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20 Jan - A stop in the Falklands and onto Signy

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC - 3 hours): 58°30'S  040°24'W - Alongside King Edward Point, South Georgia
Next destination: Signy Island
ETA: 21st January 2002
Distance to go: 240 NM
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 14258.4NM

Current weather: Cloudy and clear, fresh winds
Wind: WSW x Force 6
Barometric pressure: 1000.2 mb
Sea state: Rough
Air temperature: 3.2°C.
Sea temperature: 2.2°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.

Since the last update on the 6th January much has happened onboard the Ernest Shackleton. Following the very brief visit to King Edward Point, South Georgia, on the 6th January, a very lumpy passage was made to East Cove, Falkland Islands, with the ship safely alongside the Main Berth for mid-morning on the 10th.

A number of personnel onboard were now being rerouted to Halley via the BAS Dash 7 aircraft to Rothera and then a Twin Otter across to Halley, in the hope that they would arrive before the ship and get some of the projects up and running for our arrival. Also, several people were heading home, having not made it to the base at all this season.

On Thursday evening, January 10, the Captain was invited to attend the official opening of the new British Antarctic Survey Office in Stanley. The head of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC is the BAS parent body) Prof John Lawton, was in the Falklands with Prof Chris Rapley (Director of BAS) and agreed to unveil the plaque.

With the large numbers of BAS personnel transiting through the Falkland Islands a bigger office with better facilities was much needed, and Myriam Booth (our wonderful representative in the Falklands) has done a superb job in decorating the office, and it now forms a central focal point for staff passing through the island.

It had originally been hoped to have the ship berthed in Stanley for this call, but due to the problems with getting to Halley it was decided that it would be best to go to East Cove, the military port, where we would be able to fill our fuel tanks to the top for when departed and thus give us a better chance of getting through the ice to Halley.

Following a good stay at East Cove, where we all managed to get ashore for a good stretch of the legs, not to mention a beer or two either at the local harbour bar or in Stanley (an hours bus ride away), it was time to depart and head for South Georgia once again. At 2200 UTC on the 14th the Ernest Shackleton slipped the berth and headed out of the harbour.

On Tuesday morning a full fire and boat muster was held for all onboard. Later in the day a pod of killer whales was spotted just off the starboard side of the vessel and then on Wednesday evening a large group of hour glass dolphins swam alongside the ship for some fifteen minutes or so.

The Island of South Georgia A large swell was helping us along our way, and causing some rolling, but in general the conditions were good. Bird Island had discovered that they had almost run out of glue, used for sticking transmitters onto birds and seals, and had made a request for some to be supplied. As we would be passing close to Bird Island on the way to King Edward Point, it was decided to have a look at the sea conditions and then if suitable the Fast Rescue Craft (FRC) would make a quick dash into the base to drop off the glue, some batteries and, most important of all, mail.

On arrival at Elsehul, just around the corner from Bird Island, the decision was made that we would send the FRC in and the round trip was completed in about an hour. Once the FRC was recovered back on board, RRS Ernest Shackleton then carried on down the coast of South Georgia, passing Stromness Bay at about 0500 on Friday morning, where RRS James Clark Ross was at anchor to calibrate some of her sensors, and then finally arriving at King Edward Point at about 1100UTC.

Cargo work started immediately with equipment for the base being discharged ashore and then cargo that had been left there during our previous visit was loaded back onboard.

Cargo work at King Edward PointA group of builders, involved in the demolition of some of the old buildings at King Edward Point joined the Ernest Shackleton as they were to be taken to Signy, where the old BAS base is to be demolished this season. Following a full day of cargo operations, with the weather being very windy with some rain, the vessel was secured for sea and departed at about 2100 UTC.

On our way out from the island the James Clark Ross was sighted, having left Stromness during the day, as she was heading to the starting point for her next science transect.

Saturday saw a change in the weather with rough seas and a strong wind. This caused the well known Ernest Shackleton motion to come into play, something not loved by many onboard. The passage from South Georgia to Signy Island is about two and a half days and so this should see us arriving at Signy sometime on Monday. It looks as though it will be lumpy the whole way and everyone will be eagerly looking forward to the ship anchoring and the motion stopping!

Forthcoming events: Complete tasks at Signy Base and then head for Halley.....again!

Mike Gloistein