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07 May - Grimsby and some 'Special' Passengers

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 UTC + 1 hours: Almost home again - Bull Anchorage, just off Spurn Head.
Total Distance Sailed This Season: 34,339.3 nautical miles (Since departing Hull, England on 19 October 2000).

Our final week at sea proved to be, for want of a better word, awful! Since last week we have pitched, pitched and pitched, a far from pleasant experience. Even our satellite communication system got fed up with it and decided to stop working mid-week! The wind did not let up, always from the north and with it a northerly sea.

Then, as if by magic, Saturday dawned with a clear blue sky and little wind. The sea had dropped and suddenly ErnestShackleton was doing about 16 knots (much improved on the 10 to 11 knots of the past week). This then meant a glimmer of hope for arriving in Grimsby on the morning tide of May 7. With the French coast (Brest) visible in the early afternoon, it proved a lovely day's steaming. The evening, with the setting sun was delightful and really was the sort of weather that we should have been having for the previous two weeks.

However it was short lived. As Sunday dawned the weather had decided that it would revert to its usual strong wind and rough seas.

Sunday afternoon and Ernest Shackleton was passing through the Dover Strait. Due to the Traffic Separation Scheme operated here the ship was on the French side of the channel. The Traffic Separation Schemes are designed to keep vessels travelling in either direction apart, but to add to this there is then all the traffic from the UK to France that crosses the scheme. It makes for a busy time for the Deck Officers, constantly having to monitor all the shipping around and about.

It was also on Sunday afternoon that the glimmer of a Monday morning arrival faded and the decision was made that docking would be on Monday afternoon.

This final web page is being written as the vessel waits at anchor, at the Bull Anchorage, just off Spurn Head, for the water to rise and the Pilot to board.

All being well Ernest Shackleton will finish this Antarctic season at about 1900 BST when we hope to be tied fast to the quay side of the East Commercial Dock, Grimsby.

The Aquarium, by Jenny Beaumont

Every year, live specimens are transported to the UK from the Antarctic. These include a variety of mosses and grasses, and also marine vertebrates and invertebrates for biologists back in the UK.

The transit aquarium. Click to enlarge A refrigerated container is used to keep the specimens as close as possible to the normal Antarctic temperatures, with water temperatures around 0°C. There are 6 tanks inside the container, each one having its own bio-filter and water pump attached to help keep the water circulating and the water quality good. Two powerful air pumps also provide a continuous flow of cold air through the tanks, to keep the oxygen levels in the water high enough for the animals to survive.

Water quality is very important to keep the animals healthy, so to help the filters, regular water changes are made. Once we left the Antarctic the water temperature in the sea became too warm to simply pump fresh sea water into the tanks, reaching up to almost 30°C over the tropics, so water is cooled in a separate refrigerated container for a few days before it is used.

The animals on board include a variety of different fish species, the largest of which is the Antactic cod (N. coriiceps), and the smallest being the Harpagifer or Plunder fish - a very colourful little fish that lives camouflaged under small rocks. Amongst the invertebrates in the transport aquarium are some giant isopods, amphipods, sea cucumbers, starfish, snails, sea spiders, limpets, clams and burrowing sea-anemones. These species all live well within our diving range, and most of them are caught by hand, with the exception of the larger Antarctic cod which are generally caught in diver-laid fyke nets.

An Antarctic cod. Click to enlarge This is the largest of the fish species that we have in the transport aquarium this year. It is an Antarctic cod - N.coriiceps.

Sea-spiders. Click to enlarge The sea-spiders can grow up to 12 inches across in parts of the Antarctic, although these are only about 5 inches.

Giant isopod - Glyptonotus. Click to enlarge This is a giant isopod, Glyptonotus. Very similar to the isopods we get back in the UK (woodlice, sealice etc.) but this species grows up to about 6 inches at Rothera.

The Lemon - M.mollis. Click to enlarge The Lemon - M. mollis. This is in fact a sea snail. The shell is underneath a soft, bright yellow outer. They grow to about 4 inches across.

This is the last report of the 2000/2001 Antarctic Season. RRS Ernest Shackleton will be starting a commercial charter on Sunday 13 May 2001 for 120 days. This work will be similar to that undertaken last summer.

It is hoped to be able to produce a web page during this period, although it will probably not be weekly.

Mike Gloistein

Weekly diary entries