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14 Oct - Heading South

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC + 1 hour): 036°52'N  014°06'W
Next destination: Montevideo
ETA: November 03 2001, 1700 UTC.
Distance to go: 5000.5 NM
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 1337.5NM

Current weather: 
Wind:  SW x Force 4
Barometric pressure: 1019.5  mb
Sea state: Slight
Air temperature: 21.6°C.
Sea temperature: 20.9°C.

With all the cargo stowed and secured the Ernest Shackleton slipped the berth at Grimsby and headed out through the lock gates and into the river Humber on Monday morning at about 0830 UTC. Instead of turning right for the mouth of the river and the North Sea, we proceeded up the river to a berth at Immingham. The berth was not within the dock itself but alongside a jetty on the river. A bunker barge tied up alongside us and we proceed to take bunkers for the first part of our Antarctic voyage.

By late afternoon the bunkering operation had been completed and it was time to turn around and head out to sea. The forecast had not been ideal with strong head winds predicted and this would slow our passage to Portsmouth. All went well overnight and on Tuesday morning the weather was mixed, with sunshine one minute and heavy showers the next. The Dover Straights were busy as usual with lots of ferry traffic crossing the main Traffic Separation Lanes. For the journey towards Portsmouth the Ernest Shackleton was on the English side of the Channel, affording lovely views of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Some two hours after our passing there was a collision in the Channel, with one vessel sinking. The distress radio traffic was clearly heard onboard, and whilst all vessels would normally attend such an incident (traveling hundreds of miles if need be to help), there was no requirement for the Ernest Shackleton to assist due to the large volume of shipping in the immediate vicinity. On the local news that evening it was reported that all the crew were rescued safely.

HMS Victory seen from the Ernest Shacketon. Click to enlarge.Just as the sun was setting the ship made the approach to Portsmouth Harbour and berthed at the Victory Jetty, adjacent to HMS Victory, flagship of the Royal Navy.

On Wednesday morning a bunker barge came alongside, this time with Avcat, and this was pumped into special tanks at the aft of the ship. The original purpose of these tanks was for fueling helicopters, but this is not done within the British Sector of the North Sea. The Avcat will be used for bulk fueling at Halley, in an effort to reduce the number of drums of fuel that has to be discharged and so help speed up the base relief.

HMS Warrior. Click to enlarge. With bunkering finished by mid-day the vessel prepared to sail, departing the berth at 1400 and heading out once again into the English Channel. On the way out the ship passed HMS Warrior (the first ironclad warship).

The remainder of our journey down the Channel was uneventful and then we made the turn to take us south and down the Atlantic coast of Europe and into the Bay of Biscay at about 1500UTC on Thursday October 12. The weather remained fine and clear, although there was a strong wind, the initial indications were that it would be a comfortable crossing.

Thursday and Friday saw us passing across the Bay of Biscay in very good conditions. A swell started to build up on Friday but this just caused a pleasant, gentle rolling. Saturday was a lovely sunny day with a good breeze.

During this week the ship has changed clocks by two hours from UTC +1 to UTC -1 as we have continued to the west. This has been good as it means an extra hour in bed for all onboard during each change!

Taking full advantage of the warming weather, a start has been made on many outdoor jobs. This will continue for the passage to Montevideo. Also, with the sun available throughout the day, the Deck Officers have taken the opportunity to 'Shoot the Sun' to get position fixes. Whilst we have numerous satellite position fixing systems onboard, accurate to within less than one metre, it is always nice to see the traditional method being practiced.

Noel Lynam, 3rd Officer, about to shoot the sun. Click to enlarge. Third Officer Noel Lynam prepares to shoot the sun.

Forthcoming events: Passing Madiera on Monday morning.

The next update will be written on Sunday October 21.

Mike Gloistein