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07 Jan - A Memorable Start to the Year !

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary


Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: 75°28' South. 026°39' West.
Next destination: Bird Island and South Georgia (K.E.P) via 2 days STCM Magnetometer Survey.
ETA: p.m Wednesday 10 January 2001.
Distance to go: 691.0 nautical miles.
Total Distance Sailed: 13005.0 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Very bright, warm and 'dingle'.
Wind: South Sou' Westerly Force 4.
Barometric pressure: 990.6 hp/mb.
Sea state: Slight swell.
Air temperature: 3.9°C.
Sea temperature: -0.2°C.


'A Day in the Life of...' Series.

Penguin cartoon A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PENGUIN COLONY.


'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, what's that big red thing over there, Dad ?'
'Well Son, that's an,.. er,... it's a,..  Eat your fish !'
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, is it coming over here, is it Dad ? Is it ?'
'Of course not.  It will just swim right on by.  Now eat your fish !'
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, what's it doing now Dad ? What's it doing now ?'
'Well son, it's like a big Red Whale and it's going to swim right by'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, is it going to eat us Dad, is it going to eat us ?'
'No, son.  I don't think so. Eat your fish'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, why is it coming to our ice shelf Dad ? Why is it ?'
'Well son, I think it's just looking at us and then it will swim away'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, why is it stopping Dad, Why ???'
'I think it's tired Son.  Yes, I think it's tired.  Just ignore it and it will go away'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, What's it doing now Dad ?'
'I'm not sure Son, I don't think it's anything to worry about.  Now eat your fish'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, what are those things getting off the Big Red Whale Dad ?'
'I don't know Son, but they are funny looking penguins'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, there's a lot of them, isn't there Dad ?'
'Yes Son, but I am sure it's okay.  Now come over here with the others and eat your fish'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, those things are coming this way.  Why do they keep laying down Dad ?'
'They're tired, Son.  Yes.  They must be tired.  Look there's another one having a sleep'
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, what's that thing doing with that Nikon 35 mm Single Reflex Camera with zoom lens Dad ?  What's it doing ?'
'I don't know Son, but if we stay with the others it won't bother us. Come over here and be quiet, there's a good lad'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, why is that thing pointing his camera at Auntie Doris, Dad. Why ?'
'I'm not sure Son, but I don't think it's anything to worry about'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, why is that thing sticking its camera lens in your Beak Dad, why ?'
'.... ?'
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, were you scared Dad ?  Were you ?'
'Of course not Son.  Er.. Of course not. Just be careful where you're standing'
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, why are all those things going back to the Big Red Whale then Dad ?  Why?'
'I think we frightened them off Son.  Oh yes.  They took one look and they knew not to mess with me. They will probably leave us alone from now on'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Yes, son ?'
'Dad, where are they going now Dad ? Where ?'
'I don't know Son.  Now eat your fish'.
'Dad,..?.' 'Oh SHUT UP'...


Dad and son. Click on Images to Enlarge Sleeping on the Photo-job. Click on Images to Enlarge

Dad & Son.

Sleeping on the photo-job.

Click on Images to Enlarge.

Monday 01 January was the start of a whole New Year, and to get it off to a memorable start, the Captain and the Base Commander formulated a plan for us to visit the Emperor Penguin Rookery on the westernmost extreme of the Brunt Ice Shelf about 10 miles away from Creek 4. The purpose of this visit was for a 'Coastal Recce' of the prevailing ice and shelf conditions, and had the added bonus of giving the crew and Halley personnel a 'Jolly'. Waiting only for the arrival of 29 Halley members who were coming along for the ride, RRS Ernest Shackleton slipped her moorings at 10.10 hours, using only her thrusters to hold her against the fast ice. Once the mooring lines had been recovered and we were 'all clear', the ship moved out into calm waters at 10.55,  dotted with occasional icebergs and very little sea ice.  The ship proceeded along the ice shelf to the Rookery in a bay towards Cabo Rol and by 12.30 we were thrusting alongside a new ice edge.  Landing was effected by means of the personnel basket and ROV crane,and from 11.30 onwards shore liberty was granted for all budding photographers to snap away at the hundreds of Emperor penguins still huddled on this piece of ice.

A sizeable adult pictured in his colourful winter plumage.  Click on image to enlarge Adult penguins were not so much in evidence as the fluffy chicks, still waiting to lose their furry overcoats.  Only weeks earlier, these penguins numbered in their thousands, but the breeding season was closing and the majority of the adults had returned to the sea for fishing.  However, it was an excellent photo opportunity and although our time alongside was only brief, everyone who wanted to, got ashore to stretch their legs and see the sights. All the penguins were about the same size but occasionally you could come across one of the more sizeable adults pictured here in his colourful winter plumage !!!


By 14.00 hours, all the personnel were back on board and accounted for, and so RRS Ernest Shackleton then cleared the ice edge and proceeded back to Creek 4 where the 'Halley Taxi' was waiting to collect the 29 Halley personnel and transport them home in time for dinner.  All in all, an excellent day and a good 'recce'.

Tuesday 02 January in comparison was a quiet day. It was a day for the ship to catch up on some maintenance routines, some cleaning of cabins in preparation for the next influx of passengers, and even taking down of the Christmas decorations.  But looking on the bright side, it is only 351 DAYS TILL XMAS !!!

Tuesday and Wednesday allowed maintenance to be carried out on the boats and the Fast Rescue Craft.  First in the water was the Port Life Boat which was put through its paces.  The orange encapsulated Lifecraft added a real splash of colour to the otherwise white scene in the bright sunshine. 


To the Rumples and back again
On Wednesday afternoon, it was the turn of the FRC (fast rescue craft) to take to the water.  Mike - Chief FRC fixer, had serviced the boat the previous day so it was decided that it was "essential maintenance" that the boat had a good run to test it.   After lunch the FRC (fast recreational craft) was launched with "Captain Kiljoy" at the helm and a full complement of sight-seeing passengers. The test run was to be to the Rumples, an area where the ice shelf becomes very crevassed and impressive.

Click on Image to wake a Sleepy Leopard Seal Leopard Seal.  Click on image to enlarge


The run up to the Rumples was along the edge of the fast ice with a good photo opportunity of a leopard seal.  It was not sure of what to make of a bright orange boat but posed nicely for photos!  The next stop was the Rumples themselves.  They look quite different to the rest of the Brunt Ice shelf coast line, pinnacles and tumbling ice formations rather than the uniform cliffs that make up the adjoining coast line. A sunny day meant that the ice cliffs were a mixture of bright blues and whites; more photos taken.

On the way back to the ship most people onboard had a go at driving. A boat full of happy but cold people was then recovered onto the ship.  A good day and all agreed that the boat was working very well and Mike had done a good job of servicing it!
Andy Liddell - 3rd Officer and Jolly-merchant.


The weather throughout Tuesday and Wednesday,  was exceptional.  Apart from occasional wisps of cloud, it remained fine and clear.  Plenty of sunshine in the 24 hour daylight we enjoyed, but moreover, the temperatures soared in the week up to 4.1°C at one point.  This was reflected in the number of 'light' boilersuits that were being worn on deck for the maintenance, and the surface ice on the sea ice and ice shelf became very soft and wet underfoot.  On the bridge, the windows were opened wide as the warmth of the day was being felt and even the 'woolly pullovers' were discarded in favour of shirt sleeves and tee-shirts.  By Thursday RRS Ernest Shackleton was ready to leave Halley and head north and from this time onwards, those temperatures returned to the freezing point and the skies became decidedly cloudy.  Never mind, we had excellent weather for the whole Halley relief and I have been quoted an impressive 230 hours of bright sunlight in the 14 day period covering our relief at Halley.


The Lengths BAS Will Go To Fly Their Personnel Home !!

Was Mr Cope airlifted by Sea-King helicopter?
'The best-laid plans of Mice and Men', someone once wrote.  How true for Mr.Andy Cope whose idea of a quiet evening snow-boarding at Halley changed his outlook for the immediate future.  Having broken both his legs, his stay at Halley was cut short and he was 'medivac'd' out on the ship.  After several days of tender loving care at Halley, Andy was carefully transported to the ship's side where he was lifted on board in a rigid stretcher, being unable to walk - even assisted - up our steep gangway.  Is there any truth to the fact that a Sea-King Helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland took a break from its usual North Sea Operations to fly down to Halley and assist in the lift pictured above ???  Of COURSE it is true...


But don't take my word for it, here is the casualty Andy, to tell you in his very self.


'The Art Of Ski-Boarding' by Andy 'Eagle Edwards' Cope.

Anyone who read the Halley web page last month may have seen me pictured with my home-made snow board. I won't be using it any longer as I am leaving Halley with both legs in plaster having managed to break my legs in three places. I had taken a number of heavy falls on my home made board without a single injury. The first time I get the opportunity to have a go on a real board which one of the summer guys had brought down I injure myself.

It was a great feeling on a real board having it respond to my every move and I was really getting the feel for it when suddenly I take what felt like a very gentle fall, must have twisted me and next thing I know I can turn my shin independently from my foot.

Luckily for me there were two excellent doctors on base who patched me up and took away my pain. Three days later I am on the back of a sledge being towed by a Sno-cat down to the ship. They craned me from the sledge which was on the sea ice, up onto the ship. On board I was put in the Chief Scientists cabin which is very nice. I am surrounded by TV, video, stereo and lap top computer and have regular visitors to pamper me and take care of my every need.

Luckily so far the sea hasn't been too rough and hopefully it stays that way as it would be tricky trying to get around with both legs in plaster.

Click on Images to see the Operation in... Operation !

Author Andy Cope.


Andy was onboard by 1600 hours on Wednesday night and the remainder of the BAS Passengers from Halley were delivered alongside at 10.30 hours on Thursday.  Having already retrieved our mooring lines and holding station on thrusters only, there was nothing to prevent us from nosing away from the ice and heading out to sea at 11.00 hours.  But we did not go far.  The 'send off' committee from Halley who came to wave us goodbye, set off smoke and pyrotechnics in a heartwarming display of farewell, while we held off the ice edge for a further hour to launch and fully test the Starboard Life boat.  This, of course, could not be tested with the other boats on Wednesday because we were Starboard to, which means we would have launched it directly onto the sea ice had we tried.  But within the hour, the Life boat was retrieved and stowed, and the ship set a northerly course for Bird Island.

Science at Sea.  Next we had to 'calibrate' the STCM Magnetometer.  Readers will recall that we had to do a 'calibration curve' at the beginning of our journey to Halley (see diary for 17 December 2000). So before beginning our passage in earnest, we took time out to do a slow figure of eight calibration, recorded on the Magnetometer and also to do routine check-bearings of the ship's magnetic compass against the repeater of the ships Gyro Compass.  There's a lot more to ship's operations than first meets the eye.  Having completed these, the Chief Officer gave the usual safety brief to the new-joining FIDs, and our course was set for the northwest.

Marine life.  Apart from the Emperor Penguins we saw at the Rookery, and a few occasional Adelie visitors to our section of sea ice, there has been very little wildlife to report.  The web-editor missed an opportunity on Tuesday to photograph a Leopard seal that came for a snooze a little way off to the aft of the ship, and the Third Officer saw a pod of Orca (Killer Whales) cruise by at some distance one evening at the start of the week.  The marine birds since we left Halley have been very few so far.  The occasional Giant Petrel, Skuas, Antarctic and Snow and Wilson's Storm Petrels (which like 2 Adelie Penguins made the seven mile trip to Halley station).  Antarctic Terns, and further north, the Cape Pigeons. The only whales sighted have been four Minke and there have been many fewer seals than normally with only a dozen crabeaters seen in total... - where has all the wildlife gone ???

The anticipated arrival at Bird Island is now the afternoon of Wednesday 10 January.  Although largely overcast and grey, the weather continues to be kind and the passage relatively smooth.  This is good news indeed for our resident 'legless' Mr Cope.  Thoughts now turn to the Falkland Islands, to phone calls and mail, to restocking on fresh provisions, and maybe a little recreation too.


The Science Section - Interesting Facts from Professor Josephine Arendt.
Following on from Jo's interesting insight into the Human Physiology in the diary for 24 December 2000 here are some results.

Halley Relief is a very special form of shift work, especially for those people working nights. Night shift is not normally done in broad daylight. We would like to know how well people adapt and sleep in these conditions compared to night shift environments with only artificial light.

Example activity record from wrist worn activity meter

For the last few weeks on the ship and during relief, volunteers have worn wrist activity meters (Actiwatch L, Cambridge Neurotechnology Ltd) which record their movements and also the light to which they are exposed. The amount of movement during sleep is related to how restless the sleep was. Above is an example of the record for activity- the black traces are movements. There is a lot of movement during one of the rough nights at sea but we cannot yet say how much is due to the ship and how much to restless sleep.  It is clear that the amount of activity generally is greatly increased as soon as relief starts, and, in this case of a night worker, sleep occurs during the daytime.

It is also evident that some good times were had on RRS Ernest Shackleton.


Forthcoming events : Arrival at Bird Island to uplift Mr John Newman and transfer him to South Georgia, King Edward Point.  Provision will also be made to uplift waste and cargo from King Edward Point for transhipment to the Falkland Islands.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Andy 'the invalid' Cope, Andy '3rd Officer' Liddell, and Jo Arendt for the Science Section. Thanks, as always, to Captain Lawrence for his expert copy editing.

Diary 13 will be written on 14th January 2001 and should be published on 15 January 2001.

Steve B December 07 January 2000


Weekly diary entries