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21 Jan - Legless in the Falklands

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: Alongside in Mare Harbour FI. 51°54' South. 058°26' West.
Next destination: Bird Island and King Edward Point, South Georgia.
ETA: 27 January 2001 (depending on the departure date from the Falkland Islands).
Distance to go: 743.4 nautical miles.
Total Distance Sailed: 15085.0 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Grey and overcast, but warm and fair weather.
Wind: Light airs.
Barometric pressure: 987.1 hp/mb.
Sea state: Large swell.
Air temperature: 11.5°C.
Sea temperature: 12.4°C.


Mask cartoonHey Nonny, Nonny. 'Shall I compare thee to a week alongside in Mare Harbour ?' 'It is the East Cove, and January has no sun !' 'Tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps on this petty cargo work !!!' Okay, so it's not quite Shakespeare, but the dramatics continue apace on board RRS Ernest Shackleton, this week. In the First Act, we arrived back at the Falkland Islands, and discharged two of our cast - or should I say 'two in casts' !! After the brief intermission the story continued with a complex plot of cargo discharge and then loading, followed by the epilogue of relaxation and recreation. Time for a 'play'. So with this foreword from the narrator, let the play begin ... BREAK A LEG !


Michelle puts her legs up for a little relaxation. Click on image to enlarge Andy reclines after a hard day at the office! Click on image to enlarge

Michelle puts her legs up for a little relaxation
Andy reclines after a hard day at the office !
Click on images to enlarge

The Hospital Ship Ernest Shackleton bounced around at sea on Sunday 14 January still feeling the aftermath of the South Georgia depression (low pressure system) that troubled us for the most of the last week. The barometer peaked around the middle of afternoon, but luckily, the 'roller coaster' rise and fall of the Southern Ocean pressure system eased in the evening to allow a much more comfortable passage into Monday morning. Monday was also spent at sea but the weather was kinder and the seas calmer, although the wind was still Force 6 (30 mph) from the westnor'west. As a result of an attempt to ease the vessel's motion in the 'heavy weather' experience on the passage from South Georgia, we did not make the anticipated arrival in the Falkland Islands on Monday evening, but arrived instead at 08.30 hours on Tuesday. As messages had been sent ahead arranging for an Ambulance, a real one (with wheels) was there to meet our invalids as we arrived alongside.

By 09.00 Wendy and her team of stretcher bearers had negotiated both Michelle and Andy ashore to the Ambulance which took them away for further care and attention at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Stanley. Subsequent reports from the hospital informed us that Andy would have to wait a further week before a flight was available to take him home, and Michelle was given medical attention before her flight back to the United States on Saturday 20 January. We end this saga with a wish that their onward travel will be smoother, and send them both our best wishes for a speedy recovery.


Discharge of cargo started almost immediately alongside on Tuesday morning. All the Morrison's waste and Halley waste was landed during Tuesday, as the weather turned rainy and work had to be continued in very wet conditions. The weather all week has been changeable alongside with high winds and rain one moment, and sunshine and calm the next. Once the waste was landed, all those 1700 empty fuel drums had to be landed, and this began on Wednesday. Empty containers were craned into the hold intp which all the drums were rolled and stacked inside by the deck crew. This time-consuming operation was not completed until Thursday afternoon thanks to :-

On Wednesday afternoon the vessel had to take the only available opportunity to obtain bunkers, other than by road tanker (which would have taken forever and interfered with cargo work). Thus at 1300 hours the vessel slipped her moorings and proceeded out to Mare Harbour to do a refuelling operation from the Single Point Mooring (SPM) with the aid of Seabulk Condor. Seabulk Condor retrieved the hoses floating by the SPM and passed them up to the bunkering station on the deck of RRS Ernest Shackleton and then 503 cubic metres of diesel oil were transferred. As this operation had not been previously attempted between ourselves and Seabulk Condor it was quite slow and hence it was late in the evening before the operation was successfully concluded . As twilight turned to darkness, Shackleton made her way back alongside the Main Jetty ready to resume cargo operations in the morning.

Seabulk Condor manouevering around Saint Brandan. Click on image to enlarge Seabulk Condor alongside Ernest Shackleton. Click on image to enlarge Returning to the Main Jetty. Click on image to enlarge

(Left) Seabulk Condor manouevering around Saint Brandan off the Main Jetty. (Middle) Seabulk Condor alongside Ernest Shackleton at the SPM, and (Right) Returning to the Main Jetty as the sun sets in the West. Click on images to enlarge

The rest of the week involved the completion of the discharge, and then the loading of cargo for King Edward Point and Halley in preparation for our mid-week departure from the Falkland Islands. As all this was happening, an ongoing program of maintenance and repairs was being undertaken by the technical/engineering departments onboard. There is always something to do. 'The show is never over until the fat lady sings' and she was certainly not in evidence this week. The Engineers were pulling the No.1 Main engine apart to replace the No.5 cylinder head (port engine), and there were tests to be done on the steering gear too. But by Saturday night all the cargo was loaded, the engine was back together, and the crew could start to look forward to a well-earned day's R&R in the Falklands. Walks to Bertha's Beach were undertaken, shopping trips to Stanley, a night time meal out in town on Friday evening, cycle rides by the Communications Officer, visits to MPA for all manner of distractions and a Friday Night BBQ at the 'Harbour Lights' here at Port Ops in Mare Harbour itself. There is no limit to the number of amusements to be found if you are inventive enough to find them. Wendy the dentist booked into the Upland Goose Hotel at the weekend in order to be available for an early morning flight out to Sea Lion Island for the day. (We will get her to write a precis of her adventures ready for next week !).

EXIT, Stage Right !

We sailed into Mare Harbour with seven FIDs onboard. Today we are down to 21 crew only, and even our resident dentist has 'flown the coop' in pursuit of a mid-season break. The first two to disembark were Michelle and Andy on the Tuesday Morning. Trish, John, Mike and Gary were the next off. They departed on Wednesday in time for the UK flight to the UK. This left only Professor Jo Arendt, and Jo waited around for her Lan Chile flight over to South America. Jo was to join her husband there for a two-week jolly around the continent before flying homeward to England. Cheerful farewells ensued as she departed on Saturday afternoon, but the bulk of the 'Goodbyes' had been said in a little presentation that the crew and FIDs arranged for her on Monday night before arriving in the Falklands.

The Captain announced on the Public Address System that all off-duty personnel and FIDs should congregate in the Yellow room for some 'additional information' concerning our arrival in the Falkland Islands. So what a surprise it was when Jo walked into the room to find a nice array of 'nibbles' and drinks awaiting her. Even the crutch-bound Andy had managed to get carried into the room for this communal 'farewell' to a really popular lady. Jo had been onboard for the six-week round-trip to Halley and back and had taken to our hearts. She was very touched indeed by the presentation of a ship's plaque and voyage-chart, as the Master said a few words of farewell. Then we all wished her 'bon voyage' and we look forward to welcoming her back on board the vessel another year.

Novices Guide to Antarctica. (Anon -to be revised)
Everyone, over an area of about 10,000 square miles, knows everyone else.
Most of them have survived against incredible odds and are Polar heroes.
The Falkland Islands are variegated shades of khaki-which means that the military buildings look just right.
A lot of the Southern Hemisphere seems to be UK territory.
Everything more or less is known by its initials: MPA, FID, FRC, KEP, RBLT, XBT, A23 etc etc. Unless you find out rapidly what all this gobbledegook means you won't know where you are or what you are doing. It is particularly dangerous to confuse XBTs with RBLTs.
Ice breaking is extremely enjoyable.
The ship's food is so good it is possible to put on two stone between Grimsby and Halley whilst working out every day.
People get off ships in flying baskets. Yes, really. This is not a joke.
Halley (75°S) in late December is warmer than most of the UK. And much more fun.
The sky is a slightly different colour from the rest of the world (no pollution?).
The sea is an incredible blue-green-black amongst the ice.
Icebergs can be identified as coming from a specific ice shelf, rather like fine wine. More from the body than the bouquet however.
With practice it is possible to drink cups of tea standing upright, without holding on to the ship, in hurricane force winds, without spilling a drop.
You get very attached to ships which have carried you safely through monstrous seas.
Fur seals are not soft cuddly little beasts. They are aggressive, dangerous and always hiding behind tussock grass ready to get you.
Elephant seals know nothing about rights of way. They also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
South Georgia is one of the most stunning places in the world.
Wrecked and rusting whaling stations are beautiful and haunting places.
Moulting penguins clearly need some Prozac.
Icebergs, albatrosses, petrels, prions, terns, skuas are compulsive viewing at all times and in all weathers.
It takes at least half an hour to get all the cold weather gear on - and then you're too hot.
Emperor penguin chicks are both charming and obedient. Nursemaid penguins behave just like middle-aged school teachers did 40 years ago.
You have the persistent impression that some benevolent deity is keeping an eye on you and making sure all is well. This is a very nice feeling.

Author Jo Arendt

'Once More Unto The MPA Dear Friends'

I like the MPA (Mount Pleasant Airport) Complex. I always thought MPA had a lot to offer vis-a-vis the Bowling Alley, the Movies, the various bars, the 'open -all-hours' NAAFI shops and a very useful transportation facility to and from Mare Harbour every hour or so. Compared to a twice-a-day, one hour, coach ride to Stanley where the distractions are limited to a few shops and a few bars/cafes. There is really nothing very much on offer in town, especially at the weekend when the shops are closed. But when it was confirmed that MPA even boasted a small golf course of its own, it went up even more in my estimation. Thus it was that myself and Robert the Second Engineer went in pursuit of yet another of the Falkland Islands golf courses !

Leaving Shackleton at 0930 (having missed the aforesaid regular transport !), we walked towards MPA. It was not very long before a Sherpa from the NEFI complex near to Mare Harbour stopped and offered us a lift. That is one attribute about the Falkland Islands that is very gratifying. People are not afraid to stop and offer pedestrians a lift. This is something that seems to have sadly died out in the 'civilised world'. But I suspect the Falklands is more 'civilised' in this one aspect than other countries. Accepting a lift, we were deposited outside 12 Facility on the MPA complex by 1000. We said 'thank you' for the lift and made our way directly to the Gymnasium where we could obtain golf equipment.

The Fee for playing a round of golf and the hire of the two sets of golf clubs amounted to the grand sum of NOTHING. The military just took our signatures for the use of the clubs and we were ready to go. We made our way from 12 Facility and out onto the golf course which is rough hewn out of the scrub between the buildings and the airfield. Rough, it is, but small, compact and highly challenging too. That is my estimation of the MPA golf course. There are no trees to fire your golfball into here, but there is a natural water obstacle which I found out when I sliced my ball into a particularly 'marshy' bit of ground. It is only 9 holes long, but twice around the course makes a perfectly passable 18 holes !

Rob on the MPA Golf Course. Click on image to enlarge Steve on the MPA Golf Course. Click on image to enlarge

Rob and Steve on a very blustery MPA Golf Course.
Click on images to enlarge.

It was a very blustery day for golf, but it did not deter us from having a great game, from losing several golf balls, and for watching an RAF Chinook 'playing' above our heads or the RAF Tristar taking off in the distance behind the fifth green!

Author Steve-the-Golfer.

Is it a bird ? Is it a plane ? NO, It's PB Bear.

PB Arrives at Mare Harbour. Click on image to enlarge PB Gets An Evening Meal. Click on image to enlarge PB in bed - tuckered out! Click on image to enlarge

PB Arrives at Mare Harbour, Gets An Evening Meal, and Straight to Bed - Tuckered Out !!!.
Click on images to enlarge.

To all the children and staff of St.Cuthbert's School, we would like you to know that PB Bear is finally here. Despite his many and varied adventures, PB has returned from the Antarctic continent to pay us a visit and has agreed to stay onboard RRS Ernest Shackleton for another visit down to Halley. (He says he likes Halley best !). He would like everyone at home to know that he is well (apart from a slight sniffle) and is looking forward to some more adventures to add to his list. He was just waiting there with his little suitcase when we sailed into Mare Harbour on Tuesday and acted as if he had not a care in the world. Little did he know how much concern he was giving the crew of the ship, who had not known where on earth he was these last weeks ? But fear not. He had a wonderful Christmas in a two-bear tent on the Antarctic ice and he saw the New Year come in down the Antarctic Peninsula at Rothera station. This is one well-travelled Bear !!.

As PB Bear would say, 'To sleep, to sleep, to sleep. Perchance to dream'..  And we shall be dreaming up some more nonsense for the website next week.  Tickets for that performance are on sale in the Foyer.  Goodnight and drive home carefully !

Forthcoming events : Arrival at Bird Island to uplift Mr J Newman and transfer him to King Edward Point, South Georgia.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Steve the Golfer and Professor Jo Arendt.

Diary 15 will be written on 28 January 2001 and should be published on 29 January 2001.

Steve B 21 January 2001

Weekly diary entries