Southward Bound 2009

Greetings to all the long suffering and mostly now non existent fans of the Shackleton Blog. The Blog was only resting and hopefully with a bit of TLC we can get the old gal going again.

The RRS Ernest Shackleton is once again on the move down south and heading towards Halley Research Station moving thruogh heavy pack-ice. We are approx 100 miles from our final destination.

Table Mountain from Waterfront - Mike Ramage

Table Mountain from Waterfront - Mike Ramage

Capt Marshall’s team joined the ship in Immingham, in late November, which was a surprise to us all as we had been due to join in Cape Town. We departed the same day we joined and headed down to Portsmouth in rough wintry weather to load aviation fuel. We finally bid farewell to the UK shores for the last time this year on the 23rd November and headed off into a blustery Channel and on to Biscay. The passage across Biscay was pretty grim and the ship took quite a pounding. However once we were off the South of Spain things calmed down somewhat and we were able to take stock and ease into the routines of the trip down south.

The Shackleton in Cape Town

The Shackleton in Cape Town

Once the weather improved we took the opportunity to have a barbecue or two, enjoying the mild tropical evenings. We had a mini crisis when we discovered that we had been left with hardly any charcoal to burn. We will have to have a word with the other team about this gross dereliction of duty. This did not deter us for too long as the Chippy got stuck into calving up all the Mahogany furniture from the lounges to ensure a good red hot coal or two for our Steak and Sausage. Only kidding we had lots of waste wood off-cuts on board to tide us through these trying times.

We arrived in Cape Town 16th December on a glorious sunny summers day. Our Stay in Cape Town was an all to short, two-day affair. We were lucky to be berthed in the Waterfront area with all its of its delights on our doorstep so to speak.

Some of the lads managed to get in a trip up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain and reported having a wonderful time as the “Table cloth” clouds obliged by lifting and giving them some spectacular views.

Early morning ice

Early morning ice

On Friday the 18th December we departed in calm weather and headed south. A day out and the huge Cape Rollers began taking their inevitable toll as the passenger lounge gradually emptied and see-sickness took hold on fresh landlubbery legs.

The seas subsided a bit after three days and we made good progress avoiding the worst of the frontal systems passing through.

Late evening in the ice

Late evening in the ice

On Xmas Eve Simon Gill and the rest of the Morison’s crowd gathered on the fore deck for a round of Christmas Carols sung with much gusto and not much else aided with a warm glass of mulled wine to keep the chill at bay.

The Choir

The Choir

A White Christmas was assured as we entered the pack-ice early that morning. The Lounges and Mess room were adorned with the usual Xmas Baubles and Bling.

Everyone gathered in the lounge for Christmas Dinner pre-prandials before we were seated for our Yuletide Feast.

Purser and Stewards

Purser and Stewards

Chefs Danny and Julia - Stars of the Show

Chefs Danny and Julia – Stars of the Show

Dave Bailey and his catering crew put on a spread worthy of any fine eating establishment, it was magnificent. Once the formalities of the silly hats, cracker pulls and toasting absent loved ones were over, we all tucked in heartily to a seemingly never ending meal.

The Pipes, the pipes were playing

The Pipes, the pipes were playing

Xmas Dinner

Xmas Dinner

Xmas Dinner

Xmas Dinner

Xmas Dinner

Xmas Dinner

We made steady progress in the ice for the next few days until coming to a stop on the evening of the 28th. A huge Iceberg many miles long blocked our path. We tried to go around it but the ice pressure was too great. We were more or less stationary for about 24 hours before the pressure began easing and we started moving again. We finally broke clear of the huge berg into open water to the south west on Wednesday (30th Dec) evening. We are currently off Stancomb – Wills Ice stream, a huge section of ice jutting out into the sea. From the Satellite images we are receiving it looks like it will be a difficult passage past this obstacle.

The Morrison’s lads have been kept busy with several talks on the various aspects of life, procedures and survival on the ice in preperation for their two month stint on the new base project at Halley. The doctor Mike Ramage has also been giving them First aid training.

Some of Morrison's Base building Team

Some of Morison's Base building Team

We have received some good news from Halley. The Igarka which has all the building equipment on board for the new base arrived off Halley loading pont. We hope to be following in her footsteps soon.

Happy New Year to you all.

Words by: Pat O’Hara

Images by: Mike Ramage, Simon Gill and Andris Kubulins

Next blog entry – Arrival and Offload at Halley.

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NORTH SEA RAMBLINGS

Greetings from the North Sea, the Shackleton has had a busy time of it since you last heard from us.  After The Norwegian job and demob in Kristiansund the ship headed for Aberdeen where mobilisation with ISS commenced.  They installed two ROV packages on board ready for survey work.  The vessel was moved to Montrose at one point, as Aberdeen could no longer accommodate us.  It was quite a hectic time for the ship and everyone was glad when she finally slipped her moorings and headed out to sea again.

rov

ROV Ready to Launch

We were aiming for the Gryphon field NNE of Aberdeen about 12 hours steaming away. When the ship arrived a few tests and calibrations of equipment were undertaken thereafter the ship moved in close to the Gryphon-A FPSO and commenced her sub-sea work with the ROV’s.  This work involves visual inspection and other tests of all sub-sea installations in the area. They are mainly looking for degradation, damage and leaks.

Gryphon A FPSO

Gryphon A FPSO

On the 6th July the Ships crew changed out via helicopter. Something we have all trained for but seldom actually do.  So there were a few nervous looking faces at the Heli-port in Aberdeen prior to the flight. It all went well in the end and was no great hardship. The handovers were rather rushed though as there was not much time between flights.

Gryphon taking supplies

Gryphon taking supplies

Once on board it was time get familiar with operations again and loads of strange new faces that had seemingly taken over “our” ship. We did our best at reclaiming our territory.

The vessel was soon moving back in close to the FPSO and the ROV’s back in the water. We continued working in the Gryphon A area for the next three weeks in mostly good weather, interrupted only occasionally by heavy seas and the odd helicopter visit.

We also did a cargo transfer from the Gryphon for fresh supplies that had been landed on her by supply boat. A few “volunteers” then emptied the containers on the heli-deck. There was loads of fresh produce for Chefs Danny and Julia to work there magic with. Unfortunately there was no re-supply of well-wooded Cabernets, Chardonnays or cheeky Bordeaux’s. We can hope can’t we?

Global Producer III

Global Producer III

This sub-sea work continued with the Shackleton moving in and out and roundabout the FPSO to give the ROV’s access to the underwater structures.

On Saturday the 25th, after a very successful time at Gryphon, the vessel departed and headed south for about 60 miles to the Dumbarton field where we are currently involved in more sub-sea survey again in the area around the Global Prducer FPSO.

There is a crew change due on the Monday the 3rd of August for which we are all hoping we will get a port call.

Area of operations

Area of operations

That’s about it for the moment from the Schakleton.  Our crew be will signing off next week and we leave you in the hands of  Capt. John Harper and his team for the next few months.

Words and Images by Pat O’Hara

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Grab Sampling in the Norwegain Sea

On her latest charter the RRS Ernest Shackleton has been involved in Environmental Monitoring for Statoilhydro in the Norwegian Sea. Since the 1980’s, Norwegian legislation has enforced Environmental Monitoring around all platforms, installations and subsea structures. Each site is surveyed every three years in order to assess the impact of offshore exploration and production.

crewmember-driving-winch1

Around each site, bottom samples are taken using a Van Ween grab. The sampling points various distances and directions from the structures. The samples are subject to tests that check for hydrocarbon content, heavy metals content, organic matter content & particle size distribution. The sample is then washed and run through a 1mm sieve. The biological samples that remain are used to produce a diversity index. These are compared with reference stations for that year and with previous data for that site.

Every area within the program has a baseline study to assess the environmental situation without the impact of the exploration and production activities. Even when a site is no longer functioning, the monitoring continues for 6 years and may be extended longer if considered necessary.

So what have been the findings of the monitoring program? Well, past surveys have shown that there is little or no impact outside of 500m from the platform. Generally, it is expected that most areas will return to their original state in 10-20 years following the cessation of activities. There is an exception however.

In the 1990’s the discharge of oil based drilling mud was stopped. On the older stations where this occurred, despite the cessation of activities, the effect of this is clearly evident.

Bringing-the-grab-onboard

Bringing-the-grab-onboard

The crew have played an active roll in this project. The four seamen have been operating the winch for the team of marine biologists. The second part of the project involves box coring for Shell as part of the same Environmental Monitoring Program. All data from this program is publicly available from the Norwegian Environment Agency.

Article by Ralph Stevens, Chief Officer, RRS Ernest Shackleton

Grab Sampling photo by Lars Petter Myhre

Winch Driving photo by Ralph Stevens

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The Humber to Norway

Greetings once again, well here we are, floating about in the North Sea on contract and earning our keep.

After a fairly hectic stay in Immingham with repairs and new installations of equipment we finally departed Immingham on Sunday the 10th of May and headed out for DP trials, which were conducted just off the Humber estuary.  The trials went well and on Monday evening we dropped off the surveyor and few others onto the Humber launch and turned our bow northwards towards Norway.

The passage across the North Sea was thankfully calm. We picked our pilot off Bergen at about midday and had great run in picking our way between the picturesque islands in glorious sunshine. We eventually arrived at our berth about three hours later.

Island Dwellings

Island Dwellings

Island Life

Island Life

We were greeted by the Riebers representatives and given the low-down on what the plans for the vessel were.  We were to spend a few days in Bergen and then depart for Kristiansund further up the coast where we would mobilise for our first job of the season.

On the Friday a good few us were treated to a tour around Bergen curtesy of Riebers, which included a ride on a Vernicular railway up to the top of one of the seven mountains overlooking Bergen.

Overlooking Bergen

Overlooking Bergen

It was an absolutely clear day and the view from up there was spectacular and seemingly never ending.

Old Town

Old Town

Down in the harbour area we were shown around the old parts of city, which are now a “World Heritage Site”.  All the buildings are original wooden structures some over 200 years old. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day out.

On Friday and Saturday night we took the opportunity to taste the nightlife of Bergen. There was lots of live music about. We were all flabbergasted at the prices off everything though, which were seemingly double if not more than what we were used to paying in the U.K.  We steadied ourselves, tried not to think too much about it and ventured bravely forth nonetheless.

Island off Bergen

Island off Bergen

On Sunday the 17th we departed Bergen for Krsitiansund, the vessel snaking her way once again between the islands as we headed north.  We arrived at our destination midday on Monday midday and were greeted by the client personnel who gave us all a briefing of the scope of the project before commencing with all the steel work on deck. They had hoped to be finished and away later that night but a series of delays, not caused by the ship, resulted in the job taking much longer than anticipated. The work was eventually completed on late on Wednesday evening and just after midnight we headed once again, out to sea.

Kristiansund

Kristiansund

So here we are moving form position to position taking surface mud samples for analysis.  They are looking for levels of contamination from different installations as part of an environmental impact study.

Heidrun Rig - North Sea - Norway

Heidrun Rig - North Sea - Norway

We will repeating this work at various instaltions up down the oil fields until we sign offbe doing this until we sign off on monday the 8th June.

Text and images by Pat O’Hara

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Stanley to the Humber

Greetings once again, it has been quite a while since we you heard from us. Much water has passed under the hull since then and we are currently heading for Bergen in Norway for our North Sea stint.

When you last heard from us we were about to arrive in Stanley in The Falklands. This we duly did and spent a few days in port working a bit of cargo and trying to coax the FIDS off the vessel. We eventually managed to get them off and on their merry way. Quite a few of them were heading for further travels through S.America. We hope they all enjoyed their new adventures.

On Sunday the 29th of March we left Stanley headed for the island of Tenerife. In between lay a vast stretch of ocean that steadily grew warmer and warmer. We were all grateful for some better weather and Dave Bailey, the purser, wasted no time in organising a barbecue or two on the weekends. A nice change to be able to sit on deck in the evening and watch the stars.

Boobie's on Foremast

Boobie's on Foremast

As we crossed the equator we were joined by flocks of Boobies a sea bird whose main point in life seems to be to deposit droppings on the Bo’ sun’s newly painted decks. He was seen muttering quite a bit and not ovelry impressed.

Approaching Tenerife

Approaching Tenerife

We arrived in Tenerife on Saturday the 18th April. Our stop was all too brief mainly for a Brunvoll engineer to effect repairs to our Azimuth Thruster and for a small exchange of crew. We managed to get an afternoon and evening in port at least, an opportunity that the lads grabbed with both hands. Early on Sunday morning we once again headed out to sea, this time bound for Grimsby.

Island Ferry

Island Ferry

The passage across Biscay was thankfully calm and we arrived in Grimsby on Sunday the 26th April. Offloading commenced on Monday and was completed by Tuesday.

The vessel then moved to Immingham for a lay-up while repairs were affected. These included the replacements of one of the Auxiliary generators. Further work on the thrusters and Engine cooling fans and the replacement of some bridge equipment was also completed.

We also bade farewell to Derek Forward our Chief Engineer who retired from Bas service and his wife Pauline who had accompanied us on our trip north. Derek had been with BAS since 1989, no small slice of a man’s life. David Blake said a few kinds words and handed over a lovely painting of icebergs and sea ice as a parting gift. We wish them both well on their next adventures in life

Derek and Pauline Forward

Derek and Pauline Forward

We departed for DP trials on Sunday evening the 11th of May. The trials were duly completed on Monday evening and all the non-crew personnel were disembarked too a launch off the Humber and we turned North towards Bergen.

We should arrive on Wednesday the 13th May. We will then commence preparations for our first job of the season off the Norwegian coast.

See you next time with Tales of Norway

Compiled by: P.O’Hara

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Crew Change – Stanley to Rothera

Capt. John Mashall’s team duly arrived in Stanley and joined the ship on the Tuesday the 10th March. We spent three days in Stanley which was a good opportunity to ease back into things on board ship.

On Friday morning the old team werre picked up early to be taken to the airport for their flight back home. A few hours later we left port heading for Rothera base on the Antarctic Peninsula. We immediately ran into some pretty heavy weather and by Saturday morning the weather had slowed down pretty dramatically.

Of course having been on leave for a few months, a good few had lost their sealegs and were feeling decidedly ill. The weather continued to be pretty awful for the next two days and even some of the really hardened sea dogs started to look a little grenn gilled.

On Sunday morning one of our Radar scanners on top of the conning tower nearly fell off. One of the deck crew spotted it rotating at an angle and reported this to the bridge. A party was quickly assembled to tackle this problem. Once we were kitted up with harnessess etc. we headed off to the top of the tower. It was not very pleasant up swaying to and fro and pretty cold. We found the scanner leaning over at about 30 degrees and hanging by only one badly bent bolt. THe Radar was pulled back in place with ropes and we managed to resecure it to the base plate. We tied it down with ropes for good measure and gladly returned to the bridge.

Much to everyone’s relief The weather finally calmed down a bit on Monday evening. A good oppotunity for everybody to find all the stuff that had been flying their cabins over the last few days.

Approaches to Rothera

We had been tasked to to do a CTD run over a trench southwest of Adelaide Island before going the Rothera By the time we arrived on site the weather had abated markedly and to the task was duly begun. For uninitiated a CTD is device that is lowered oveer the side with sample bttoles attached that are triggered at various depths. These samples are then analysed.

Thus with glad hearts we turned towards Rothera via the southern tip of Adelaide Island. The low cloud teased us with ocassional views of the peaks and mountians in the distance as we slipped steadily by, lifting as the day progressed. We finally arrived alongside and tied up at noon. After a short briefing on the safety aspects of the base offloading commenced and soon containers and other cargo were moving steadily off. We even had a load of large rocks picked up at Stanley to help reinforce jetty.

View from Rothera Mooring

Later that evening several groups of people went up to look at the base and for a walk around the small island. Loads of fur seals and and Adelie penguins were encountered along the way.

Adele Penguins

The next day offloading continued and good progress was made. Later that evening the base challenged the ship to a game of football. It was a game of two halves, the base won the first half 4-0 and the 2nd half was drawn 1-1. Methinks though that the base had about 15 players to our ten. Details notwithstanding a good time was had by all.

blog1

On Firday some of hte ship personnel were givne the opporrtunity to explore a crevasse. We all traipsed off to the Fuchs building and were handed load of kit and massive boots to put on. The struggle get inot all of htis was pretty amusing. Once kitted up, and rested, we heaed off for a short ride to the crevasse site.

Crew in Crevasse

One by by one we were roped down into a wonderland of contorted icicles in the icy cavern. It was a real treat and we all thooughly enjoyed it.

Roping through

Friday evening the winterers came over to the ship for a farewell meal. Danny and Julia our dynamic catering team put on a curry spread that was truly delicious. The celebrations went on till late.

The cargo work finished at midday on Saturday and once it was all lashed we bid farewell to the base winterers and were given a good send off, which we returned.

So once more we are headed for open waters. The seas are now calm and we are hoping for smooth passage back to Stanley, even a slightly less rough one will do.

See you next time

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Okay, Okay, so it’s C-o-l-d

TEMPERATURES DROP IN ANTARCTICA

Since I have working for the Antarctic Survey, I have been telling people back home that it is NOT so cold down here in Summer.  You have 24 hours of daylight.  You have all that UV light being reflected back up off the ground from all that wonderful, white, snow.  You have sunny days (mostly) in Summer.  And you have the added rule that when you dress for the Cold (as you must do in Antarctica), it invariable turns out to be hot and sweaty inside all those layers and therefore you have to start stripping off again !

However, I am inclined to bow to popular opinion and admit that presently here in Antarctica, it’s colder than a Penguins’ bottom sitting on an Iceberg.

When we pulled in alongside the fast ice of Creek 4 last evening at Halley, we had a nice open stretch of water to cruise through to reach our destination and tied up without incident.

Arrival at Halley

Arrival at Halley

However, since our arrival, our overnight stay has seen the temperatures drop to -16 degrees overnight and an equally impressive -12.8 degrees C at noon today.  Then there is a nice 12 knot wind blowing off the Ice Shelf which makes it feel a whole lot cooler, despite a pleasant amount of sunshine today.

But you do not need to watch numbers on a thermometer to see the effects of the cold.  A look out of the Bridge Windows on our Port side explains all.  I took a first picture for my friend in Indiana at about 10am this morning and shortly after midday I took the shot again to see a very telling tale.  What was once ‘open water’ is now a sheet of sea ice and the Shackleton is surrounded on all sides by Ice.

Open Water Before the Ship and Before Lunch

Open Water Before the Ship and Before Lunch

and

The Same View after Lunch.

The Same View after Lunch.

And so I will have to admit that perhaps it’s a little chilly down here in Antarctica.

However, it is also very special, very beautiful and very appealing in the afternoon sunshine.

Sunshine over the Pancake Ice

Sunshine over the Pancake Ice

I, for one, shall be reaching for the skiis and heading out for a wander in the cold temperatures ashore after work this evening.

Author and Photographer.

Stevie B

Radio Shackleton

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The Shackleton in February 2009

SO WHERE ARE WE PRESENTLY ?

Presently, the RRS Ernest Shackleton is in the Weddell Sea of Antarctica. And what are we doing here ?

Science…

The Shackleton is primarily a Logistics Ship, and then we don the disguise of a ‘North Sea Rig Pig’ during the Summer months back up in the Northern Hemisphere, so it is delightful to actually be down South and doing some good science.

The Shackleton has one program of ‘bread and butter’ science that is carried out throughout the year, and that is the STCM or Shipbourn Three Component Magnetometer. The STCM measures the world’s Magnetic Field and we are constantly sensing and recording the ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ components of magnetism wherever we go in the world.

Three Components of Magnetism

Three Components of Magnetism

But apart from this program, the Shackleton is largely occupied with transporting food, equipment and passengers throughout Antarctica during our Southern Season. This year is different in that we have onboard Dr.Keith Nicholls and he and his team are conducting a program of science in the Weddell. That includes CTD’s (Temperature, Depth and Salinity Probes), Moorings, and Seal Tagging.

CTD’s

(Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) measurements are samples of the water column at various depths which gives indications of what the Weddell Sea is doing under the influence of the melt from the Ice Shelf.

MOORINGS

The moorings are the underwater deployment of instruments to measure similar data, but they remain below the surface from year to year, and only upon recovery do they give up their treasured secrets. The problem here is that when the mooring is deployed one year, there is no certainty that the spot won’t be totally covered in sea ice the next year. We have just recovered one such buoy arrangement that has remained sub-surface for 4 years and was only this year accessible as we ploughed through stretches of Pack Ice in order to locate the mooring beneath. A remote signal activates a release mechanism to detach the package from it’s seabed weight. Thereupon it bobs to the surface – and hopefully into clear water and not under some inaccessible ice floe !

SEAL TAGGING

In a further effort to uncover the secrets of the Sub-surface Weddell Sea, we have taken to tagging Weddell Seals. It is a process whereby a small data logger/transmitter is mounted on a host seal and this will record where and when the Seal dives beneath the surface throughout the Weddell Sea. The results are amazing. Not only does it give more CTD data but is a window into the life of a Weddell Seal and how far afield it will swim in search of a good meal !.

The funny thing about our Seal Hunting adventures, is that in the Weddell Sea, it is hard to find Weddell Seals ! There are plenty of the crabeater variety, and even Leopard Seals, but in our search for 10 individuals, we have only managed to find 9 to date. The search continues as does the science.

A Weddell Sea Seal

A Weddell Sea Seal

We anticipate being out here in the Pack Ice and Floes until we return to Halley on the 19th of February, and then after a short 3 day stay, the Science program will continue onwards to Signy. Thereafter it is Stanley, Falkland Islands and the JRH Crewchange.

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When is a Ship not a Ship ??….

When it’s an aquarium !

One of the many jobs undertaken onboard the Shackleton is a continual battle against the elements to ensure the ship remains in tip-top condition. From Charlie Chalk the Bosun and his continual program of painting, to myself and keeping the lights burning.

Our onboard system will even let us know of impending problems. One such problem was a reported ‘Earth Fault’ on the Focs’le Deck lights.

* Focs’le = ‘Fore Castle’ or very front of the ship

So taking my voltmeter in hand, I went below to investigate – only to find our forward lights were swamped with sea water. Is it any surprise, when you consider the amount and size of seas that the Shackleton had experienced since leaving Cape Town South Africa in December ? It is only in the last week that the seas have abated and we have been sailing comfortably.

Shackleton Seas ... Heavy Weather

Shackleton Seas … Heavy Weather

So with the whole Southern Atlantic Ocean trying to climb onto the ship’s focs’le, is it any wonder that a little of it found it’s way into the light fittings around the decks ?… But there is a limit to what you would expect to find in a 230vac Marine Light Fitting … ?A View Along the Foc'sle Lights

A Closer Look at the Foc'sle Lights

A Closer Look at the Foc’sle Lights

But once dried out and greased up with new lamps fitted within, I am happy to report the Earth Fault disappeared and the lights were brought back to full servicablity.StevieB – Chief Aquarium Keeper.

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The RRS Ernest Shackleton is back On Line …

Following the demise of the Shackleton Diaries, we introduce the new Shackleton Blog Site. No particular times for updates, just a continuous appearance of anything of interest – we hope. Enjoy

Stevie B

Radio Shackleton

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