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23 Dec - Waiting to get to Halley

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC - 3 hours): 72°16'S  026°52'W
Next destination: Halley
ETA: Unknown at this time
Distance to go: 208.4 NM (if a direct route is taken, however the figure is unknown, again due to ice conditions)
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 11133.4NM

Current weather: Overcast with snow flurries, poor visibility
Wind: N'ly x Force 6
Barometric pressure: 967.2 mb
Sea state: Up to 10/10ths pack ice
Air temperature: 1.1°C.
Sea temperature: -1.8°C.

Ships position taken from the regular weather observations (only available whilst at sea, courtesy of Oceanweather.com). Select "South Atlantic" area and click on "Marine Observations". Callsign is ZDLS1.

This past week has been, in many ways, a difficult one. Since last week's update the vessel has not made progress at all, only drifting with the wind and the current whilst sitting in a giant floe. During the course of the week our position has changed,; and in the right direction, by 39 miles. Alas, the problem with this is that as we are pushed to the south west - as is all the pack ice and this then consolidates against the Brunt Ice Shelf.

There is still much that can be done onboard. With the vessel so stable it is an ideal time to undertake various jobs that would normally have to wait until we were in port, and the FID personnel onboard have continued with their briefings for arrival at Halley.

Group photo of the FIDs onboard. A group photo of the FID's onboard.

The weather this week has been fairly dismal, with only one fine, clear day. It is on these clear days that we can get the best idea of the ice situation ahead of us as the NOAA satellites that are constantly passing overhead get unobstructed views. These are showing that this season is one of heavy pack ice concentration that is not only affecting us but also other national operators working throughout the Antarctic.

It is important to point out that the Ernest Shackleton is not stuck. To be stuck, or beset, would mean that it were not possible to make any progress at all. At present there is the option for the vessel to make progress to the north, the opposite direction to Halley, which is not what is wanted. Now it is a case of remaining patient and waiting for a change in the weather conditions to allow the break up of the vast amount of pack ice that is ahead of us. Ideally a good strong blow from the south is what is needed. Presently the ship has had mainly N'ly or NW'ly winds, which is having the effect of pushing the pack down into the Weddell Sea and blocking our path to Halley.

The past week has seen a number of Christmas parties being held by various departments onboard the ship as the build up to Christmas continues. My daughter is concerned that Santa won't be able to find us, but I am sure that by accessing the Internet he should be able to track our six hourly weather reports and get the latest position just before flying down to us!

Wildlife spotting has been very good this week with regular whale sightings in the large pool of water astern of us. Penguins appear to have a good look at us on a regular basis and a large number of seals have hauled out onto the ice in the past 24 hours.

A group of emperor penguins on the pack ice. Some of the emperor penguins that have been seen this week.

Forthcoming events: Continue towards Halley Base.

Mike Gloistein