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15 Apr - Man Overboard !

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC - 3 hours: 30°13' South. 049°26' West.  Approximately 40nm off Brazilian coast and 100nm east of Porto Alegre.
Next destination: Grimsby, England.
ETA: 7 May 2001.
Distance to go: 5,894 nautical miles.
Total Distance Sailed: 28,446.5 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).

Current weather:
Wind: Variable x 12 kts.
Barometric pressure: 1017.4 mb steady.
Sea state: Slight.
Air temperature: 26.3°C.
Sea temperature: 23.4°C.
Last weather observation sent from RRS Ernest Shackleton

Our delayed departure from the Falkland Islands last Sunday meant that the ship was going to be a day behind schedule for arrival in Montevideo.  This was not helped by more poor weather on Monday and Tuesday, something that we are getting very used to ! By Tuesday it was obvious that we would not be able to make Montevideo on Wednesday at all and so a pilot was booked for 0700 on Thursday morning.

This then left us with some spare time,  so rather than arriving off Montevideo very late on Wednesday evening the ship stopped some sixteen miles off the coast of Argentina to conduct trials of the Dynamic Positioning (DP) equipment and thrusters,  including the Azimuth thruster.  Whilst all this was going on the ship was overflown by an Argentinian spotter aircraft that requested that we contact the local Coast Radio Station with all our details.   Since last in these waters the Argentine authorities,  in line with many other nations throughout the world,  have introduced a ship reporting system whereby any vessel within terrortorial waters is required to submit a passage plan.  This was duly done and we carried on with our trials.

One of the first things that we did was to conduct a Man Overboard (MOB) exercise.  Alas this did not involve throwing one of  the crew over the ships side,  but instead a rather good looking dummy.  The Chief Officer,  John Harper,  did the honours and then the alarm was raised with the Bridge.  Due to the design of the vessel it is very easy to stop in a short distance and this was done,  with lookouts keeping a close eye on the casualty,  and then the Fast Rescue Craft was launched to enable the rescue.  The medical team were standing by to provide first aid once the recovery was complete.   It took some fifteen minutes from  the time of the dummy being thrown overboard to its  recovery back on deck.

Man overboard!  Click to enlarge The dummy takes a dive!

As part of the DP trials two probes needed to be lowered through the hull of the ship into the water.  As these had not been used during our Antarctic operations,  they were sealed behind large sea valves.  Before the probles could be lowered these had to be opened by hand.  The probes were then locally lowered and raised before control was handed over to the Bridge for the Deck Officers to check out the Bridge equipment.    A transponder was placed in the water to the seabed (about 16m),  attached to a float buoy,  and the probes were then used to interrogate it.  This then provides the ship with a range and bearing to the transponder,  somthing that will be required during our North Sea operations.

During the period of trials there was an abundance of bird life around the ship and a sealion was also sighted a number of times.

With all the trials completed by 1700,  the ship then continued the final one hundred miles to Montevideo,  arriving early on Thursday morning.  The Pilot launch came out to meet us and the Pilot boarded at 0630,  at 0705  we entered port,  the first line went ashore at 0728 and at 0742  RFWE (Run Finished With Engines).

Due to our need to be back in the UK for early May,  our late arrival in Montevideo did not mean a late departure ! So the vessel prepared for sailing on Friday afternoon.  The Pilot boarded at 1440,  at 1510 we were all gone,  all clear.  The Pilot then guided the vessel out of the harbour and at 1555 disembarked safely to the Pilot launch.  At 1630 RRS Ernest Shackleton was Full Away On Passage (FAOP) towards Grimsby with some 6383 nm to go. All being well we should be arriving on Bank Holiday Monday 7th May.

Saturday morning saw us move from Uruguyan waters into Brazilian waters (again a passage plan was sent to the authorities) and we are currently following the coastline north towards Recife,  from where the ship will head out into the Atlantic and towards North Africa.

The proposed track along the Brazilian coast. Click to enlarge The proposed track of RRS Ernest Shackleton along the Brazilian coast.

On Sundy morning we passed the Lagoa Dos Patos (the Lake of the Two Ducks).  If one wanted to visit Porto Alegro,  it would be via this lake.

Brazil - A short biography:  The Federative Republic of Brazil (República Federative do Brasil) is the largest of the countries of South America and,  with an area of 8,511,996 km²,  is the fifth largest in the world.  It is bounded to the North and East by the Atlantic Ocean;  to the North-west by Guyane Française, Surinam,  Guyana and Venezuela;  to the West by Colombia,  Peru,  Bolivia,  Paraguay and Argentina;  and to the South by Uruguay.

The first European to land on the shores of Brazil was Pedro Álvares Cabral,  a Portugueses who sailed into Porto Seguro on 25 April 1500.  The coast,  in the vicinity of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, had first been sighted in January of that year by Pinzon,  a companion of Columbus,  but he had sailed on without landing.

After various expeditions by the English,  French and Spanish,  a thirty year struggle for possession of the country began between the  Dutch and the Portuguese in 1624.  The Dutch had held several settlements between Cabo de Sâo Roque and Aracaju,  but they were finally expelled from the country in 1654.

The Portuguese Royal family fled to Brazil,  in 1807,  as a result of the invasion of Portugal by the French and in 1815 Brazil became a kingdom.  They remained there until 1821 when the king returned to Portugual,  leaving his son Dom Pedro to accept the title of Emperor of Brazil.

The Brazilian Empire lasted until 1889 and was a period of social and economic progress.  Both Dom Pedro and his son introduced may reforms,  one of which,  the abolition of slavey,  turned the large landowners against Dom Pedro II and brought about the overthrow of the monarchy;   since 1889 Brazil has been a republic.

Brazil consists of twenty six States and one Federal District.  Each of these has its own administrative,  legislative and judicial authority and formulates its own constitution.  The Governors and members of the legislatures are elected every four years.

The unit of currency is the real (R$) of 100 centavos and this replaced the former cruzeiro on 1st July 1994.  There are notes of R$1, 5, 10,  50 and 100 along with coins of 1, 5, 10,  25, and 50 centavos.

The coastline of Brazil can be divided into three distinct natural regions:

  • From Cabo Orange (4°20'N 51°27'W) to Fortaleza (3°43'S 38°35'W) the coast is low, consisting almost entirely of sandy beaches or mud flats, backed by dunes or forest and usually fringed by shallow water with sandbanks and mudbanks.
  • Between Fortaleza and Cabo de Santa marta Grande (28°36'S, 48°49'W) the coast varies but is, in general, bolder particularly in the vicinity of Río de Janeiro where mountains rise close to the shore. There are also occasional long stretches of low, flat coast. Whilst most of this section of coast is steep-to there are, between Belmonte (15°52'S, 38°53'W) and Vitória (20°19'S, 40°16'W) depths of less than 35 m, including many dangers, which extend up to 120 miles offshore.
  • Between Cabo de Santa Marta Grande (32°10'S, 52°05'W) and Arroio Chui (33°44'S, 53°22'W) at the border with Uruguay, the coast consists of a continuous low, flat beach, broken occasionally by river mouths and backed by sand dunes. It is steep-to between Río Grande (32° 10'S, 52°05'W) and Arroio Chui where depths less than 35 m, including dangerous banks, extend up to 35 miles offshore.

Río Amazonas, with its great tributaries traverses the northen lowlands of Brazil from the slopes of Cordillera de los Andes to the Atlantic ocean. It forms the greatest river system in the world and provides up to 13,700 miles of navigable channels. The entire basin covers an area of 2.9 million square miles and is so flat that the slope from the Andes to the Atlantic falls no more than 76m. Río Amazonas, including its upper part, known as Río Marañon, is about 3500 miles long.

Brazil is unique in that it is the only part of the world where there are large tracts of country virtually untouched by man. Its flora includes more than 20,000 species of trees, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world and its fauna includes ant-eaters, tapir and humming birds and many other species peculiar to the country. The rivers teem with fish and reptiles with many species peculiar to the Amazon basin.

Forthcoming events:  Continue north, enjoy the weather. Prepare for North Sea operations.

The next page will be written on the 22 April 2001 and should be published on the 23 April 2001.


Weekly diary entries