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17 Dec - Halley, here we come !

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: 60°15' South. 004°52' West.
Next destination: Halley, Ronne Ice Shelf.
ETA: See 'Competition'.
Distance to go: Not Known - Ice Dependent.
Total Distance Sailed: 10988.9 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Overcast and dull.
Wind: South'sou'easterly Force 5.
Barometric pressure: 990.5 hp/mb.
Sea state: Moderate - low swell.
Air temperature: 0.3°C.
Sea temperature: -0.9°C.

'Hello World, Hello World, this is Ernest Shackleton, Ernest Shackleton, Ernest Shackleton, Come in World!' We are receiving you. How do you receive us. Over ? I am sorry but the airways are filled with static, so we will have to be brief with our sit-rep this week Over. Here is what we did. Out !

In brief. Last Sunday we were steaming away from the Falkland Islands in the worst of weathers. As you will recall, three horrible days to get there, and now another three horrible days to leave ! The decision was made to depart 'rather sharpish' in order to run ahead of a developing low to the south and west of the Falkland Islands and then keep ahead of the front as it travelled ever eastwards in pursuit of us. Wrong. From the day after we departed we were troubled by an unusual easterly swell and miserable weather. Ahead of us, the Seabulk Condor (that had left only 6 hours before ourselves) was still enjoying good weather and fair seas.

On the radio to Bird Island station and Signy station this week, we discovered that they were all taking advantage of excellent weather to do outside jobs, and meanwhile we seemed to be travelling in our own depression, both outside and on board. Seasickness was prevalent. There was even a case of a web-editor being flown across a computer room and into the door which slammed shut on his thumb in the heavy seas. Ouch. That brings tears to the eyes, I can tell you! However, when we eventually arrived at Bird Island on the Tuesday evening at about 2000 hours we were able to hold off Jordan Cove and deposit Mr John Newman, stores, mail and our Doctor ashore in the FRC (fast rescue craft). Mr Newman was to be left with the stores and mail, but we were able to retrieve Doctor Tom after he had 'administered' to a seal-bite casualty on Bird Island. One other task was achieved. The station had an underwater camera to test and took advantage of our FRC in order to send the camera and its operators out into a pleasant twilight evening to calibrate their scientific toy. What a change to the weather our arrival at Bird Island brought. The swell eased off considerably, the cloud broke up, and we were all treated to a beautiful sunset.

However, it was not a long stay off Bird Island and by 2100 hours we had recovered our FRC and set sail to head finally for Halley. Back out at sea and clear of the lee of the land, we found that our new direction gave a much gentler passage south. The weather abated considerably and for the rest of the week we were blessed with smooth seas and fair days. The only negative aspect was the cloud cover. In order to make the best course to Halley, we would need to discover which approach would afford us the least ice to have to work.

White-cloud; Yellow-ice; Black-open water.  Click on image to enlarge. This is where satellite imagery is very useful to us. Close Pack ice can be seen on images taken by the weather satellites in space, but a constant thick cover of cloud across the Weddell Sea meant that all our satellite images were obscured. This remained the case until late on Friday when the cloud finally started to disperse and patches of the sea surface below could be seen. In the above image, White equals cloud, Yellow equals ice and Black equals open water.

Seeing areas of pack ice on the received satellite images had no bearing on the outcome of the ship's 'sweepstake'. The imagery is not THAT good. At the start of the week, a 'book' was started to guess the date and time of arrival at the ice shelf off Halley station. One optimistic appraisal said 19 December ??? - thank you Bob the Lecky ! Others were more conservative in their 'guesstimate' but at the time of our next going to press, let us hope that we will be able to announce the lucky winner. It is a bit of a lottery. One notable aspect of this sweepstake is that 50 percent of the funds will be donated to our on board charity - the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

The RNLI needs You... or at least your Hair !
The RNLI did very well on board this week. On Sunday 10 December whilst the afternoon matinee movie The Dambusters was playing in the background, we all congregated in the Red Room to watch FID Ian Barfoot say 'adios' to his shining locks of hair.

Hair today ... ...gone tomorrow

Hair today ... gone tomorrow.
Click on images to remove unwanted hair.

This noble chap indicated that he was prepared to lose his tresses in aid of a charitable cause and many turned out to see the event. Ian pictured above not only lost his hair but at one point was sporting only HALF a moustache before that too went the way of the rest of the barber shop sweepings. Your resident barber is none other than Mark 'Tugs n' Pulls' Taylor. Thank you Tugs for a really clean haircut, and Thank you Ian for a really notable contribution in a charitable cause. So far, the sponsored head shave has raised a worthy £215.00 for the RNLI.

The Adventures of P.B Bear
PB bear getting his fur shaved - or is it?

Fear Not. P.B Bear was not actually onboard to partake in the Sponsored Head Shave.
He still has all his fur !!!

And so the rest of the week was spent sailing towards but actually getting further away from Halley with the intention of sailing to 05 degrees West longitude and thence south. Notable sightings on route were the South Sandwich Islands which at first appearance looked deceptively like very large icebergs. There were many large icebergs around and about so the mistaken identity could be forgiven, but how many icebergs have smoke or steam coming from their summits ? This was spotted from the summit of Lucifer Hill as we passed by to the south of the Candlemas Islands. It was a picturesque sight with the weather being fine and clear and the white of the icebergs shining bright. Innumerable species of birds have overflown the vessel and there has been the odd sighting of seal, penguins and whales throughout.

More Shipboard Three Component Magnetometer (STCM) recordings have been taken on route. The STCM is a device for measuring the Earth's magnetic lines of flux with relation to geographic position, heading and depth. RRS Ernest Shackleton has undertaken to survey previously unsurveyed areas of geological interest and this also involves doing 'figure of eight' calibration curves to begin with. On a flat calm Thursday afternoon, we proceeded to do such a calibration curve in an area of clear water surrounded by light 4/10th's pack. This fuelled the rumours that the Captain had entered a 'late arrival date' in the Halley Arrival Sweepstakes and was playing for time to ensure his winnings !!
(I am assured that this is not true - Ed.).

It was Thursday this week that the Christmas decorations were unearthed from their stowage and most capably hung around the public rooms by Cathy, Liz and Tugs. The place has taken on a real 'christmassy' feel to it, and when the Christmas songs were finally introduced to the public room Hi-Fi's, Christmas time suddenly does not look so far away.

On Friday this week, we had our usual 'Board of Trade Watersports' or Emergency Drills to be exact. This week's scenario was produced by Robin the 2nd Officer who threw every possible disaster at us short of a plague of locusts and flood. A flood might actually have been useful, since the simulated fire was below the bridge in the 'technical room' and 'for exercise only' there were pieces of paper plastered all around saying 'Hot Spot' ! Hot spots are areas adjacent to the seat of the fire where conducted, convected or direct heat has managed to spread and threaten to start further fires. In an extremely 'challenging' exercise, we had Bob the electrician frying on live conductors in the technical room and he was only able to be extracted from those live wires by use of a highly technical broom handle. The simulated casualty could then be carried away in the stretcher by the Doctor's team to simulated treatment awaiting him in the infirmary. The fire could only be extinguished after the Chief Engineer in the control room (without his faithful electrician) had located the isolation switches for all the supplies to the technical room thus making it safe. It was a very stimulating exercise, or should that be 'simulating exercise' ?? The whole episode was further exacerbated by having our telephone and PA communications systems simulated non-operative !. Thank goodness for walkie-talkie radios. A very good drill with many lessons learnt.

A bandaid

First aid training: On Friday Doc Tom and his little elves ran some supplementary first aid training. This consisted of three stations, attended in rotation, where we practised log rolling, putting a casualty (or victim!?) into the recovery position, and resuscitation practise with a delightful rubber dolly called Annie.

The necessity of this supplementary training was highlighted by the fact that many of us had forgotten even the most basic procedures learnt only a couple of months ago. All involved were glad of the opportunity to revise and learn potentially life saving techniques.   Alasdair

Saturday was a very memorable day altogether. In the first instance it was Dentist Wendy's birthday. Wendy was now ** years old and a small celebration was planned for the evening after the judging of the Shackleton Art competition by the Master. Wendy received the statutory birthday cake from the Galley team and a very splendid cake it was too. On close observance, you can make out the pair of dentures with tongue poking out in this picture of Wendy with the Captain. There was a small gift of a music CD and an excellent card drawn by Robin and signed by the whole ship's company. Even the 'Queen' got in on the act this year...

Wendys birthday cake Message from a Queen

Click on images to make the cake smile and to read the greeting from a 'Queen'.

The Art Competition was judged by the Captain at 1730 hours on Saturday evening to coincide with the presentation of Wendy's cake and card. The competition had been running for a number of weeks but as seems to be the trend in these cases, most of the entrants only started displaying their exhibits in the last days or even hours. 1730 was the deadline for all exhibits to be in the Yellow Room for the Grand Judging. Sporting his very best blues, Captain Lawrence attended a very full and convivial Yellow Room full of FIDs and Crew, and most had dressed for the occasion accordingly.

Yellow room & decorations - 1 Yellow room & decorations - 2

Click on images to see the Yellow Room complete with decorations.

I really do not envy the Captain his task of choosing one from the many entries on the walls and tables. Most were of a good artistic standard and varied in presentation. There were a collection of pictures, drawings and paintings, and some notable efforts : an embroidery of icebergs from Liz, a collage of coloured drinks tins in the form of the Shackleton from Gordy, a presentation board of nautical knots from Mark 'Tugs' Taylor, and the Chief Officer's Unknown Met Man, shown below complete with the man who inspired the entry - Jon Shanklin.

The unknown met-man

Click on the image,
but you still won't enlarge Antonio's Met Man.

But someone has to lose, and someone has to win, so Congratulations in abundance to :

1st prize - Gordy with the Shackleton Collage 

The Shackleton Collage

2nd prize - Jo with an excellent pencil sketch of South Georgia/Grytviken 

Pencil sketch of South Georgia/Grytviken

3rd prize - Robin's highly amusing caricatures of the crew of RRS Ernest Shackleton 

Caricatures of the crew of the RRS Ernest Shackleton

But congratulations to all entrants for the time and effort that went into making this particular Art Competition a complete success for all. But the festivities did not stop there !

Continuing in the 'party vein', the Saturday evening's meal was to be a dressed occasion and specifically a 'masque' affair. People were invited to show up in masks, so the creativity did not stop at the Yellow room. Masks of all shapes, sizes and descriptions appeared during the pre-dinner cocktails. There are too many photographs of too many creations to enter into these web pages, but the highlight of the event was when thirteen Phil Morgan's all marched into the room together. The only person who looked out of place, was Phil Morgan himself, because he was the only Phil there who had a big beaming grin on his face ! Well done Phils...

More Phil Morgans than you can shake a stick at! Click on the image for double, triple, quadruple, and multiple vision.

Finally, the evening continued into the late hours with a 'stonking' beef wellington dinner, cheesecake dessert, cheese and wine, post-dinner snacks and oodles of Wendy's birthday cake. I defy anyone to get off this ship without having collected a few pounds along the way. There were bar games and revels late into the evening.  Hats off to the catering crew who once again rose to the occasion with marvellous tucker and for keeping it warm while Phil, Phil, Phil and Phil all donned their garb and finally showed up to eat !.

Santa May all on board RRS Ernest Shackleton wish a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS to all their family, friends and colleagues back home and have a prosperous New Year. See you in 2001 !

Forthcoming events : Christmas. This of course is dependent upon our progress towards Halley and the ensuing station relief which will start in earnest directly upon arrival.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Alasdair Reid for an insight into the Doctor's medical training onboard.

Diary 10 will be written on 24th December 2000 and should be published by 27 December 2000.

Steve B December 17th, 2000