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14 Jan - Wind Blown and Buffeted

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: 52°30' South. 048°50' West.
Next destination: Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands.
ETA: p.m Wednesday 16 January 2001.
Distance to go: 630.0 nautical miles.
Total Distance Sailed: 14455.0 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Stormy with high winds and heavy overcast.
Wind: East Nor'westerly Force 4.
Barometric pressure: 987.1 hp/mb.
Sea state: Large swell.
Air temperature: 6.5°C.
Sea temperature: 6.3°C.

Airplane cartoon Welcome on board this B.A.S flight, non-stop from Halley to South Georgia. My name is Steve and I am your cabin representative for the flight, and if there is anything you should need, please bring it to the attention of your in-flight cabin staff and we will try to make your trip as pleasant as possible. Shortly we will be coming round with a selection of fruit juices and light snacks but meanwhile may we ask you to ensure that your baggage is safely stowed in the overhead lockers or under the seat in front of you. You will shortly be briefed in your onboard safety procedures in the event of an emergency. Can we now ask you to ensure your seats are upright and uncomfortable, and that you have your service table in the stowed and locked position ready for take-off. Please observe the 'No Smoking' signs and keep your seat-belts fastened at all times in the event of turbulence.  Thank-you for your attention and we wish you a very pleasant flight !

This week RRS Ernest Shackleton was uneventfully on passage from Halley to South Georgia. Therefore here is an insight to some of the more mundane aspects of life on board. This is where we clean our 'dirty laundry' in public, or more specifically, WHERE we clean our dirty laundry ! Familiarise yourselves with the on board facilities in the card in the seat in front of you.

Crew washer/dryer facility Central laundry facility

The laundry facilities on RRS Ernest Shackleton are basic but adequate. Pictured above (left) we have the crew laundry of two washers and two driers for the crew's domestic washables. These are under the ever-watchful eye of Bob, the ship's electrician, whose job it is to keep them going and going and going. You can imagine they see a lot of service, as does the ship's laundry pictured above (right) and these are big industrial machines capable of servicing all the linen that a full complement of 72 bodies can generate ! There are two big washers and the two big driers shown and a further washing machine for all those nasty, nasty, dirty, dirty, boiler suits that equally need super-strength cleaning. The Senior Steward Mark is largely responsible for putting all the sheets and duvet covers through the system as he gives a once or twice weekly linen change and that is a lot of washing !

Our planned passage from Halley has us departing Creek 4 at 1400Z on January 4. On departure we will be exercising the starboard life boat and conducting a calibration of our magnetometer.

Our route to South Georgia will take us north in longitude 031 degrees West as far as 73 degrees South when we can expect some turbulence due to icing problems which expect to clear at 71 degrees South when we can expect to follow the semi-circle track to the north via longitude 022 degrees West. The only feature of interest prior to our arrival will be a sighting of the Southern Thule Islands estimated for lunch time on the January 9 and we are estimating an overall passage time of six days.  At this time our final runway has still to be determined.  I will now hand you over to the First Officer who will conduct the statutory safety briefing to which I request you give your full attention.

Thank you and enjoy your flight.

Last Sunday RRS Ernest Shackleton completed the day at sea through open pack dotted with occasional bergy bits and brash. The trend continued for Monday and Tuesday too, and the only difference was the change in the weather and the proximity to our destination. The weather which had started Cloudy and Fine, tended towards 'manky' with snow flurries, reduced visibility and strengthening winds. Force 4 from the south on Sunday and up to Force 6 or 7 and veering round to the west sou'west by Wednesday. The weather also had some bearing on our destination. If it was too rough to work Bird Island, then it was prudent to go directly to South Georgia where the lee of the land would allow us to go alongside King Edward Point to first work the backload of waste from the building project there. Daily radio contact was kept with the KEP Fisheries Harbour Master and the Bird Island Base Commander to constantly re-assess the situation. We are nothing if not 'flexible'. Flexible indeed because by Wednesday afternoon it was apparent that boat work at Bird Island would be out of the question, and that there was another vessel alongside at KEP, and that there was therefore nothing to be achieved until Thursday morning when the Saint Brandon would move off and allow us to carry out cargo operations alongside. So it was that the Master chose to spend Wednesday 'around the corner' in Husvik where there is presently a 'Reindeer Project' ongoing, and the lee of the land provided the ship with a safe anchorage.

Last season, the ship welcomed on board Veterinary Cameron Bell, an Australian, working in the Falkland Islands. Cameron was under contract by the South Georgia government to investigate the feasibility of removing chosen individuals from the South Georgia reindeer herds for transportation to the Falkland Islands where reindeer farming is going to be given a trial.

Building the reindeer coral.  Click on image to enlarge Reindeer cartoon Building the reindeer coral.  Click on image to enlarge

Click on the Photos to see the panorama of Husvik surrounding Bambi.

Cameron, along with a team of a ten-strong reindeer posse are back and constructing a coral in Husvik with which to facilitate the herding of deer into a compound where they can select the youngest and strongest individuals for relocation. The team itself is truly international with Bob the American expert who has largely worked on deer in Alaska, Canadians Fraser and her husband, Scots, Falkland Islanders, a New Zealander and of course, the token Brits too. All scientists and veterinaries alike. I didn't get introduced to them all but they were all working effectively and happily together. They were sleeping in twos and threes around the various rooms of the old Whaling Station Manager's Housing Complex, which stands remote from the old Whaling Station, now long abandoned and decaying in a romantic kind of way. There are far too many photos of Husvik to include in here and a photo cannot do justice to the splendour of the place, especially today when the sun was shining, the snow-capped mountains were breath-taking and Sara's cup-of-tea was most welcoming.

Bruce makes friends. Click on image to enlarge The old Whaling Station - near view. Click on image to enlarge The old Whaling Station - distant view. Click on image to enlarge

Bruce makes Friends, The old Whaling Station near,
and far...
. Click on images to enlarge

The team are in Husvik for only a short time. The two or three days to construct the coral and then the rest of January to round up and select the animals they require in time for the return of the Sigma Fisheries Patrol Vessel which will transport man and beast alike back to the new Reindeer-Stomping-Grounds of the Falklands. Thanks team, for taking time out to welcome the crew and FIDs on their day in Husvik.

Back on board, having arrived in Husvik at 0800 hours, we departed at 1600 hours for Cumberland Bay and King Edward Point. The intention was to be ready to go alongside early the next morning as soon as St.Brandon had cleared the jetty. By 1800 hours we were at anchor in a balmy bay with a great sunset, clear skies and the biggest moon rising that you ever did see. On the way into Cumberland Bay, we were able to pick up messages on the VHF radio between a cruise ship and the KEP Harbour Master concerning an injury to one of the cruise ship's passengers. Apparently, one of the passengers had taken a bad fall on shore and broken an ankle and the ship's doctor was in need of further supplies of pain-killing drugs. King Edward Point has its own medical facility and was able to assist the Maria Ermolova, but RRS Ernest Shackleton was ready to offer the use of medical facilities should they be required.

Subsequently, the casualty arrived in Cumberland Bay that night on board Ermolova, and was transferred by rigid inflatable boat to the medical facility ashore, where it was determined that she would have to be repatriated. Michelle's final destination, for that was the casualty's name, was Ushuaia at the southern tip of South America after her cruise to the South Orkneys, South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsula. In discussions between the ship's staff and the KEP Harbour Master, it was agreed that Michelle could return to Mare Harbour on Ernest Shackleton. The following morning, Thursday, St.Brandon departed for Leith, Ernest Shackleton went alongside and Ermolova continued with her cruise.  Rod Downie, of Port Lockroy fame, was on board Ermolova as an IATA Inspector.

Alongside at KEP, the ship immediately started loading the waste from the building site as the heavens opened and it started to rain. A low pressure system which had come down from the north was passing over South Georgia, and its effects were now being felt with cloud, rain, and increasing winds. A most miserably wet day was spent alongside but it did not deter a few hardy souls from venturing on walks around the foothills surrounding Grytviken. After all, it was the last chance for some of our passengers who will be getting off in the Falkland Islands and the end of their journeys south. The loading of the waste was swift, so that by late afternoon the hatches were battened down and we were again waiting on the weather to determine the next step in our 'flexible' itinerary.

The evening was spent alongside and afforded the pleasure of seeing Pat Lurcock, the Harbour Master, come on board with the South Georgia Post Office. More franking of stamps and purchasing of First Day Covers for the philatelists back home. Then after dinner the Morrison's contractors from the building project ashore came onboard. It was nice to see lots of familiar faces from last season when we uplifted some of these same personnel from Rothera down the Antarctic Peninsula. These contractors had come into KEP earlier in the season and were working on the new BAS Fisheries Laboratory which is now due to open in March this year. The build is going well and looks to be completed on time. It was only last month that we were last in KEP and how it had changed in four short weeks. New constructions, improved wharf, roofs on buildings that had not had roofs. What changes will we see when return here in another six weeks before the opening ?

The Duty Free Shopping....   the Adventures of P.B Bear

PB bear cartoon.  Click on image to enlarge Ladies and Gentlemen, the on board shop is pleased to announce the following selection of items from its exhaustive supply of goods shipped in from all over the world (Grimsby!). The tarrif is extremely reasonable and we accept any method of payment - so long as it is cash.

Purser Bob and his on board shop are our main source of the 'niceties' in life. Toothpaste, Toothbrushes, Candy to spoil your teeth and make you buy more Toothpaste, T-shirts, Polo Shirts, Baseball Caps, Postcards, Xmas Cards, Paper and Pens, and Wines, Spirits, Perfumes,.. a regular little Harrods at sea. These things are bought at the start of our trip and available throughout our time away from England. The prices are fair (Purser Bob made me write that) and the selection is very good. Usually you can 'sign for' any purchases and the price is deducted from your salary back at HQ, but cash is an acceptable alternative for Bob 'get 'em while they last' Weston.


The ES as a hospital ship - cartoon On Friday morning January14, Michelle the American medivac was brought onboard after some extensive 'resetting' of her fracture at the KEP Medical Facility and welcomed and made as comfortable as could be and by 0900 hours RRS Ernest Shackleton was clear of the jetty, had recovered her moorings, and was heading out of Cumberland Bay into a stormy and heavy South Atlantic sea. The weather was again far too bad to attempt a visit to Bird Island and the consideration of getting our casualties back to the Falkland Islands was a pressing concern. Andy Cope was still on board with his two broken legs and this was rapidly turning RRS Ernest Shackleton into a Hospital ship !

As soon as the vessel set course for the Falkland Islands, even before leaving the 'shelter' of South Georgia, the seas became very tumultuous and the ship started to pitch badly. Many a FID and several of the crew were laid low by the unpleasant gyrations but luckily the 'horizontal' position brought much relief which was fortunate indeed for Andy and Michelle condemned to remain horizontal in consideration of their plaster casts. So watching videos and reading books was the order of the day as the weather vented its full fury. St.Brandon ahead of us, having abandoned all hope of shelter in Stromness Bay, was now heading for the Falkland Islands directly but only managing three knots headway against these seas. Shackleton herself was only managing about 7 knots, however, at some time during the afternoon we overtook St.Brandon.

Friday became Saturday and still the wind was howling from the west sou'west at storm force 10 with a mean wind speed of 50 knots, somewhat less than the occasional gust of 70 knots experienced on Friday afternoon.  Fortunately within 2 hours of Chief Officer Antonio taking over the watchkeeping duties, the wind abated and was down to a pleasant 25 knots by the time Andy the Third Officer came on duty at 08.00 hours.

Hence Saturday came and with it, calmer seas and brighter weather. The turbulence had passed and refreshments could once again be dispensed from the trolley in the aisles !


Map showing location of low. Click on image to enlarge Barograph trace. Click on image to enlarge

Click on images to enlarge the low !

Whilst this low had been detected by the Meteorological Office and hence was forecast, it was nonetheless impressive if only on account of the speed of its developement.  It started life as just an aberration in the Jet Stream about 600 miles north of the Falkland Islands just 48 hours before the centre passed over ourselves at South Georgia.  In which time it had travelled 1200 miles to the south -east and it had created a vortex whose centre pressure would have dropped 60 millibars.

As will be seen on the above pictures of our barograph trace, we first sensed its approach at 0900 GMT on Thursday 11 January when our pressure was 1012 millibars, and its centre passed over ourselves at 1000 GMT on Friday 12 January when our pressure was 962 millibars.  this is a drop of 50 millibars in just 24 hours.

One of the interesting facts about South Georgia is that all the ex-whaling station harbours are protected by the island's topography from winds blowing in the northerly quadrant.  Hence as the pressure fell on the approach of this depression, with winds initially from the north-east and latterly the north-west, the maximum wind strength detected by ourselves alongside the jetty at King Edward Point was 25 knots.  However once the centre had passed, the winds would now be from the southerly quadrant then the island's topography only serves to channel the winds down the glaciers and across those same harbours on the north side of the island.  By the time we left at 1200 GMT, the winds were already blowing at 35 knots.  Once clear of the KEP Bay the winds channel around the island often intensifying in bays - Willawaws - and around headlands.  One such headland produced gusts in excess of 70 knots on our passage towards the Falkland Islands.

Author Stuart Lawrence.

..we will be coming in to land momentarily ...

Editor's Note : Have you noticed on those American Airline flights how they always manage to say those immortal words ? What do they mean 'momentarily' ? Is it just me, or has anybody else noticed how the Americans always manage to get it wrong ? With all due respect to our American readership, I am always of the opinion after my eight-hour Transatlantic flight and upon approaching JFK international airport, my Jumbo 747 will hit the tarmac, do a couple of bounces, and then take off for another tedious eight hours of airplane food, uncomfortable seats, overcrowded cabin seating, and those little sachets of airline snacks - which are actually quite 'more-ish' and actually have you wishing the landing WILL only be 'momentarily'.

Our Service Agent here in the Falkland Islands is Myriam Ltd. She will be available for all your onward travel needs and BAS Airlines are happy to recommend Myriam's Landrover for all your internal island-hopping requirements while you are here in the Falklands.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank-you for flying with BAS Airways. We trust you enjoyed your flight this week and from Captain Lawrence and all his staff, we wish you a very pleasant onward journey, and we look forward to flying with you in the future.

Forthcoming events : Arrival at Mare Harbour in the Falkland Islands. Off loading two casualties to King Edward Medical Hospital in Stanley, and off-loading all the waste cargo from Halley and King Edward Point.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to your Captain, Stuart Lawrence for a very pleasant flight.

Diary 14 will be written on 21 January 2001 and should be published on the 22 January 2001.

Steve B January 14 January 2001

Weekly diary entries