RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary — 22 December 1999
R.R.S. Ernest Shackleton Position Report #11
Date: Wednesday 22nd December 1999
Position at 1200 UTC −3:
Latitude 75°26′ South
Longitude 026°46′ West
Next destination: Signy
ETA: 8th January 2000 — ice dependent.
Distance to go: Variable
Total Distance Sailed (Since departing Immingham on 20th October 1999): 11472.9nm
Current weather: Mank!
Wind: East, Force 5
Sea state: n/a
Air temperature: −2.2°C
Sea temperature: −0.8°C
As this page will be published just before Christmas, it is going to be a bumper edition. This should give you something else to do than sit and watch the same old repeats on the T.V.
The Final Fling — Halley or bust!
A day by day account of the last three hundred miles to Halley.
Monday morning, December 13, 1999, saw the Ernest Shackleton some 35 miles off of the German Antarctic Base Neuymayer. As we were so close we called them on the VHF radio to say ‘Hello’ and enquire how they were doing this season. It transpires that they have just had a visit from the South African Antarctic ship, the S.A.Agulhas, who visited last Friday and is now on her way back to the South African Base SANAE.
Being close to the coast has enabled us to find a good shore lead heading to the west and we are making the most of this, at times making 14 knots! By early evening it was a different matter, trying to work through 10/10th pack, which means that instead of making progress it was now a case of bash forward, stop, reverse and then start bashing again. This is where it becomes tedious! During the night the ship continued to force her way to the south-west, making a lot of noise in the process and keeping some people awake!
Tuesday morning, 14th December, and all was going well, making good progress through pack-ice from pool to pool, varying between 7–8/10th and putting us in position 71°32′S 018°38′W at Noon. The early afternoon saw steady progress through open water leads and some big heavy floes. By the time the 4–8 watch took over the situation had changed and our progress was becoming more and more difficult. At one stage we followed a patch of open water for over half and hour in the hope of finding a passage through a giant floe to the next patch of water, only to be thwarted and having to do a U turn and head back the way we had come. The progress continued to be slow, now working through 9/10th pack and at 1900 in position 71°55′S 020°17′W the Ernest Shackleton engaged Ice Breaking Mode for the first time this season.
Ice Breaking Mode is when all the ships electrical power is transferred from the shaft generators (main engines) to an auxiliary diesel generator, thus allowing the main engines to be ramped up in speed to 760 RPM (from 720 RPM) and therefore giving the full 7208 Shaft Horse Power to the propellor. This increase in power to the propellor makes a considerable difference to the ships ice breaking capability.
At 1945, in position 71°55′S 020°08′W — some two miles further on, Ice Breaking Mode was disengaged and the vessel proceeded but was backing and filling through vast floes to reach open water. However, less than two hours later and once again in heavy congested pack, Ice Breaking Mode was engaged again. The air temperature was −2.5° and the sea temperature −2.0° (sea water starts to freeze at −1.9°!). By 2350 it became apparent that conditions were proving to be too difficult and so the vessel stopped, between two vast floes and in heavy pack, awaiting an improvement in the ice conditions. The position was now 72°05′S 020°02′W At least there was the chance of a good night’s sleep!
One of the jobs that continues whilst we are at sea, or working the ice for that matter, is the work of the ship’s Dentist, Wendy Scott. The ship’s Hospital doubles as a dental surgery and Wendy is kept busy throughout the season, not only checking the teeth of those on board the ship but also, and by far more importantly, checking the health of the teeth of all the personnel on the bases, especially those who are wintering. The dental surgery is newly fitted this season and so has the latest equipment available. Wendy often relies on the services of the doctor to help out as the dental nurse and this then increases the knowledge of dentistry for the doctor, who will be overwintering at Halley this season and will be responsible for not only general health but also the dental health of those on the base.
Wednesday morning, 15th December, and the ice started to ease up with the vessel moving fore and aft at 0615. The position was now 72°07′S 020°04′W, so during the night we had drifted a few miles and even in the right direction! So, at 0704 the vessel was turned and back tracked out to open water. By 0930 we were once again entering heavy pack ice and so Ice Breaking Mode was once again engaged. By Noon we had reached position 72°22′S 020°02′W and at 1300 the vessel was backing and filling, not the best, but the only way, to make progress. At 1430 Ice Breaking Mode was disengaged and by 2300 we were in position 73°12′S 020°32′W, moving from pool to pool through the pack ice in the vicinity of the Ice Shelf.
by Ian Heffernan, 3rd Officer.
- An object with six equal square faces.
- To break or split without complete separation of the parts, to break with a sudden sharp sound.
A.K.A.: Ice Breaking
Welcome to the frozen south, a world of ice and fids and of course us trying our best to systematically destroy both. For those of you new to the game here is a rough guide to your cube crackers.
These are the heavy weights of ice navigation (literally). Entertaining you through the hours of 12 to 4 we have Doctor Nick Baily the 2nd mate and his trusty Norwegian accomplis Capt. Lidven Larsen.
Nick was a season ticket holder onboard the Bransfield completing 2 highly successful voyages during which there was only one slight delay as they waited for a month for the ice to kindly let them go, this did not go unnoticed by the Royal Navy who on a separate occasion were only too happy to stand by when a few vital nuts went AWOL down around the shaft area but fortunately the happy engineers patched that one up a treat and off they bimbled yet again. A highly educated guy with plenty of interesting anecdotes to pass the hours should we happen to pull a JCR stunt, ask him about trying to walk on water.
Capt. Lidven Larsen joins us from the Shackletons old home of “Rieber Shipping”. An accomplished man about the Antarctic having a circumnavigation under his belt, but we are assured that with the right diet and a bit of training he could have it down to a fit 34 inches again. Lidven was bound to make a living out of destroying ice, his family photo album is full of pictures of him from as young as age 4 walking through slightly frosty puddles during the Norwegian winter.
Expect lots of big movements on this watch, hopefully some in the right direction. The biscuits and coffee do take a pounding here but not as much as the ice.
Two true Antarctic heroes here, everyone can feel safe during the 4 to 8 knowing that we have men of such caliber as John Harper the Chief Officer and Stu Wallace the 1st Officer, expertly guiding this vessel through the vast floes. Word on the street has it that Man United are trying to poach this pair from BAS but have so far been unsuccessful.
John was cube crackin when some of us onboard were nothing but a glint in our fathers eye. A true veteran of the sport John has played in all positions from AB to Chief Officer and now holds the coveted Polar Medal, the rumour that they are giving these away free with Kellogs Frosties is completely untrue. Occasionally a wild man at the helm nothing will stop this man getting home for his holiday in Brazil, pull up an ice berg and I’m sure he will tell you a story of much fun and frolics onboard the old Bisco or Bransfield.
Stu Wallace fell off the boat there for a bit and had a bit of a fling with fidism. Fortunately for us this does not seem to have affected his ice bashing although, occasionally, that maniacal winters gleam can be seen in his eye as he revs her up and tries his best to stay for another winter, by way of wedging the ship in the ice. A trusted man when it comes to safety, I’m sure he will be more than happy to explain all about risk assessments and even the ISM code to anyone feeling slightly suicidal.
Watch out for some sudden stops on this watch, with the old one two magic still there you can expect an exciting ride during the 4–8.
Finally we come to the chief cube cracker himself, the Master of this mighty vessel takes no prisoners during the hours of 8 to 12 (or calls from the office) as he is busy playing with his new toy. Accompanying him at this time is the Irish bloke who, if nothing else, makes the odd cup of tea for the Captain and changes his CDs for him.
Captain J.B. Marshall is an experienced hand at this sort of business, he has been crackin cubes for BAS since ’88 onboard both the James Clark Ross and the Bransfield. A dab hand at cleaning up the 4–8’s mess while at the same time leaving a nice clear run for the 12–4. Occasionally gets accused of going completely the opposite way to the way he has been telling everyone else to go but hey, it’s his ship! Enjoys a few tunes while at the helm, take a listen to the radio during the 8–12 to see what to expect, soft and mellow then so will be the next few hours but if that base line kicks in and there is a hint of decent riff coming, then hold on.
So there it is, the Shackleton’s cube crackers in all their glory, enjoy the ride.
Thursday morning, 16 December, and we had continued to make progress through the night, working around some vast heavy floes. At 0400 in position 73°26′S 022°10′ W with an air temperature of −2.8°C. Noon saw us in position 73°49′S 023°33′W, but by 1448 the vessel was stopped in the ice, awaiting a change of conditions to allow us passage. Our position was 73°52′S 024°17′W.
Friday morning, 17th December, saw little change in our situation. Beset in the pack ice and waiting for the wind to change and help break it all up so that we could proceed on our way. Rather than sitting idle and doing nothing, the FID’s on board soon had all their climbing equipment out and were practising their absailing technique down the front of the Bridge onto the Focsle. Whilst not the greatest height to absail, it was good for them all to get out and have a go at it before they get to Halley. The weather was overcast for most of the day with the odd light sprinkling of snow at times (perhaps we will have a white Christmas after all!!).
Our Noon position was 73°53′S 024°23′W, so a little progress would seem to have been made with the help of the ice itself. This area, just off of the Stancombe Wills Glacier, is renowned for its build up of pack and it is not uncommon for the ship on first call to Halley to be stopped for a period of time here. There is a sweepstake running with a nice cash prize for the person who correctly guesses the time of arrival at Halley (decided when the bow of the ship is on the sea ice at the point of the relief site). The closing date for this was last Saturday and the earliest date given for arrival was the 16th (they have lost their money) and the latest is the 6th of February 2000 (by which time we will all be in trouble as we don’t have enough fuel on board to last us until then!).
The following were suggestions made by school children in Year 6 in the Falkland Islands on the subject of breaking out of pack ice, with the original spelling!
- Take all your cooking salt and poor it over the side of the ship.
- Boil the kettle and pour it on the ice.
- Wrap the ice up in a warm blanket and wait.
- Use mirrors to reflect the sun.
- Get the Captain to use a stretch light saber (as in Star Wars).
- Have a very big BBQ and melt the ice.
- Use the the left over curry as de-icer
- Accidently-on-purpose nick the Olimpic Flame and drop it in the ice.
- Get an army of suicidal Lemmings to throw cluster grenades at the ice.
- Invite a lot of politions down to create hot air.
- Steal Mt. Vesueves.
- Draw some very bright pictures and colour in brightly and shine on the ice to melt it.
- All the crew jump up and down on the ice.
- Take the drunken sailor out of the scupper,stick him in the oven for an hour and throw him in the ice.
- Yell insults at the penguins and send them into a fiery rage !!
- Have all your birthdays at one time so that the candles will melt the ice.
- Have an extra Guy Fawks night and day.
- Pour 10 gallons of strong disel on the ice and light a fag!
- Send rude messages to Marvin The Martian and get him to melt the ice with a lazer-beam.
- Throw Jalapeno Peppers on the ice !!!!
A Fleece of FIDS
by David Glynn
A fleece of FIDS, all adrift on the Shack,
Signed for one or two years, now there’s no turning back,
We left behind our families, and ones we hold dear,
We won’t miss Brit tax, we will hand pulled beer.
The ship is “a good un”, but sways like a mad cow,
She pitches quite steeply, so don’t stand at the bow,
We are bereft of space, we’ve filled every cranny,
And despite its mod cons, it isn’t the Branny.
We sailed a stormy North sea, and swell Biscay Bay,
“Have a starter of sick pills”, or else its FID soup of the day,
We gained our sea legs, and became gashmen for Halley,
But you must use two bags, when in Monte or Galley.
The sea was soon calm, offering fine islands to see,
Time to do some hard graft, but only between dinner and tea,
We scrubbed all the decks, made stencils and spliced rope,
But for Sundays big clean, its always down periscope.
We were all then summoned, to attend Neptune’s court,
The FBI called in, FID bashing their sport,
We were judged for our crimes, but spared from the lash,
We shall now stink forever though, of La La’s brown gash.
Montevideo, City Port of Traps,
Where pesos buy chicas, to dance on our laps,
Don’t give money to strangers, what they say is not true,
And pick owt from the menu, because it all once went moo.
Next stop an island, of well guarded sheep,
We moored on the wrong side — poor Shacky too deep.
For a place full of mines, you’d expect there’d be gold,
But “we only grow Land rovers”, I was drunkenly told.
South Atlantic islands, harbour strange beasts indeed,
Herds of brightly clad mammals, taking photos with speed,
They swoon at seal pups, the dads make them run,
They tend to go wandering, and are allergic to sun.
The last stage of the journey, to cross the white crust,
We seek the dark leads, and open water we lust,
It’s a place full of legends and of explorers chill tales,
Creatures peer from the ice, but there’s no bloody whales.
So Halley we will reach, tomorrow — or next year,
We will work while the sun shines, despite rationed beer,
FIDS will infest the iceshelf, only some will come back,
So we now give three cheers, for the crew, officers — and Shack!
Saturday, 18th December, and once again very little change in our situation. The Noon position was 73°54′S 024°35′W. A quiet day on board for all.
What is a FID?? You will notice that there is frequent references to the term FID. Before the British Antarctic Survey was formed and after the war time Operation Tabarin, the Falkland Island Dependancies Survey was formed. When the name was changed to British Antarctic Survey, the term FID was used to describe anyone traveling south, whether a scientist or a technician. This term is still in use today, with all personnel on board who are not a member of the ships company referred to as FIDs. The Dentist, who is the point of contact between the FIDs and the ships staff is known as the Queen Fid!
Sunday, 19th December. Still very little change in conditions during the morning. The Noon position was 73°57′S 025°04′W. The wind started to come round in the afternoon and by early evening it was from the South South East, force 5 and this was starting to ease the pack. One of the British Antarctic Survey’s Twin Otter aircraft had flown over from Rothera Base during the day and then came over to visit us to help give some idea of the best direction in which to proceed and to also drop off a bag of mail! The advice given was that we needed, to head some four kilometers towards the Stancomb Wills glacier and there we would find a nice shore lead that would open out to give us very good access to Halley. The ship waited patiently overnight for the conditions to ease.
Monday, 20th December. At 0600, in position 73°58′S 025°020′W (having drifted some 24 miles towards Halley whilst beset in the pack ice) we proceed towards the shore lead and broke through at 0850. Once in the open water we made good speed, following the coast to N9, an area of low shelf ice, where we stopped briefly to check out the state of ice as this is an area where cargo operations sometimes take place if there is no sea ice available further along the coast, often during the last call of the season. The drawback to N9 is that it is some 60km from the base and this then makes cargo operations a very long drawn out process. From N9 the Ernest Shackleton continued down the coast until reaching ‘Creek 4’, the designated site for cargo operations. Creek 4 is about 12km from the base. Between the creek and the ship there is some 6km of sea ice, which will have to be crossed time and again as the cargo is discharged. The bow of the vessel touched the sea ice at 1950, and the winner of the guessing game was Gary Barnes, one of the ships crew. With the ship held against the sea ice by her thrusters, a team of personnel went ashore with an assortment of tools, comprising of shovels, pick axes, jiffy drills and some large timber. The ropes are then run out across the sea ice and deep holes dug, into which the wood is placed and the ropes then secured to. This is what will hold the Ernest Shackleton in place for the duration of the sea ice relief. The ice is upwards of 2m thick and so able to take the weight of Sno-Cats and loaded sledges. All that is hoped for is continued good weather as, should the wind pick up and create a swell, the sea ice is liable to crack and break out. Should this happen it would then mean re-mooring the vessel.
The wintering staff from Halley base then came down to visit the ship and get to meet everyone on board, with a social few hours in the ships bar.
Antarctic place names local to Halley research station
by Les Whittamore.
- Halley Bay
- IGY (International Geophysical Year) in 1957 lead to the setting up of four bases around the Weddell sea coasts. The Royal Society Expedition travelled South on the 'Tottan'crossing the Antarctic circle on New Years day 1956- only the second ship to reach South of 70.00S since 1914. The Argentine icebreaker 'San Martin' having preceeded her by a few weeks. The Expedition had originally hoped to winter at Vahsel Bay but heavy pack at 76.0 S prevented this. Turning back North a South West facing Bay with a good snow ramp provided a landing area and it was named Halley Bay after the Astronomer Royal and secretary of the Royal Society Edmund Halley who in 1699 sailed south to the edge of the packice. The station was run by the Royal Society until 31.12.59 when F.I. D.S. was invited to take over the base in 1959.
- James Weddell, sealer/explorer, reached 74.15S in his 160 Ton sloop ‘Jane’ in 1820 and named sea ‘King George IV’ sea, renamed after it’s discoverer in 1900.
- Brunt Ice shelf
- James Brunt, secretary of Royal Society in 1956.
- Coats land
- James Coates and Major Andrew Coates, Arctic explorers, sponsers to the 1903 Scottish Expedition under Bruce in the ‘Scotia’ who sighted land at 74.10S and named it after their sponsers.
- Caird Coast
- Sir James Caird, chief benefactor Shackleton Expedition 1914.
- Stancomb Wills
- Dame Janet Stancomb Wills, benefactor to Shackletons 1914 Expedition
- MacDonald Ice Rumples
- Allan MacDonald, Shackleton Expedition 1915.
- Dalgliesh Icestream
- Surgeon.Commander D.G. Dalgliesh RN, base leader and Medical officer of IGY advance party.
- Dawson – Lambton Glacier
- Dawson Lambton, sponsor to 1914 Shackleton Expedition.
- Dronning Maud land
- Queen Maud, Norway.
- Riiser Larsen
- Pilot of light aircraft during 1926 Survey from a Norwegian Factory whaling ship, likely that he travelled as far south as Stancombe Wills glacier as a report at this time suggest the glacier tongue had broken off.
- Lyddan Island – Lyddan Ice Rise
- Discovered and plotted by W.R.MacDonald on Nov 5 1967 in the course of USN Sqn VXE-6 reconnaisance flight over the coast in LC-130 aircraft. Named by US-ACAN for Robert. H. Lyddan, chief topographic engineer of the USGS, who had been active in the planning and supervison of Antarctic mapping since the 1950’s.
- Cabo Rol
- Argentine refugio placed on West tip of Brunt iceshelf in 1961.
- Bob - Pi
- Tractor route through West end of Hinge zone pioneered by Jarman and Lee in 1962, route named after their nicknames.
- Mobster Creek
- Named after a Halley Bay dog team.
- Gin Bottle
- The name given by the Advance party (1956) of the IGY Expedition to the highest central ridge of the MacDonald Ice Rumples. Also name reported by the main party (1956–58) to an isolated small iceberg grounded off the main iceshelf. Reports of the time Aug 1958 states ‘Just off the ice front near this point a small iceberg (‘Gin Bottle’) was grounded and tilted’.
- Filchner Iceshelf
- Named after 1909 German Expedition leader.
- Ronne Iceshelf
- Cmdr Finn Ronne, USNR, leader of RARE 1947 – 1948, discovered and photographed iceshelf during aircraft flights Dec 1947. He named the Iceshelf after his wife Edith.
- Vahsel bay
- Captain of the ship of German 1909 Antarctic Expedition.
- Cape Norvegia
- A prominent cape off the coast of Queen Maud Land which marks the NorthEast extremity of Riiser Larsen Ice shelf. Discovered by Commander Hyalmar Riiser- Larsen Feb 1930 on an aircraft flight from the ship ‘Norvegia’ in which the expedition was made.
- Luitpold Coast
- Discovered by Wilhelm Filchner, leader of German Antarctic Expedition 1911–1912, named after Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria
- Recovery Glacier
- 60mi long, 40mi wide, seen by air by CTAE in 1957. So named because recovery of the expedition vehicles which repeatedly broke through bridged crevasses on the glacier during early stages of the crossing of Antarctica.
- Mt Faraway
- Discovered by CTAE 1956, so named because after days of sledging they never seemed to get any nearer to it.
- Touchdown Hills
- Discovered by CTAE 1957, named becauseone of the expedition members while piloting an aircraft mistook the hills for cloud, hitting them, then bouncing back in to the air undamaged.
- Mountain range located in Norwegian sector 230 miles East of Halley hence name. Named after MV Tottan, ship used by IGY Expedition, first sighted in Oct 1956, overflown by T.A.E. Auster 11th January 1957.
- Heimefront Range
- Discovered by the Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition 1952 during an aircraft reconnaisane. Named Heimefrontfjella (home front range) because of its proximity to Norway Base.
- Berkner Island
- 200mi long by 85mi wide, heoght 975m. Discovered by US-IGY party at Ellsworth Station under the leadership of Finn Ronne 1957–1958. Named after American physicist Lloyd V Berkner, engineer with Byrd Antarctic Expedition 1928–1930.
Shackleton Mountain Range
Tuesday and Wednesday of this week has seen the start of the Halley relief with cargo being discharged onto large sledges, which are then towed by Sno-Cats across the 6 km of sea ice to a collecting point at the edge of the ice shelf, from where other Sno-Cats will take the laden sledges the final 12km to the base, bringing empty sledges back to the sea ice for them to be loaded again. This season we are operating three Sno-Cats across the sea ice and four Sno-Cats across the ice shelf. Mechanics are located at both ends of the chain in order to keep the vehicles running twenty-four hours a day. On the Bridge of the ship we have what looks like a board game with pictures of the Sno-Cats and sledges which can be moved around so that we know exactly where everything is at any given time. The ship and base are now operating a shift system, with two twelve hour shifts, with cargo being discharged the whole time. We will continue working two twelve hour shifts until all the cargo is discharged and then celebrate both Christmas and New Year on the same day!
…and finally, on behalf of Captain Marshall, Officers and Crew of the Ernest Shackleton, may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Forthcoming events: Christmas!
Update 12 will be written on 3rd January 2000 and should be published on 4th January 2000, assuming that the Internet is still functional in the year 2000.
22 December 1999