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19 Nov - Arrival in the Falkland Islands

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary


Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: 51°54' South. 058°26' West.
Next destination: Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands.
ETA: 25th November 2000, xxxx UTC.
Distance to go: 702.9 nautical miles.
Total Distance Sailed: 7461.0 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Changeable. Starting with light zephyrs, clear and fine, becoming windy, rainy and cloudy. Typical summers day in the Falkland Islands.
Wind: SouthSouWest Force 6.
Sea state: Slight sea and low swell.
Air temperature: 11.3°C.
Sea temperature: 8.5°C.


The web editorLine One. Firstly my profuse apologies to the readership for the delayed appearance of the diary, and it cannot even be blamed on 'Technical Faults' this week. To begin with there was little enough happening to report, and then just prior to arrival in Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands, newsworthy items became available about the same time as operations became busy. I am sure you will bear with the Editor this week who also has a day-job !

Para Two. We begin with the news in brief this week. Sunday 12 November saw us tied up alongside Montevideo as reported in last week's diary and the departure of the friendly Viking Bordeaux. Monday 13 November was also spent alongside but we had more arrivals from the airport, to swell the ranks of the FID's onboard. Tuesday 14 November saw RRS Ernest Shackleton depart Montevideo and head on a southerly heading to make best speed for the Falkland Islands. Wednesday 15 November was a bumpy first day at sea, but the weather was kind and by Thursday 16 November the sun had returned and we had a pleasant day. Friday 17 November was overcast, but calm and hardly noteworthy, but Saturday 18 November saw RRS Ernest Shackleton arriving at last in Mare Harbour. Sunday 19 November we were alongside and busy busy busy.

Page Three. So, in detail, we embarked two personnel in Montevideo on the Sunday.

First, our Dentist Wendy Scott, who had opted to fly south this year instead of doing the usual cruise down from the UK. This is Wendy's third season on the ships and is always a welcomed sight onboard. However, Wendy made an appearance, - but her baggage didn't. When questioned, Wendy could definitely admit to 'having got a toothbrush'. It would be a sad state of affairs for a dentist to be found without her toothbrush ! Across the world there are signs in many foreign lands which are 'loosely translated' into English for the international traveller. I think one of the more amusing of those I have seen was in Bangkok Airport, where a famous airline announced to its customers and the world that 'We Take Your Baggage, And Fly It All Over The World...'. In Wendy's case, which part of the World ???

The second welcome visitor on board was the head of the BAS Ships Operations - Christopher Hindley. It is Chris's first season with BAS and so his first opportunity to spend any length of time on the vessel, and Chris was with us for the passage to the Falklands. Now the number of FIDS onboard totalled six. They were multiplying !

Chapter Four. Multiplying indeed. The very next day we saw the arrival of twelve more of them flying into Montevideo on United Airlines' finest. Steel erectors, Facilities engineers, Meteorologists, Plant operators and cooks -- all heaved their baggage out of the small airport shuttle mini-bus and proceeded to 'lug' it up the gangway of RRS Ernest Shackleton. Obviously, their luggage had NOT fallen foul of the dreaded 'We Take Your Baggage, And Fly It All Over The World...' Happily ensconced in their cabins on board - their homes for the next six weeks - they all proceeded ashore for their first night in Montevideo. The Uruguayan steaks are reputed to be amongst the best in the world, and that evening these FIDS were in evidence in the 'Meat Market' and good eateries up and down the main thoroughfare. A good time was had by all.

Volume Five. The departure from Montevideo on Tuesday was not until 18.00 hours. Largely we were awaiting the arrival of an important spare part which was to be shipped by ourselves to the Falkland Islands and trans-shipped over to RRS James Clark Ross who would already be waiting in Stanley. Like Wendy's baggage, this proved not to be lost, just delayed, and was delivered in the late afternoon. Once on board, we were at liberty to allow the pilot to take us into the River Plate and out to sea. The weather on the Tuesday had become a little inclement with freshening winds and although it was calm enough alongside, it promised to be a little rough once at sea. So everything was battened down and made fast for the sea voyage and we finally said 'Adios' to Uruguay and sailed with 21 crew and 18 passengers.

Episode Six. As mentioned, the first day at sea was not altogether smooth. There were feelings of 'uneasiness' amongst both FIDs and crew alike. Was it actually seasickness ? Or was it something to do with the three helpings of Monte-steak swilled down with lashings of refreshing cerversa enjoyed at the last luncheon ashore in Uruguay ??? The seas were prevailing from the south and it was heavily overcast all day on Wednesday. In the afternoon, we had the statutory muster for the new-comers on board RRS Ernest Shackleton. At 1600 hours, the emergency alarm bells were sounded and all the FIDs came to their emergency stations. This ensured that they knew what was required, that they were aware of the emergency routines, and forcing them to at last get out of their beds and breathe some fresh air if they had not done so that day. Then the movement was not severe and after the drill, most of the personnel on board were in evidence in the mess for another round of food provided by the stalwarts of the catering department.

Series Seven. What a difference there was the following day ? Thursday beamed into life with albatross, giant petrels, cape pigeons and southern fulmars in the sunshine and blue skies. The swell had not altogether died away, but everybody onboard had become accustomed to it. FIDs were seen taking the airs on deck, and even some brave souls 'sunbathing'. This was all the more surprising as the cold Falklands current was already trying hard to prevent the passage of RRS Ernest Shackleton south.

Gordy and Ian at the rails

Click on the Images to Enlarge

Andy, David, and Thomas getting ready for a photo opportunity

Gordy and Ian at the rails
and Andy, David, and Thomas getting ready for a photo opportunity.

Set Eight. Friday was not so beautiful but overcast and calm. The sea temperature by now was down to 5.5 Celsius (as cold as it normally is on the crossing of the Antarctic Convergence). It was 'business as usual' on board RRS Ernest Shackleton, but then it really all started to happen on Saturday. Something was 'in the air', and I am not talking about the aroma emanating from the Grey Water Tank onboard that was opened up for maintenance purposes !!! Phew... No, I am talking about the imminent arrival of the vessel in the Falkland Islands, and, for the first-time visitors on board, an opportunity to discover a brave new world and feel terra firma under their shoes once more. The first sight of land was around 09.00 in the morning and the first sight of an aircraft was about 11.00 hours. This was a visiting RAF Sea King search and rescue helicopter of the Royal Air Force stationed on the Falkland Islands. At first it just over-flew the ship but then called up on the VHF radio to request the use of our vessel for some 'training'. Permission was willingly given, and then it was time to sit back, watch the show, and enjoy an excellent photo opportunity as the Sea King helicopter practised winching air crew on and off the ship.

Air crew on winch Winching air crew onto the fo-c-sle Winching air crew from the fo-c-sle

Click on the images to
land the little man on the fo'c'sle and lift him off again !

It was a truly amazing show by the RAF. To watch how the helicopter would hover closer and closer until you felt that you could reach up and touch it just above your head. The noise and even the force of the down-draft generated by those mighty rotors. Regardless of the speed that we were cruising along at, the pilot managed to hold position just metres off the Monkey Island, or above the fo'c'sle or above our crowded Heli-deck. A truly wonderful flying display. They also requested a further session of training when we are outward bound. Cameras at the ready, Chaps and Chappesses! (Political correctness).

Click on the image to see the colour of the pilots eyes

Click on the image to
see the colour of the pilot's eyes !

The Complete Works of RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary 5. We arrived off Mare Harbour at around 16.00 hours on a cloudy and breezy afternoon. The visibility was excellent and after some pre-manoeuvring trials. We moored alongside the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Grey Rover at 1630 hours. RRS Ernest Shackleton had made the best speed possible on the passage down from Monte entirely because we had to take bunkers from the RFA before she departed to other duties on the following Sunday morning. 486 cubic metres of Dieso F76 was received on board between 1730 and 2230 hours that evening. For the statistician, this cost £227,000 pounds. It costs on average £3,500 per day for fuel to run this vessel, which is a cost of £12.75 per mile - when not in ice !.

The Grey Rover Click on the Image of Grey Rover. Another reason for mooring off Grey Rover was the imminent arrival of yet another vessel in Mare Harbour - Beluga Performer. The Beluga Performer had just returned from South Georgia where it had deposited cargo and materials for the up-and-coming BAS station at King Edward Point. The Beluga Performer came alongside the Main Jetty on Sunday for cargo operations and stayed between 0800 and 1500 hours before departing for Puerto Madryn. The Beluga Performer is the Falkland Islands resupply ship and had Captain Chris Elliot (of RRS James Clark Ross) on board. Captain Elliot had been piloting the ship whilst manoeuvring in the waters of King Edward Cove, and he had time to come aboard for a visit and a 'proper' meal !

The Beluga Performer. Click on Image and the ship will STILL look to be small.The Beluga Performer

Notice that the two pictures above were taken only an hour apart and how the weather has managed to change in such a short time. This is typical of the Falkland Islands weather.

The Epilogue. The departure of RFA Grey Rover at about 0900 hours and then Beluga Performer at 1500 hours left only ourselves and HMS Dunbarton Castle in Mare Harbour. At 1530 hours we secured alongside the now vacant Main Jetty to start the discharge of cargo for RRS James Clark Ross. Next Sunday should see us at Signy Island.


Forthcoming events: Departure from Mare Harbour during the morning of Wednesday 22 November and proceeding directly to Signy, South Orkney Islands, which is a change to the scheduled itinerary.

Contributors this week: The Royal Air Force and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, with a token showing from Beluga Shipping.

Diary 6 will be written on 26 November 2000 and should be published on 27 November 2000

Steve B November 20th, 2000