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30 Dec - Christmas Celebrations

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC - 3 hours): 72°26'S  027°49'W
Next destination: Halley
ETA: Unknown at this time
Distance to go: 185 NM (if a direct route is taken)
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 11133.4NM

Current weather: Overcast with snow showers
Wind: W'ly x Force 3
Barometric pressure: 1000.3 mb
Sea state: Up to 10/10ths pack ice
Air temperature: 0.9°C.
Sea temperature: -1.7°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.

Alas another quiet week onboard the Ernest Shackleton for all. The vessel has remained stopped in a giant ice floe throughout and just drifting with the wind and current. This meant that all onboard were able to enjoy Christmas to the full, and at the time of writing it also looks as though the same will apply for the New Year celebrations.

Carol singers out and about on Christmas Eve.On Christmas Eve the carol singers arrived on top of the main hatch cover to sing to passing penguins and seals.

One or two onboard were disappointed in that their Christmas presents were buried deep in the hold, having been placed there in the hope that we would have arrived on December 16 and had at least a week to discharge the cargo, and presents, to the base. However, those of us lucky enough to have presents hidden in drawers in our cabins did manage to enjoy the excitement of ripping off the wrapping to see what lay beneath.

The Red Room was the focal point for pre-lunch drinks at 1200 and then all were invited into the Mess at 1300 for a sumptuous meal served, course by course, by a select band of volunteer waiters and waitresses.

Getting ready to sit down for Christmas Dinner The Mess laid out for Christmas Dinner

Preparing to sit down to Christmas dinner and the Mess set for the meal
Click on images to enlarge


Following the Christmas festivities, it was time to encourage everyone outside in the fresh air and a small committee arranged some not-so-traditional Boxing Day activities. Space is at a premium so all events had to be ingeniously devised to test the participants with due care towards safety on decks crowded with cargo.

Deck quoits were made out of spliced rope and aimed at the legs of an upturned garden chair. We lack golf clubs but some useful mallets were pressed into service for Crazy Croquet, a carefully laid out series of obstacles consisting of wood and baked bean tins and negotiated with regularly sized blocks of ice – the score being determined by time taken and the size of the block of ice at the end. The relay race was cunningly laid out and more difficult to negotiate than it looked, requiring fancy footwork (in RBLTs!) and a crawl through cargo nets prior to eating dry biscuits and downing a fizzy drink before returning, backwards, down the course. Another challenge had teams blindfolded and guided through a set of simple but thoroughly frustrating tasks by radio, dexterity hampered by being on hands and knees, wearing skidoo mitts!

Despite the best efforts of the cooks since we’ve been on board, nobody has yet managed to put on sufficient weight for proper sumo wrestling! Pillows were stuffed into boiler suits to achieve the right stature, all contestants were weighed and the ceremonies of throwing rice, bowing, etc, duly observed before contestants got into the real business of throwing each other out of the ring. This event was thoroughly enjoyed by all the spectators and Jenny Read and Annette Faux provided the best entertainment of the afternoon with their prolonged and energetic attempts to defeat each other!

Sumo wrestling,  Shackleton style....Sumo Wrestling under the Heli-Deck.

The later part of the afternoon saw a number of participants volunteering to stick their heads in a bucket of cold water, to which had been added jugs of ice-cubes. A totally insane activity, led by the doctor and won by Lenny Evans, who maintained a clear lead with 43 seconds.

The last event of the afternoon was Tug of War with a difference – 2 teams alongside each other on the aft deck, pulling the rope through a pulley. The pulley was unforgiving, there was no way for the teams to dig in, and to save further agony, the final match was decided on time and declared a draw by Pete Brigden, the referee.

The day was rounded off with a medals ceremony in the evening for which Lindsay Bishop had made chocolate medals and Sue Reason had manufactured rather fetching red rosettes.

Note: RBLT stands for Rubber Bottom, Leather Top and are the heavy workboots worn by most BAS personnel when south. They are fitted with a thick felt liner to provide good insulation and so keep the feet warm. They were not designed for running in races and obstacle courses!

....and finally it should be pointed out that whilst we are stopped in one of the world's coldest and harshest environments, there is always the chance to catch a few rays of sunshine and top up the tan in a sheltered corner, with a glass of wine to hand!

John Davies catching the sun. Relaxing on Christmas day.

Forthcoming events: Await change in sea ice conditions before continuing.

Mike Gloistein