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28 Jan - Heading for Halley....again!

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC - 3 hours): 70°54'S  019°17'W
Next destination: Halley
ETA: Unknown
Distance to go: Unknown
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 15225.2NM

Current weather: Cloudy, fine and clear
Wind: SSW x Force 3
Barometric pressure: 981.5 mb
Sea state: 10/10th Pack Ice, short leads and small pools.
Air temperature: -0.4°C.
Sea temperature: -1.8°C.

Current, frequent weather observations reported back to BAS Headquarters in Cambridge is used to plot the ship's current position and recent track. Meteorological data are also available from this page. The callsign of RRS Ernest Shackleton is ZDLS1.

This week has seen the Ernest Shackleton heading south towards Halley. The early part of the week was plain sailing, with open water and icebergs. The weather was kind to us and the passage was very comfortable, much appreciated by all onboard following the previous week's rough seas.Using information from satellite images it was clear that the band of pack in the Weddell Sea was still there, and it was thought that we would start working our way through it sometime late on Friday evening. During Thursday night and most of Friday strips of pack ice were encountered,and then during Friday evening the pack ice edge was reached.

High Resolution Picture Image from NOAA satellite - Click to enlarge A High Resolution Picture Transfer image taken from a NOAA16 polar orbiting satellite at 1615UTC on January 25. This image shows the position of the Ernest Shackleton, just to the north of the pack ice edge. Also clearly shown is the coastline, some shore leads around parts of the coast (areas of open water between the coast and the pack ice). N9 is a low ice shelf area that may well be used as the relief site if the creeks nearer to Halley are unsuitable. N9 is about 60 km from Halley.

Whilst the pack was still consolidated it was showing signs of decay and so did not really present any great problems to us as we continued south. The original plan was to head for position 71°S 025°W and then try to head direct for Halley. During the course of Saturday, January 26 2002, the ship was encountering giant floes. Some of these were taking hours to attempt to get around. Early on Saturday evening the ship became stuck between two floes. Following several hours waiting and a number of attempts, the ship managed to back out from between the floes and get under way again.

High Resolution Picture Image from NOAA satellite - Click to enlargeThis image, received 24 hours after the one above on Saturday at 1603 UTC, shows how the ship had progressed into the pack ice. Since this image was taken the vessel has had to do an about turn and is currently heading to the north-east looking for an easier route to the shelf and Halley.

Social activities onboard - by Penny Granger

Friday January 25 saw a gathering of FIDS and crew to celebrate the birthdate of the Scottish National poet Robert Burns (1759 - 1796) who was born in Alloway, the son of a farmer. With nine Scots on board there was great enthusiasm for this traditional celebration on board the RRS Ernest Shackleton. Both Burns and the haggis were heartily toasted with usquabae! Douglas Colliar who hails fae Kirkcaldy looked resplendent in his, almost, full Highland garb and gave the traditional address to the haggis opening with the lines:

"Fair fa'your honest, sonsie face
Great Chieftan o' the Puddin' Race"

The addition of penguin cufflinks might have been frowned on by the purists, however its great to see a man in a kilt, especially in the Antarctic. We retired to the mess where our Scottish cook Jon Kavanagh had prepared our late traditional supper. What a glorious sight, warm-reekin', rich! Our chieftan o' the pudding race - the haggis! Served, of course with neeps and tatties all the way from the Falklands! The tale of "Tam O'Shanter" was read aloud around the table, with gentle promptings and suggestions for more appropriate pronunciations of the Scottish dialect for those less acquainted with Burns poetry! Although the tale is full of warlocks and witches, wild dancing in auld kirks on a dark thunderous, stormy night; spying of things you shouldn't and then a lucky escape on a trusty mare there are still a few poignant lines to be read:

"But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white - then melts forever;"

A lovely evening was had by all in true Scottish fashion as we make our way Southwards once more to Halley.

The skirts and dresses were out again the following night for a final Saturday evenings entertainment, before Halley. It's amazing exactly what can be rustled up from within the ship when it's time for a fancy dress party. With her painted yellow skin, mad staring eyes and blue hair Cat made a frighteningly convincing Marge Simpson, complete with party frock. Our normally laid back Halley chef Stuart played a very convincing Johnny Rotten with spray painted t-shirt, pillar-box red hair complete with chains and an attitude problem. Lyndsay our doc managed to emanate calm all evening with her gently, jingling bells, shaven head and sandals, dressed as a Buddhist monk and made a wonderful vision sitting cross legged on the foredeck with the glorious (almost) sunset in the background. Harry Potter came in for a flying vist and Osama Bin Laden was claimed to have been spotted!

Fancy Dress Party - Click to enlargeIt was a spectacularly beautiful night, when we moved to the fo'csle for our photo opportunity. The sun had just dipped below the thick bank of clouds turning the sea ice a magnificent mix of cool, icy blue in the shadows and the rest rosy pink. The surrounding pools of sea were molten reds and oranges, more reminiscent of a roaring hearth than the icy Weddell Sea. Being stuck for those few hours gave us ample opportunity to appreciate fully the stunning beauty of Antarctica.

Forthcoming events: Continue to Halley

Mike Gloistein