heading homeward for their leave after 4 long months of service onboard. The oncoming crew had time to absorb their handover notes, unpack their baggage and cases and then go down to the ‘cages’ ( the ship’s storage) to retrieve their cold weather and wet weather work attire. Here’s a picture of the Shackleton alongside at FIPASS.

Having joined on the 15th March, we had 4 days to enjoy the hospitality of Stanley before the vessel headed out of the Narrows with a practically empty ship of passengers and then set forth for the Antarctic Peninsula.

Mr. John Hall of BAS Operations and 2 other passengers were the only exception to a ship filled only with crew. Our compliment is usually 21 persons. John, Andy and Bruce were joined by our additional crewmember, the Dentist Burjor Langdana an our resident Doctor Susanna Gaynor. Andy’Mac’ of Halley was also travelling onwards with us as he was contracted to do several metal fabrication jobs for the vessel on the Northbound journey.

The ship’s company totalled 29 as we set sail across a choppy Drakes’ passage.

The first of the disasters that befell the writing of blogs onboard the Shackleton, was the ever-threatening weather, and it was not kind to us. The 3 day crossing of the Drake Passage to the first islands of the Peninsula, was dogged by head winds , heavy swells and vomitous motion of the oceans ! Urghhh.

Our first port of call ( if you can call it a port ) was Deception Island which is an old volcano that is now flooded. With a narrow entrance for the ships to the east, Deception Island forms a large crescent island and natural sheltered harbour. The ship enters through the narrow ‘Neptunes Bellows’ and once inside, there are 3 Antarctic stations to be found. The Spanish and the Argentinean Bases are still occupied during the Antarctic Summer months, but the British Base is long since abandoned, having been covered over by a mudslide way back in the 50′s. It was from Deception Island that the Shackleton managed to rescue an old ‘single engined Otter’ aircraft in April 2004. But this year we were not to be so lucky. Although the sea inside the crescent of the Island is sheltered, the ‘bellows’ are subject to the forces of nature and the stormy seas had not abated by the time the Shackleton arrived. It was a shame to sail on by without a visit to this peculiar Volcanic island, but at least the seas were getting smoother as we progressed South and towards the inside passages of the Peninsula.

Archive Photo of Shackleton Inside the Crescent Island 2004

Archive Photo of Shackleton Inside the Crescent-shaped Deception Island 2004

Once into the shelter of the Peninsula, the ship settled down and everyone could get things accomplished once more. Papers and cups could be left on surfaces without finding them travelling off at speed for the nearest deck ! Sitting at a computer in a stormy sea is particularly difficult. One second you are hunched over the keyboard and the next you are sliding away on your chair to the opposite side of the office !
The Voyage Down the Peninsula

The Voyage Down the Peninsula

Before long, the rough seas and sickness feelings were all forgotten as we saw the beautiful vistas and relative calm that is the Antarctic Peninsula. Icebergs, penguins, whales, seals, Petrels, Squawas and all things typical of the area were to be seen. The weather also now started to be kind to us and allow a few ‘landings’ at selected spots on the journey.
First there was some sightseeing to be done through the Lamaire Channel, historically known as the ‘Kodak Crack’. It was so named because every time a ship would transit through the narrow channel between Antarctic islands, Kodak would make a fortune from the expended camera film that was used ! The Weather wasn’t good enough to allow Kodak to make a fortune this day, but the towering bastions of rock and Ice towering upwards until they disappeared into low cloud and ‘mank’ gave you the impression of it all. The following photo wasn’t taken on the day of our transit unfortunately, but it gives you the idea of how impressive it can be on a nice day in the Kodak Crack !
Kodak Crack on a Nice Day

Kodak Crack on a Nice Day

Leaving the Lamaire Channel behind, we navigated through the twisting, turning inside passage taken by the touring Cruise Liners to thrill their passengers. Our own passengers were no less impressed. Even those who had travelled down to Rothera by ship before had time for reflection and appreciation. Then came Port Lockroy.
Port Lockroy is an old British Base from the days of Operation Tabarin ( 1947 ) and is now a living museum under the management of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Port Lockroy is a most-visited spot for Passenger Ships and an excellent example of what it must have been like in the earlier days of the Antarctic Service.
The wooden huts are maintained in the same condition they would have been in when they were occupied as a scientific station for the Falklands Islands Dependancies. (Later BAS).
We stopped at Port Lockroy and allowed the crew to go ashore and stretch their legs on the small penguin island colony for the morning of Tuesday 23rd !
After Lunch, the Captain moved the vessel around the promentory of land to Dorian Bay and another old British established camp ‘Damoy’. Again, it is no longer regularly used but is still there as a refuge.
The Hut at Damoy

The Hut at Damoy

Damoy, the description

Damoy, the description

The afternoon of Tuesday was therefore spent ashore at Damoy for more investigating and playing in the snow.
The persons going ashore were all dressed in orange. The usual attire for going ashore in the small boats is a survival ‘boat’ suit complete with inflatable lifejacket and an array of hats, gloves, boots and heavy weather warmers… Looking at the accompanying weather, you can see the clothing was particularly needed.
The temperatures were only a cool -1.7 degrees, but with a chill breeze still blowing it felt decidedly cooler !
Damoy was particularly interesting this season because it was being visited – if not occupied – by an Argentinean yachtsman who was going to over-winter at damoy. He grounded his yacht and secured it for the forthcoming period and was most welcoming to the British Vistors to the point.
I am afraid I have no further details as I did not go ashore here myself.
It was not until the following day, Wednesday 24th that I got chance to venture ashore, and that was at Rothera Station on Adelaide Island. It was our job this year to uplife the last of the Summer personnel and transfer them back to their flights home at the Falklands. A last call also means that we deposit the last cargo and provisions that the Base will see this Season until the James Clark Ross calls again at the end of the year. Once all the cargo was landed ashore we could then backload all the containers, trash, old drums and recycleables. By the end of our short 3 day visit, we left the base deplete of rubbish for one more year.
But it was not all work. The cargo continued apace from 0800 in the morning until sometimes as late as 2000 hours, but there were opportunities to go ashore and see the base and surrounding area. I myself got ashore on the first evening and attempted a nighttime shot of the Shackleton alongside the Biscoe Wharf. Note that it was snowing at the time of my walk …
Alongside at Biscoe Wharf.

Alongside at Biscoe Wharf.

The following morning I got a couple of photographes more on the Ship’s camera to prove we were indeed back in Antarctica ! It had been 13 months since this crew had last seen Antarctica.
Snow, snow, everywhere.

Snow, snow, everywhere.

Work on the Wharfside

Work on the Wharfside

But apart from walks around the point and looking at the plethora of penguins and seals and marine birds, there was a special offer for the visiting crew this season – cravassing !
In the 13 years of working with British Antarctic Survey as ship’s crew, that was the first time I had been offered the chance to go cravassing – which is something that every Base member gets to do as part of their prepartory training… but in 3 groups of about 4 persons, the Base GA’s ( General Assistants, ( or mountaineers )) organized our day out in the Glacial Cravass known as ‘Show Cravass’ !
My own group of 4 met up at the kitting out room on the base, and we proceeded to get all the paraphanalia we would need to walk on ice and keep us safe. The GA in charge ( Richard ) was particularly knowledgeable and kind to us total novices.
Kitting Up ...

Kitting Up ...

We had a harness to sit in, hard hats to protect the head, waterproof trousers for sitting in the melt ice, carabinas for attaching to ropes, and croutons ???
I guess they were for the soup ???
Of course, I am only jesting, because the crampons went over the boots and being spikey, allowed you to tread securely – however slippery the soup may be ??
Once kitted up and comfortable, we could proceed up the ramp towards the Glacier and the cravass.
Hauling up the ramp and away from Base.

Hauling up the ramp and away from Base.

I apologies to all those ‘narly Antarctic Heros’ that do this kind of thing every day, but to use ‘newbies’, this was a totally exciting new experience.
The very small ice hole in the snow gave way to a drop of some metres down a secure rope into an Ice Cave beneath … it was breath-taking. I am sure there have been superlatives enough used to describe the beauty of twisted and ingenious formations of icicles and ice, but I’ll just sum it up with .. ‘ Kool ‘
Cool it was not, particularly. On the surface, a fresh breeze kept nipping at your cheeks and exposed fingers, but once inside the cravass, the temperature remained a cool -1 degrees or so and the sound was muffled so there was only the cheery banter of our expedition to break the silence !
The Small Entry Hole..

The Small Entry Hole..

Making an ascent ( or was it a descent ) in the cave...

Making an ascent ( or was it a descent ) in the cave...

Apart from the athletics of hauling yourself through small holes and between towering walls of blue ice, there was time to reflect on the awesome beauty of nature that lies just under the surface of the Glacial Ice. Beautiful ?,… yes. But deadly. Cravasses open up to capture the unwary Glacial traverser and hence this kind of training is an absolute essential for those staying for any time on the base and the relatively dangerous neighbourhood of the bases.
However, I am pleased to report that my group, like those who followed us later in the day, all surfaced without incident, full of smiles and rosy cheeks and a sense of accomplishment. A small notch on the bedpost of experience, but one which I feel blessed to have finally added and which everyone should experience.
Cargo finished, visitations completed and leavers happily accommodated onboard, we were ready for departure from Rothera by Saturday lunchtime ( 27th March ). The farewells were spoken and we pulled away with many-a-wave, a tooted tune on the ship’s two horns and even the occasional pyrotechnic display. Again, it is always a bitter-sweet experience for those who had made Rothera their home. After 4 months, 6 months, 18 months or even 33 months living on Adelaide Island, it must have been a nice feeling to be going home, but sad to be leaving friends and surroundings that some may never visit again ?
Letting Go the Ropes for Departure.

Letting Go the Ropes for Departure.

Finally for this report, we headed back up towards the Falkland Islands, but we were not going to be going in a straight line.
Our Itinerary would consist of calls to places on the way back up the Antarctic Peninsula, to Signy Base on the South Shetland Islands, to King Edward Point and Bird Island at South Georgia and finally back to the Falklands in time for April 13th Flights home. But that is for next time. Until we send more home from the RRS Ernest Shackleton, we bid you smooth sailing.
Stevie B – Radio Officer.
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Back at Halley

Ice shelf front at sunset

Ice shelf front at sunset

Well the Science section of our cruise duly came to an end and we made or way out of the Weddell sea pack ice towards Creek IV at Halley. The sea was flat calm and greasy looking as we approached the coast a pod of Killer whales crossed our path in the distance and the Halley base not normally visible for the sea miraged above the horizon.

Ships wake cracking sea

Ships wake cracking sea

We surveyed the bay ice and tie up points we had previously used and all looked intact, the Captain opting to use the Igarka’s “berth” as the ice looked better for loading there.

Sea smoke

Sea smoke

Once tied up arrangements were made for the back load cargo from the base to start trickling to the ship. We arrived a week early so they were not really ready for us but soon organised a plan to keep the cargo coming in a steady stream. The weather held and the work proceeded well.

Ice Shelf edge

Ice Shelf edge

It is amazing and perfectly understandable how the arrival of the ship acts like a candle to Halley Herbivores. There was no end of base personnel turning up with any excuse to visit. Mostly, it seemed, keen on getting stuck in to some fresh fruit, salads and vegetables. This of course inciting the ire of the catering department who were sometimes caught a little short.

Some of the Halley team came down to the ship for a dinner and a few drinks one evening and several of the ships personnel went up to the base for to be similarly entertained. This proved very successful and good break from routine for all.

The cargo kept on coming for the next few days and by Thursday evening the ships cargo spaces were packed tight with all manner of cargo and we wer more or less ready to roll.

RRS James clark Ross

RRS James Clark Ross

News from Halley is that they have made excellent progress with the new base and all the modules have now been fully clad with their outer skins. All that needed to be done was to shift the modules into winter positions and the stowing of all the gear and supplies. The project personnel are very pleased with the progress.

JCR tying up

JCR tying up

On Friday 25th we moved forward to the Shack’s previous mooring point to make way for the James Clark Ross which was due on Saturday morning. She duly arrived and proceeded to tie up with the help of base and ships personnel. Barely two hours later the wind picked up dramatically and proceeded to bash our two vessels against the fast ice. Sea-water flooding over the top of it as it pounded away. One of our moorings gave way snapping the pole clean in half and Capt Marshall decided it would be prudent to get out to sea. As we moved away thee rest of the mooring poles snapped and we headed out. We stood by while the JCR removed herself from her moorings and moved away from the ice. This bad weather interlude has put plans of an early withdrawal on hold.

Broken mooring pole

Broken mooring pole

The JCR and the Shackleton are steaming slowly up and down the coast waiting for a break in the weather.

JCR in the rough

JCR in the rough

Words amd pics: Pat O’Hara

Next post Departure Halley – arrival Stanley

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Weddell Sea Wanderings

Icy Sunset

Icy Sunset

Our Science program kicked into gear quite smoothly and we have had a very high success rate with our buoy retrieval efforts so far. sun1

Buoy Recovery

Buoy recovery

Our first task was to attempt to raise several buoys tethered to the sea floor that had been deployed last year with various measuring instruments recording data. These include the ADCP (Accoustic Doppler current profiler) that measures current, CTD’s and temperature probes measuring temp. depth and salinity.

These buoys are released by hydro-acoustic signalling and then float to the surface, hopefully not under an ice floe. The buoys are then dragged on board and the instruments removed and the data recovered. They will be re-deployed prior to us leaving the area. We have so far managed to recover all except one buoy. This project is being conducted by the Norwegian contingent led by Svein Osterhuis and assisted by Lisbeth Havik and Kjiersti Strand.

Buoyancy Floats

Buoyancy Floats

ADCP, Temp and CTD Instruments

ADCP, Temp and CTD Instruments

Personnel hoist onto the ice

Personnel hoist

We are also deploying an instrument directly on to ice floes, this done by David Meldrum of the Scottish Association for Marine Science. His description below.

Sea ice studies on the ES

Sea ice has an important effect on the heat balance of the planet because it reflects solar energy back into space: when there is lots of sea ice the planet will tend to be cooler than when there is no sea ice for this reason alone. At the moment the planet is warming up and sea ice, especially in the summer Arctic, is disappearing. This will accelerate the warming trend. Unfortunately climate models do no accurately describe the changes that we are seeing in the Arctic, and this is affecting the quality of their predictions. The reason that the models are struggling is that we do not properly understand how sea ice grows and decays throughout the year and in different parts of the globe.

All you need: A hand held drill and a very long bit

Driling

There is always a straggler

There is always a straggler

The object of our experiment is to improve that understanding and make the models better. We are doing this by deploying a number of sensor chains through small holes in the sea ice. The 120 tiny sensors measure temperature changes in the ice as it grows and decays, as well as in the sea under the ice and in the snow and air above it.

Rigging Temeperature Probe

Rigging Temperature Probe

The measurements are sent back as e-mails to our lab in Scotland by tiny satellite transmitters. We hope that the equipment will work for at least one year before it melts out into the Southern Ocean. David Meldrum

Final Checks

Final Checks

Although it is only February the temperatures are already starting to dip a bit and the open water between the floes is freezing overnight. A sure signs that things are already starting to change.

Other than that life on board goes on its merry way. We have a month to go before signing off in the Falklands. As the trip trundles on and weariness sets in most are thinking ahead to some time at home. However there is plenty of work to keep us busy before then.

Once we are finished with the science work we will be heading off to Halley to prepare for the back load and to pick up the last of the summer season personnel after which we will head for Stanley.

In keeping with the Scientific theme of this weeks blog. Some little known Penguin facts:

Did you ever wonder why you never see dead penguins on the ice in Antarctica? Ever wonder where they go? Wonder no more. It is a known fact that the penguin is a very ritualistic bird which lives an extremely ordered and complex life. The penguins have a very strong community bond.

Penguin Wake

Penguin Wake

They are very committed to their family and will mate for life. They also maintain a form of compassionate contact with their offspring throughout its life. If a penguin is found dead on the ice surface, other members of the family and social circle have been known to dig holes in the ice, using their vestigial wings and beaks, until the hole is deep enough for the dead bird to be rolled into and buried. The male penguins then gather in a circle around the freshly dug grave and sing

“freeze a jolly good fellow.”

:)

Words: Pat O’Hara, David Meldrum

Images: Andy Walder, David Meldrum, Pat O’Hara

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Cape Town and Back

Well Cape Town has come and gone and we are we are entering the pack ice once again after a rather rough trip down.

Antarctic Blue

Antarctic Blue

Our trip North was largely uneventful and done in mostly sublime weather conditions. We timed it just right to go between the cold fronts and managed to avoid the worst of the sea conditions.

Minke Whales

Minke Whales

The Stay in Cape Town was very pleasant. Those lucky enough to get some time off managed to get around quite a bit with visits to Table Mountain, Wine Farms and the Kirstenbosch Gardens and of course the endless choice of Restaurants and watering holes in the Waterfront itself.

A few hardened Rugby fans on board managed to wangle an invite to the Home of SA Rugby – Newlands Stadium to watch a warm up game for the forthcoming Super –14 season. They were well looked after by their hosts.

Newlands- Home of SA Rugby

Newlands- Home of SA Rugby

Cape Town

Cape Town

Whilst  Cape Town we picked up three Norwegian scientific personnel and one from the UK for a research project that they will be running in the Weddell Sea.

Working aloft

Working Aloft

There was quite a bit of work to do on board the ships whilst in port. Not least of all the replacement of a GPS Antenna array that had come adrift during some bad weather in the Channel earlier in the trip. This job required scaffolding to be erected above the conning tower to the highest point in the ship. Cables were and repairs made to the installation to hopefully avoid a re-occurrence of this in the future.

We departed on Thursday the 28th and headed out in good weather. Very soon though the Cape Rollers (huge swells) re-introduced to us the South Atlantic seas. The forecasts were not good and all the cold fronts we had missed on the way up were lining one after the other to make sure we paid our dues on the southward passage. For the next five days the weather was atrocious and we rolled and pitched our way headlong into the seas. The seasick pills and patches were in great demand from the Doctor. Finally as we headed into the sixties the weather calmed a bit. It is quite amazing to see the improvement in the general demeanour on board this has caused.

First Berg

First Berg

Zebra Berg

Zebra Berg

We encountered our first pack-ice on Sunday the 7th and started picking our way through. We are currently about one hundred and twenty miles from the Ice shelf heading due south. Once we reach the shelf we will follow the coast down towards Halley where the Norwegian Science project will commence.

In the Pack again

In the Pack again

Once the project is finished we will be heading for Halley to pick up personnel and the final back load  for the season.

Next Post:  More on the science

Words: P.O’Hara

Images P’O’Hara

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Creek 3 Halley – Discharge

igarka12

Igarka Creek 3 - Halley

New Years Greetings to you all.

After a difficult final passage through compacted pack ice we finally broke through into open water and made our way down the coastline towards Halley on New Years day. We arrived at Creek 3, the designated loading point for this season, that afternoon and were greeted by the sight of the Igarka busy offloading cargo for the new Halley VI base. The Captain found a suitable spot for us to tie up and soon the crews were sent ashore with assistance of Halley personnel to dig and drill out holes for the mooring posts to tie the ship up too.

RRS E. Shackleton & Igarka

RRS E. Shackleton & Igarka

Only essential cargo was sent off from our vessel initially, mostly fresh fruit and vegetables and mail for the base as the priority was to get the Igarka offloaded as soon as possible. The weather remained good for the next few days and the temps hovered either side of zero deg C. Balmy conditions compared to the weather reports we have getting from the UK and Europe.

Igarka Departing

Igarka Departing

By the evening of Thursday 4th Jan, the final items were discharged from the Igarka. The job had gone incredibly well and the base building project could now go full steam ahead. The relief on the project Managers Carl Tuplin’s face was palpable.

As soon as the Igarka was finished, the focus switched to our vessel and the offloading of Aviation fuel commenced, followed by the rest of the general cargo we had for the base. This operation continued around the clock until Saturday the 9th of Jan, when the final back load of dunnage was swung on board.

Cargo Work & Sun Dip

Cargo Work & Sun Dip

Some of ships personnel were afforded the opportunity to visit the base later that day and were given a really good tour around the old base and the building site for the new base, which was very impressive indeed. The sheer amount of parts and equipment and vehicles scattered about, mostly in neat depots, is staggering.

Enroute to Halley

Enroute to Halley

Paul of Antarctica

Paul of Antarctica

Halley VI Construction site

Halley VI Construction site

Red Module phase one

Red Module phase one

base2

Morison's Crew and Generator module

Completed Module Shell

Completed Module Shell

They already have three modules well on their way to being fully clad and the big Red Module’s steelwork was being to put together like a giant Mecanno set as went through the site. They are hoping to have all the modules fully clad by the end of the season. We wish them all success in their endeavours.

During our stay we heard that a big piece of ice had broken off at the Windy Creek penguin colony. This unfortunately orphaned quite a few chicks and we saw some forlorn looking chaps floating past on pathetically small bits of ice.

sfeet2

Emperor chicks adfrift

Emperor Chicks on ic-shelf  - Angharad Jones

Emperor Chicks on ic-shelf - A. Jones

They still have too much down covering to swim and fend for themselves and their survival is highly unlikely in these harsh conditions. However after a day or two of seeing them float back and forth with the wind some of them did somehow manage to make it onto the bay-ice where we were moored. At least for now they were not in danger of having to swim for it. Some of them even made it up the ramp onto the ice shelf and were seen waddling in the direction the Halley base.

Downy chicks Ice shelf - Angharad Jones

Downy chicks Ice shelf - A. Jones


Emeperor Chicks guarding the ship -  A. Jones

Emeperor Chicks guarding the ship - A. Jones

We finally departed on Sunday the 10th and made our way up past the various creeks inspecting the ice for potential off-loading points for our return journey before heading off towards Stancombe Wills hoping to get around the point and into open water as soon as possible.

Emperor Familes in Happier times (early December)

Emperor Familes (early Dec) - A. Jones

We made pretty good progress initially but by Monday morning were once again in the thick of it as it were. Nine tenths ice attempting to block our way. From the satellite photo’s we can see that once we get through this sticky patch things should improve dramatically and we’re hoping to clear of it all within 48 hours.

Our next port of call is Cape Town for brief visit to back load and pick up some Norwegian scientists for some science work we will be doing prior to returning to Halley.

Words: P’O’Hara

Images: P’ O’Hara and Dr. Angharad Jones

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