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28 Jan - Arrival at King Edward Point

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: Alongside at King Edward Point, South Georgia. 54°13' South. 036°26' West.
Next destination: Signy Island, South Orkneys via Bird Island and the uplift of an oceanographic sensor.
ETA: 1 February 2001 (dependent on the departure date from King Edward Point).
Distance to go: 650.0 nautical miles (approximately).
Total Distance Sailed: 15828.4 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Changeable weather. Bright with sunshine interspersed with showers and reduced visibility.
Wind: A sheltered Westerly Force 4 in Cumberland Bay.
Barometric pressure: 993.4 hp/mb.
Sea state: Alongside.
Air temperature: 11.5°C.
Sea temperature: 2.9°C.


Hospital ship cartoon


Hearse ship cartoon

At the start of the week, RRS Ernest Shackleton had deposited its invalids ashore in Mare Harbour, and they had received care and attention at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Stanley before being flown onward to their homes. This week, Shackleton took on a totally different guise as new joiners in the Falkland Islands brought a little something extra with them, and colds and flu ran rife throughout the ship this week. Pass the Kleenex !!!

Once a cold or flu bug gets onboard the vessel, the air conditioning is largely responsible for distributing it all around the ship. Being a captive audience, there are only a lucky few who can avoid catching it. The rest of us suffer. Hot toddies and plenty of Lemsips are our only salvation !

It was a blustery Sunday alongside Mare Harbour. No cargo work occurred that day as the main crane was undergoing a major hydraulic oil change. It was blustery when work started again on Monday, with the loading of fresh produce for the Antarctic stations and loading of cargo for Bird Island, King Edward Point, Signy and Halley, and then it developed into a wet and miserable day. The weather did not preclude the Dash-7 aircraft flying into Stanley from Rothera, and so we embarked three of Morrison's personnel in the late afternoon bound for King Edward Point. The Scandinavian contractors finishing work on the Rothera project were being re-assigned for the completion of the new Applied Fisheries Research Station at King Edward Point, South Georgia.

Tuesday was a bit of a highlight onboard. Not only did it see the arrival of the Tristar from the UK, and therefore the remainder of our South Georgia-bound passengers, but also a visiting dignitary, Baroness Scotland. She was en route to Rothera but she broke her journey from Mount Pleasant Airport (MPA) to Stanley at Mare Harbour, and was welcomed onboard by the Captain. In company with the Governor of the Falkland Islands Mr Donald Lamont, the BAS Director, The High Commissioner for the British Antarctic Territory, Frances Saunders, Bruce Smith and David Cairns, they were all given a brief tour around the vessel.

Bob blowing out the honours for the birthday boys. Click on image to enlargeNot to be overshadowed by this VIP visit, was the double-birthday celebration of Captain Stuart Lawrence and Bob Roullier the ETO onboard. It was a quiet affair consisting of a glass of wine to toast their health at dinner and a rather excellent Chocolate and Walnut Birthday Cake provided by our very own catering department. Here we see Bob doing the 'honours' by blowing out the candles for both birthday boys !.


A 'Round Robin' is the best way to spend £42 in the Falkland Islands. There are a number of small twin engine 'Islander' aircraft which are operated by the Falkland Islands Government. Most of the islands have a landing strip of one kind or another. The routes followed by the aircraft vary from day to day depending on who is going where. A 'round Robin' means you just book a seat on the plane and stay onboard for a look around wherever it happens to be going in the islands that day. Mine lasted about three hours and took me from MPA to Port Howard, Saunders Island, Weddel Island and back via Port Howard. I was lucky on two counts, firstly this route took me well out west where we are unlikely to get to on BAS ships, and secondly I had the co-pilot's seat - This means you get the headphones and a hell of a view.

I started the trip wondering if I was out of luck. I could see there was a bit of a cross wind and rainy clouds hung fairly low on the hills while I waited for my plane. I was reassured by an RAF guy who said that the only thing that stops the Islanders around here is fog. Sure enough we were airborne and sliding sideways down the runway up into the rain before long. It soon cleared as we headed out west to Port Howard.

Nothing could be further from being crammed in the back of a passenger jet. The sense of speed as you fly low over the ridges and past the hills results in a ridiculously large grin which is impossible to get rid of until the plane comes to a stop, it seems that flying a little low gives a big high!.

The approach to Port Howard. Click on image to enlargeThis photo is taken on the approach to Port Howard. The settlement is visible to port and the strip is the field ahead. Not visible in this photo is a rocky ridge up to starboard from which we descended steeply to line up for landing. This whole manoeuvre all seemed to me to happen in a very small piece of sky. What is not apparent from the picture is that when you touch down just over the fence the landing strip is so bumpy that only about a third of the strip is visible, the rest being obscured behind the first 'bump'. I would think it takes a good degree of skill to avoid being launched skyward as you tear over the top of the bump, either way it must look pretty smart when viewed from the landrover with its fire extinguisher parked at the far end of the strip which seems to be doubling as the airport terminal here.

We were only on the ground a few minutes, one or two people got on and off, the pilot kicked the mud off his boots, checked his weights and then we were airborne again for Saunders Island.

The flight to Saunders Island was the most impressive, the terrain became quite rocky on either side of us as we flew down the valleys and across the short stretch of water to the small bumpy clay strip at Saunders Island. Pretty soon though we were airborne again bound for Weddel Island. As we began the turn for the strip near the settlement at Weddel Island I got the camera out. "Hold on a minute" said the pilot, "I'll just go along here a bit further for a better shot", so he banked off to port before circling above the settlement as seen below. This must definitely make FIGAS the most customer friendly airline I have flown with to date.

View of Weddel Island. Click on image to enlargeWhen we touched down on Weddel Island I had a chance to stretch a leg. From where I stood, a short stroll from the plane, there was only a gentle breeze rustling through the grass field that counts for a runway around here, a Landrover and extinguisher that counts for a terminal around here and a hilly scene that counts for fine scenery anywhere. It was a lovely day in South West Falklands.

Weddel Island. Click on image to enlargeAll too soon I was back at MPA waving goodbye to the plane and laughing at the trail of mud, grass and sheep droppings the islander's wheels left on the otherwise pristine tarmac. That was the end of one hell of a trip. If only flying was as easy as the pilot had made it look.

Author: Robin Kilroy

With the additional 13 FIDs onboard, we had a total of 35 persons when we finally departed Mare Harbour for Bird Island on Wednesday afternoon. But apart from the multitude of passengers, we also received additional airfreight on the Airbridge and mail for all points south. David Walton, Head of the BAS Environment and Information Division joined on the last days after having completed all his duties ashore in the Falklands, and we put to sea at 1300 hours. During the afternoon as the wind increased to Force 6 the swell promised to give a 'bumpy ride'. However, the wind was from the West Sou'West meaning the wind and seas were behind us, blowing us along our track. So in spite of high winds and a rolling swell, the passage was relatively smooth throughout the whole of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The new FIDs enjoyed a familiarisation muster on board on Wednesday afternoon, and boarded the boats in the full emergency drill regalia. Life jacket, warm clothing, sensible shoes etc. They all settled in quickly and agreed that RRS Ernest Shackleton was really 'the business'. When they woke the following morning, they were greeted with the sight of several icebergs dotted around the ship. We passed 70+ bergs between the 55th and 53rd West meridians. The captain confirmed this was exceptional as we had not yet crossed the Antarctic Convergence. These appear to be the result of a large berg which has broken into many smaller bergs but each of the ones we encountered was sizeable. We reached Bird Island around 0830 hours on Saturday 27 January.

At Bird Island, the conditions were considered too rough to attempt an immediate relief of the station. At first, the ship cruised up and down off Bird Sound waiting for the sea conditions to improve. It was really too rough to launch the workboat Tula but there was a promise of an improvement from the weather forecast and the satellite images. After lunch the weather had marginally improved, so the decision was taken to launch the Fast Rescue Craft and a rigid inflatable to achieve the transfer of the most immediate cargo and collect Mr John Newman from Bird Island. Amid rough seas and a large swell, the boats were successfully launched and each carried out two trips to complete the transfer of cargo and personnel. Unfortunately, this precluded any 'jollies' by the new FIDs onboard but they got to see the well-oiled machinary of Antonio, Robin, Andy and the boys playing in little boats in big seas.

Having kept our visit to Bird Island short, we set sail north around the island and down the north-east coastline towards Cumberland Bay and King Edward Point. This only required a speed of five knots for an arrival time early the next morning so it was a quiet and much calmer night at sea. The ship was protected from the westerly weather once in the lee of the land, and had no trouble in arriving at King Edward Point on Sunday Morning. When we arrived, it was very misty, but by the time we were alongside at 0830 hours, the mist had started to dissipate, the sun was breaking through the cloud and patches of blue welcomed the newcomers to a sunny and pleasant day at King Edward Point.

King Edward Point panorama (1). Click on image to enlarge King Edward Point panorama (2). Click on image to enlarge King Edward Point panorama (3). Click on image to enlarge

A Panoramic view of the New King Edward Point Base on a pleasant Sunday Morning.


It is not all fun and games in Antarctica ! Some of us have to work, and even PB Bear was 'getting in on the act' this week when we arrived at King Edward Point. The Morrisons construction site is usually no place for a bear, but since there are penguins and seals wandering around the beach, then why shouldn't a bear ???

PB Bear walking down the main street. Click on image to enlargeHere we see PB Bear walking down the 'main street' at the new building site. There are containers in red on the right which houses the building materials, and there are 'containers' in blue on the left which houses the building workers ! Can you imagine living in half a container for four months ?? Luckily if you are only a small bear then there is more than enough room ! But PB has just come from the dining room in Shackleton House which is coloured green and you can see it on the hill in the background.

PB looking the other way back from the building site .Click on image to enlargeAnd here we have a really pretty picture of PB looking the other way back from the building site to the jetty where the ship is moored, and to Grytviken and Mount Hodges in the background. Trust PB Bear to get ashore at King Edward Point on the nicest day of the year ???

But don't worry, we will get PB Bear back onboard before we sail for Signy and Halley. We are not letting him out of our sight or he may go missing again. You know how he loves to travel .

Forthcoming events : Passage to Signy and land three more scientific personnel and start the passage to Halley station for the last call of the season, plus the possible retrieval of one of the oceanographic capsules from the Proudman Oceanographical 'Multi Year Release Timed Experiment' Buoy (MYRTLE) which had been deployed by our sister vessel RRS James Clark Ross a few years previously.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Robin'Co-pilot'Kilroy for his aeronautical entry.

Diary 16 will be written on 04 February 2001 and should be published on 05 February 2001.

Steve B 28 January 2001

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