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25 Feb - Adventures on the way to Montevideo

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: 36°29' South. 053°34' West.
Next destination: Montevideo, Uruguay.
ETA: 26 February 2001 at 0800 local time.
Distance to go: 165 nautical miles (approximately).
Total Distance Sailed: 20,730.8 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).
Current weather: Sunny, fine, sticky and warm.
Wind: EastSouthEast Force 5.
Barometric pressure: 1022.8 hp/mb.
Sea state: Smooth passage with a few white horses.
Air temperature: +23.6°C.
Sea temperature: +23.7°C.

Shackleton News banner

Big Ben cartoon

Here is the News on Sunday, the 25th February 2001 brought to you by your very own Announcer, Steve Buxton.

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And now here is the News in full ...

THE ANTARCTIC VESSEL, RRS ERNEST SHACKLETON was today limping back to port after another week of sailing around the South Atlantic seas dispelling rumours that the first-half crew were in fact all eager to remain aboard for the remainder of the Antarctic season.  When questioned by the interviewer for this news programme, a Mr Murdo Nicolson replied "'^*&*$&£&^)_()_+**%^%$&£..." at the suggestion that he should extend his time on board for the foreseeable future. He was quick to add that his views were not necessarily the views of the majority of his colleagues, but further research into the topic has proved that many are of Mr. Nicolson's opinion. One voice of dissension amongst the crew came from the radical, Mr Andrew Liddell who was heard to voice his desire to "stay on as long as possible". Mr Liddell comes from Cumbria. " That explains a great deal,.." said Mr. Nicolson.

KING EDWARD POINT, SOUTH GEORGIA, was once again the scene of invasion as RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived there this week. But the Germans were also there in force, and so South Georgia was 'doubly invaded'. M/s Bremen, the German-operated cruise ship, arrived on the morning of Monday 19 February to offer a port-of-call to the passengers who had been unable to land ashore at any of their planned destinations due to rough weather. Cumberland Bay offered them a safe anchorage from where they could run the passengers ashore to visit the Grytviken Whaling Station and Museum until their departure in the early afternoon. At the same time, RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived to go alongside King Edward Point. The ship was alongside and 'made fast' by 1400 hours and started working cargo immediately. Here the Base 'liberated' the ship of fresh supplies and luxuries for the 'troops', whilst the ship liberated some building waste and supplies for onward transhipment to Bird Island. All afternoon, cargo operations continued in a horizontal downpour of snow and the weather remained bad until the following morning when the ship was due to depart. Some FIDs took the opportunity to once again get ashore as they had done in Signy and despite the sheeting snow, they all got walks around Grytviken and the local area. The ship's visit also afforded the contractors building the Applied Fisheries Laboraory at King Edward Point an evening on board, away from the relative confinement of their small compound at King Edward Point. Socialising on board continued until well into the late evening and early morning, which was surprising since the scheduled 'retreat' of RRS Ernest Shackleton was planned for 0700 hours local time the following morning.
Also this evening Bremen returned once again having been defeated by the weather to make any landings for their passengers. They also returned the two-women South Georgia Environmental Assessment Party of Sally and Jenny - apparently their return impoved the Captain's evening !
In spite of the foul weather of Monday, there were no reported casualties.

DEPARTING KING EDWARD POINT AT 0700 HOURS, RRS Ernest Shackleton proceeded to steam along the South Georgia coastline to Bird Island all Tuesday morning. The day started with fair weather and sunshine but a brisk wind was reported 'ever present' throughout the day, and the arrival at Bird Island was around 1500 hours. So strong was the wind and so wild was the sea, that the ship only managed to do one transfer of cargo and personnel by Fast Rescue Craft before it departed at 1600 hours.  On Bird Island we 'captured' one Canadienne as Sascha Hooker was embarked, along with BAS's own guru on all matters 'Avian', Professor John Croxall.  Although the call was successful, we did not stay long before leaving as Bird Island is strictly for the birds !

LOTTERY FEVER GRIPS ANTARCTIC VESSEL. Yes, the crew of Ernest Shackleton were at fever pitch this week as we anxiously awaited the results to come in on the fax or e-mail. Who had won an all-expenses-paid trip home ? When were we going to get home ? How were we going to get home ? Were we ever going to get home ??? As we waited to discover if we had flights and what flight numbers they were, speculation ran high as to the probable availability of a direct flight back to the UK. On the morning of Wednesday 21 February, the details were received over the satellite and the winners could finally be announced ! Everyone had won a trip home ! And what a trip home it promises to be ?? Travelling initially back down towards the south and Argentina, the crew of Shackleton had been lucky in securing flights via Buenos Aires, New York and London to their onward destinations. Don't miss next week's lucky draw when it will be a 'roll-over' for a lucky few who are staying on till the Falkland Islands ! What numbers will they pick out of the Lottery Draw of aeroplane flights ?


'Twas a brae licked moonlit nite', and RRS Ernest Shackleton was bouncing around as she is wont to do on the rough seas of the South Atlantic. Things that go 'bump in the night' were going 'bump' in the night. In fact, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were not too comfortable for those with a weak stomach at sea. However, it was even worse further to the Northeast where our 'combined invasion' friend of South Georgia - the cruise ship M/s Bremen - was making very heavy weather of it. At 0629 local time on Thursday morning, RRS Ernest Shackleton intercepted a distress call. 'Mayday Mayday Mayday' came the words over the radio, and it was soon established that M/sBremen was in trouble only 250 nautical miles away to the Northeast. She was reported to be drifting ' not under command ' after a giant wave had smashed the windows of the bridge and flooded all the controls.

RRS Ernest Shackleton, apparently being the only vessel to intercept this Mayday call, estimated that the quickest arrival time to her position was 20 hours and so Captain Lawrence immediately changed course. Further radio calls ensued and a 'channel' was kept open with Bremen on the radio so that she was in constant contact. The weather throughout was reported to be improving and well 'down' to just severe Gale Force 9 winds and by 0800 local time, she reported that she was underway, having established control of her engines and steering from a remote position. Doing a speed of 5 knots she was heading north and her destination changed from Rio De Janeiro to a port of refuge, possibly Montevideo, for emergency repairs. Every two hours Bremen would update Shackleton with her position, course and speed and an intercept course was plotted to bring the two vessels together as rapidly as possible, estimated to be at 0600 hours local time on the morning of Friday 23 February.

The M/s Bremen seen from the Shackleton. Click on image to enlargeClick on image to 'close' on the M/s Bremen seen at a distance from RRS Ernest Shackleton.

At 0531 hours on Friday morning, M/s Bremen was sighted from Ernest Shackleton and with no immediate assistance required, they then proceeded on a course of 310 degrees at 12 knots on a track towards the Rio Plata. Radio communications were now constantly sent by line-of-sight radio and the full details of her situation became known. The wave through her bridge had wiped out all of the electronic and control instrumentation on the bridge and even the charts were flooded. She had no radar, no echo sounder, no main VHF radio, no navigation lights and no gyro compass. All that remained operational was her Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate her position and her magnetic compass for steering. The nautical charts were being 'dried out' in the warm funnel space ! During Friday morning Shackleton took station ahead of them so that they could follow our course, which was fine until late morning, when a fog descended on the two ships, and RRS Ernest Shackleton had to become the 'eyes and ears' of M/s Bremen who was unable to see through the (often) zero visibility.

The weekend thereafter remained pretty uneventful. Sailing about one nautical mile ahead of Bremen assisted by our autopilot, radars and all that good technology, Bremen was able to simply follow in our wake as best as her steering would allow. Many were the comparisons of the old 'convoys' where ships would proceed in this fashion as a matter of course ! By Sunday lunchtime, there remained less than 24 hours more before entering the River Plate and relinquishing our responsibility for the cruise ship to the Argentinean pilotage. Regular checks were kept throughout between the two ships to verify speed and course and distances and E.T.A at the pilot station. Considering our detour to the 'distress scene' on Thursday morning, we had maintained a good speed and made up for lost time to be able to arrive as scheduled for our call in Montevideo.

Sunday afternoon also saw the first sign of anyone else, into the plight of Bremen, when an Argentinean coastal spotter plane over-flew M/s Bremen and ourselves for up to twenty minutes. This certainly drew the crowds on RRS Ernest Shackleton and must have impressed the passengers on the cruise ship too.

Argentinean coastal spotter plane. Click on image to enlargeWas this a heavily disguised Twin Otter ? - or could it be a Boeing 747 coming to take us home ???
At this range, who could tell ? Oh, for a telescopic lens !


PB Bear is going home. It is time for PB to hang up his Antarctic Explorer's hat for this season and fly home to St.Cuthbert's School where I am sure he will be able to 'dine out' for many weeks on the tales he has to tell of his travels down south where the snow is cool, and the PB Bear is 'Cooler'.

PB bear and Bob on the way into Montevideo. Click on image to enlarge

Click on images to enlarge PB Bear and Bob

PB bear and Bob taking tea in the Yellow Room. Click on image to enlarge

Bob the Purser joins PB on the handrails as we enter Montevideo (on Monday) but first it is time for a civilized cup of tea in the Yellow Room. PB shows off his latest 'antarctic outfit'. BUT PB, it is + 25.3 degrees C here in Uruguay !!! You should be in your swimming trunks !!

PB Bear wishes to thank all his friends and the readers back home for continuing to support him and send wishes and congratulations for his endeavours, and he hopes he can repeat the journey sometime soon. But PB has now to give way to another Antarctic Explorer, Angus McTangus, the bear from Perthshire in Scotland. PB will be handing over to Angus when he arrives with the rest of us in Montevideo on Monday morning, and we hope Angus has as nice a time down at the South Pole as PB Bear did. You can read about the Adventures of Angus McTangus in these pages from next week, but meanwhile, it's 'Goodbye' from PB Bear and 'Hello' to England.

Beware of Polar Bears sign. Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge.
Have a safe journey PB Bear, and thanks for joining us on RRS Ernest Shackleton !!!.

The journey north from Bird Island to Montevideo saw some very changeable weather indeed. We started the trip in storm-force gales of the type that can damage a ship's bridge windows ! But latterly, the change in temperatures and weather was very pronounced indeed. One day we were wearing coats on deck and the next moment, some of the FIDs were baring their chests to the elements and running the gauntlet of a quick sunburn ! The good weather brought the FIDs out onto the decks in their droves. Here we picture two such drove-members exercising their right to hide from the warm sun and keep sensibly in the shade. Spot Sascha and John on the Monkey island doing what FIDs do best!!!...

FIDs in the sun. Click on image to enlargeClick on the image to see what they are reading ! A summery day on the decks.

Forthcoming events : Arrive at the Recalada Pilot Station in the River Plate and relinquish the escort of M/s Bremen to the Argentinean Pilotage Authorities. Good Luck to the Master and Crew of M/s Bremen and may your refit in Buenos Aires be a swift and successful one. Then arrival of RRS Ernest Shackleton in Montevideo on Monday at around 0800 local time. Disembarking most of the FIDs onboard and the start of their journeys through South America and homeward. Then crew change for Captain Stuart Lawrence's crew on Wednesday and Thursday of next week, welcoming on board the crew of Captain John Marshall.

RRS Ernest Shackleton will depart Montevideo for the Falkland Islands on Thursday 1 March, to pick up the ship's schedule again with a departure from Mare Harbour on or around March 8 2001.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to all those who contributed to the webpages over this season so far. Your help has been greatly appreciated.  Especial thanks to Captain Stuart and his 'Red Biro' for turning 'pure fiction' into 'questionable fact !'

Next Week the diaries will be written once again by Mike Gloistein the founder web-editor of the Shackleton Diaries. Happy Editing Mike.

Diary 20 will be written on 04 March 2001 and should be published on 05 March 2001.

Steve B 25 February 2001

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