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31 Dec - Halley Relief

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: 75°28' South. 026°39' West.
Next destination: Bird Island and South Georgia via 2 days STCM Magnetometer Survey.
ETA: Approximately 15 January 2001.
Distance to go: 2620.0 nautical miles.
Total Distance Sailed: 10988.9 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Very bright. Blue skies and 24 hours sunshine. Traces of very high cirrus.
Wind: East Nor'easterly Force 3.
Barometric pressure: 996.9 hp/mb.
Sea state: Slight swell.
Air temperature: 1.5°C.
Sea temperature: 0.0°C.

Imposing Ice Cliffs Side-winder Snake Trails

Pictures taken off Creek 4 - Brunt Ice Shelf, Halley. Imposing Ice Cliffs, and Side-winder Snake Trails ... (???). Cick on Images to Enlarge.

This week saw RRS Ernest Shackleton alongside the fast ice edge 1/2 km from Creek 4 on the Brunt Ice Shelf and involved entirely in the relief of Halley station. This started in earnest on Saturday 23 December and continued on apace throughout Christmas and finished by Saturday 30 December, just in time to allow the celebration of New Year 2001.

1750 Drums of Avtur (Kerosene/Aviation Turbine Fuel) were unloaded from the holds of the ship and hauled away to Halley by Sno-cat and German Sledge and then around 1600 empty drums were brought the other way and deposited on the ship. Of these, we crushed and containerised about 500 to be disposed of in the Falkland Islands, and the remaining ones will be recycled. The unloading of drums was limited by the crane operations which saw eight drums each time lifted and deposited on the sea ice. This kept crews on the sea ice and crews in the hold busy around the clock. By Tuesday 26 December all the full drums were landed and the 24-hour rota was relaxed to allow day-shift to resume. The operation was not hampered by any unforseen problems (a slight hitch with the main crane at one point excepted) but was aided by excellent weather, so good progress was made. The dayshifts completed the back loading of the empty drums and various boxes of cargo from Halley, so that by Saturday the workforce could settle down to some well-earned leisure hours and catch up on a little sleep.

We had been losing FIDs throughout the week as operations dictated that this person should remove to live on Halley station and that person should remain to drive the sea-ice Sno-cats. But Saturday saw Dr.Tom, Richard Casson, and the last of the other FIDs depart RRS Ernest Shackleton to take up residence in their new home. Dr.Tom and Richard had been with us from Hull back in October and so it was an exciting time for them to finally 'cut the umbilical' and haul their considerable luggage off on a Sno-cat to Halley. Over the weekend, the ship was turned into a Ghost ship. The Red Room and Green Room that once sang with the voices of numerous FIDs trying to out-do each other in a Game of Risk, or battling to watch every video in the video cabinets onboard, now stood as silent sentinels over the discarded magazines, back-issues of the 'Shackleton Daily Newspapers', and now-unemployed packs of playing cards. But it was a pleasant and calming silence after the onslaught of so many busy days. However, the silence was soon to be broken by the festivities that the belated 'Christmas Dinner' and the New Year celebrations had to offer.


'Half a league, Half a league, Half a league, onward into the Valley of Death rode the 500...'

Alfred Lord Tennyson

'Half a mile, Half a mile, Half a mile, onwards up Creek 4 rode the half dozen...'

Steve 'Good-lord' Buxton

'Mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was black as soot.
And everywhere that Mary went, His sooty foot he put'

Author Unknown

Excerpts from a schoolboys' diary. Walter Bloggs - Aged 9, Antarctic Explorer.

Ice cliff

Deer Diary,
Avtur beeing on dis shipp befor, my Dad sed we cud come back and take anover kruz but dis time we could go all the way down to the Souwf Powle for my Xmas Present. I like presents. Anyway, my Dad booked us a ticket wiv this office place in Cambridge (he sed the tour company was called British Antarctic Sojourns) and we sed goodbye to Mum and came away for the kruz. Dad sed we wuld have to be away for all of Xmas but he promised me that I culd see Santa and Polar bears and Pengwins and lots and lots of snow. He was right.

The only bad part was dat we had to do some werk wiv the rest of the crew onbord but dat was gud becase dey use some really neet vihcles,.. Vehikles,.. Vehickal,.. Truks and fings.

Sonday 24ff Desember
The ship was tyed up alongside this big piece of ice - the captain called it see-ice. It was funny to see the ship only tyed in place by 4 big ropes and secured at the other end around planks of wuud. But the ship was solid and didn't move from this ice all week. The bit I liked best was the cattapiller trucks that they put onto the ice and drove all over making big tracks in the snow. I luv snow. Dad reminded me that I had not posted my 'Deer Santa' leter yet, so I hope Santa remembers me this year. The best bit was that I culd eat my last chocolate from my Advent Kalender. It was a scrummy chocolate snowman.

Monday 25ff Desember - Xmas day
No Santa... My DAd told me that big boys don't cry, but I bet HE never missed out on a Xmas Pressy in his life. Anyway, he sed that he would by me a big BIG present after the kruz when we go home. I am going to make sure he does. I am going to make a New Yeers Revolutionn that I will nevar leave posting my Xmas Letter so late again. It really sucks when you have no presents to open up on Xmas morning. But DAd took me onto the ice to whatch what they were doing today on Jesus's birfday. They were all very busy. DaD seys that they were working all of the day and all of the knight too. Its funny to fink of them working at 3.00 oclock in the morning while I am tucked up in my bedd. But Dad seys it is very very liyht in the middle of the night because of 24 hours of sunlight... My Dad talks a lot !!.

Tchewsday 26ff Desember - Boxed Day
Dad seys I can stay awake and watch the sun in the middle of the knight if I like. Kool. It will be great becoz Mum and Dad allways send me to bedd before 9.00 oclock. Wait till my pals back home heer about this. They will be ded jealus. Anyway, today they let me see what they do in the Hold with the Kargo. All these men werring big fick boiler soots and hard plastik hats and big boots were hooking all these barrels of Tar to the big krane. ( I fink it was TAr. The men sed they Have Tar in the barrels). I don't know what they do wiv the Tar, but maybe they will bild a big road to the Base because I have been and it is a long long way away from the ship. It took HOWAS to get there and we went in a big Cattapiller Truck. You shuld see it. They are brilliant. Anyway, these men put all these barrels and barrels and barrels of Tar onto the krane and it liffted all these barrels off the ship and onto the ice. There it was loaded onto one of these Sno-Kats which are colered orange. They look relly great against the wite, wite, wite of the Antarktic Ice. They all ave different Lettas painted on the side and I liked the K17 bestest of all. This was the one that took me and Dad all the way to the Halley BAse.

Wedensday 27ff Desember
No chocolate left in my Advent Kalender. It stinks. But DAD let me go on the Brige of the ship where the Kaptain let me have some bares of chocolate that they got offf the Base. I luv chocolate. But there is a Orribel Dentist Person on dis ship, and she was checking everybodys teeff. My Dad sed I had to go too and she was really meen. She didn't hurt me at all - not like my skool dentist - but she shouted at me because I didn't ever 'floss'. I don't know what she meens. I have Kandy Floss everytime Dad takes me to the fair - so there. Anyway, Mam, I only needed 1 filin this time. And I am NOT giving up sweets for my New Yeers Restolution no matter how mush she seys I have too. So there.

Fursday 28ff Desember
Dhese people are dafft. Dey spent days and knights putting all the barrels ashore and then dey spent days and days taking the barrels back off the Sno-kats and putting dem back on the ship ! Dad sed dese barrels wer hempty barrels, but I don't fink so. Dey were ded heavy. But the ship was full of dese barrels at the start of dis week and now it is full of barrells again at the end of the week. Grown-ups are dafft. Dey kan't have used all that Tar becos there still isn't a road from the Bass to the Ship.

Fryday 29ff Desember
One fing,... we came on this kruz to Halley wiv a ship full of these people called FIDS and by today all of them got off and went to live on the Base. All of the Kargo work was finished and now there are only a few Krew left on the ship - it's like a Gost Ship becase dad says they don't all werk the same howas and some are asleep when some are awake. Deer diary, I didn't get to see the Sun up in the middle of the knight. Dad sed I fell asleep abowt 10 oclok and he put me to bed. I fink he's meen. He cud have wooken me up so I cud have a look. But he didn't.

Sataday 30ff Desember
Dis was the day that I cud go to the BASE. It was weerd.! I had to travell for howas and howas akross lots and lots and lots of Ice and when we got there it was just a few funny bildings in de middell of know-where. I looked around and around and around but der was nofing to see alaround eccept snow and ice and more snow. It was spooky. Dad seys the people heer spend 2 or 3 yeers in dis one plaice wivout going away again. I fink I wud go krazy. I meen, 3 yeers. I don't even remember wenn I was 6 and they spend that long heer. Dey are reely krazy people down heer. Anyway we went to this Base and it looked just like an Oilrig like I'eeve seen in the piktures. It was on legs and it was reelly l-o-n-g. I tryed to run down the long korridor in the bilding called the Llaws Bilding - but this Orrible Base Kommander man shouted at me. Anyway they had some reelly Kool stuff there wiv skiddoos and sledges and more cattapillers and skiis and even an Airaplane called Bravo Charly. Its' a funny name for an airaplain. DaD wudn't let me go up in the airaplain this time, becas the Kaptain from the ship was onbord, but Dad sed I cud go up nexst time if I am gud. I don't know wat he meens - I am always guud.

Sunday 31rst Desember
Deer diary it has been the greatest yeer I have evaa had. And dis is the very bestest plaice in the planet to see the end of an Owld Yeer and see in a New Yeer. We were bak on the ship today for a reel y big nosh and der were lots and lots of sweets for me to eat. Der were Brusel Sprowts which DAad sed I had to eet or I cudn't have any sweets. I hate Brusel Sprowts. But de sweets were reely reely guud. I hoope I kan come heer again NEXST yeer becase its reely kool and all the people on the ship and the Base are reely nice to me (apart from the Dentist and the Base Kommander who shouted at me)!. I kno what I want to ask Santa for nexst Xmas... I want to go bak to Antarktica..

Author Walter Bloggs - Aged 9

The Adventures of P.B Bear

Field camp scene Where Did P.B Bear get to spend his Christmas and New Year THIS Year ???
Click on the image to enlarge and discover where.

While everyone at home were sitting down in front of the Queen's speech on the television, or playing the latest game on the Play Station, PB.Bear and many of the scientists and Field Assistants that work for BAS were miles and miles from the nearest plug and socket. PB Bear had joined some of the scientists to see how it would be like to spend time 'in the field' which means getting wrapped up in his warmest fur and living in a little tent in the middle of all that ice and snow. So no Santa Claus for PB Bear this year, and no Turkey and Stuffing for dinner, but plenty of rations, plenty of chocolate, and plenty of work to keep him busy on just another day in the year. But don't worry, it was not cold enough to freeze his paws off, and he will be returning from the field to a hearty meal, a bath, and all the comforts that everybody else got to enjoy over Christmas time. So 'Hello' from PB Bear to all you kids and the pupils of St.Cuthbert's school, but he says he is enjoying his holiday in Antarctica too much to want to come back to school just yet. Do you know what he means ???

The festivities in question for Christmas and New Year was a slap-up dinner, ably prepared by the catering department.

A Christmas carol

The actual Bill of Fayre was very impressive and if anyone feels full just reading this, I recommend a good draught of peppermint followed by a healthy portion of after-dinner snoozing !!!.


New Years Eve Luncheon the year of our Lord 2000
In Remembrance of  Dell Hunt

Apple & Parsnip Soup
Saute Monk Fish on a bed of Courgettes Provincial
King Prawns Sauted in Garlic & Basil Butter
Grilled Salmon Au Quinn Ak the ney Derek
Darne of Fillet Steak
Served with a Champagne & Stilton Sauce
Main Course
Baked Duck Breast
Served With
Black Cherry & Red Wine Sauce
Roasted  Spring  Falkland Lamb with Rosemary
Served with a Rich Port Wine Sauce
Whole Baked Ham Glazed with Honey
Dressed with Fresh Pineapple Soaked in Rum & Ginger
Roast Norfork Turkey
Forcemeat Stuffing
Chipolata Sausages
Fine Herb Roasted Potatoes
Baby Boiled Potatoes Tossed in Butter&Tarragon
Baked Parsnips ,Brussel Sprouts
Saut'e fresh Spinach Leaf
 Ernest Shackleton Christmas Pudding
Brandy Sauce

Mince Pies Hot Served with whipped Cream
Choux  rolls with Hot brandy Chocolate  and Cream
Banoffie Creamed Flan

Cheese Board

Coffee & After Dinner Mints


New Years Eve Luncheon - 1 New Years Eve Luncheon - 2 New Years Eve Luncheon - 3

Having eaten far too much for our festive dinner it was time for a quiet after-dinner contemplation. For 'quiet after-dinner contemplation' read 'sleep' ! There is nothing like an excess of scrummy food for combatting insomnia !

However, whosoever went to their day beds in the late afternoon, were again seen in evidence during the evening and in the run-up to midnight - Antarctic-time. Across the airwaves, the HF Communications showed evidence that at 00.00 GMT Bird Island and Signy were seeing in the New Year on Zulu time whereas Halley, Rothera, RRS James Clark Ross and ourselves on RRS Ernest Shackleton awaited the chimes of midnight (local) which was 03.00 GMT according to the BBC World Service received on the Bridge on 12095.0 kHz. H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R to all our readers at home and abroad and the Captain was present on the Monkey Island to ring the ship's bell, to wake a few dozing penguins on the sea ice and to ensure that everybody present was in no doubt that the Year 2001 had dawned.

Forthcoming events :Departure from Halley on Thursday and back to science.  More XBTs and more 'magnetic' tracks  before calling at Bird Island to transport John Newman to King Edward Point, South Georgia.  Then back to the Falkland Islands for discharge of the waste and to load yet more cargo for South Georgia, Signy and Halley.

Contributors this week: Many thanks to Walter Bloggs, Various poets, and to the ship's catering department for some really good tucker over the Christmas Period and Halley Relief.

Diary 12 will be written on 7 January 2001 and should be published on the 8 January 2001.


Steve B December 31st, 2000

Weekly diary entries