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10 Feb - Alongside the ice at Drescher Inlet

Date:  Sunday 10th  February  2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3):    72°50'S  019°33'W  Alongside fast Ice,  Drescher Inlet
Next destination:  Remain at Drescher Inlet for time being.
ETA:   n/a
Distance to go:  n/a
Total Distance Sailed:  15802.3 nm

Current weather:  Overcast with poor visibility due to blowing snow.
Wind:  E x N, Force 7 to 8
Barometric pressure:  962.8 mb
Sea state:.   n/a
Air temperature:   -5.5°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.

RRS Ernest Shackleton remains alongside the fast ice at the Drescher Inlet,  continuing to transfer personnel and supplies to Halley via the Twin Otter aircraft.

The ship tied up at the Drescher Inlet - Click to enlarge  RRS Ernest Shackleton tied up to the fast ice at Drescher Inlet.  The ice shelf can be seen in the background.  Also clearly seen is the ice that has formed to the right of the ship whilst we have been here.

This week has seen some of the best weather so far for us,  with light winds and cloud-free skies,  stunning views and many chances for those onboard to get ashore onto the fast ice and see the somewhat limited wildlife that is in our vicinity.

On Tuesday afternoon the Captain jumped onboard an aircraft that was going to take him on an ice reconnaisance,  to check out the shore lead around the Stancomb Wills Glacier and onwards to the proposed relief site at N9.  The idea was that the flight would take some two hours and we could make a decision as to whether the ship would be able to make it to N9.  Due to a change in the weather conditions the aircraft had to  return to Halley.  It was hoped that the Captain would be there for just a short period of time,  but it was two days before the weather conditions had improved at both Halley and the ship and he could return.

On his way back to the ship he once again had a look at the N9 relief site and the shore lead to it.  In the 48 hours that he had been at Halley,  there was a remarkable change in conditions,  and now the N9 site was filled with pack ice and blocked by a giant floe,  meaning that we would not now be moving from Drescher and all further relief work would have to be carried out by the aircraft.

View from a Twin Otter - Click to enlarge A view from a Twin Otter showing the inlet at N9,  now full of pack.  At the top of the picture the lead of open water can be seen.

When at home the only worry about getting a haircut is trying to find time to nip down to the barbers.  Onboard the problem is more along the lines of finding someone who,  you hope,  will do a good job.  Most haircuts are limited to a 'Number 3' and there is,  fingers crossed,  little room for error.    During a quiet moment the Bridge transformed itself into a barbers shop so that some trims could be given!

John Harper gets a crop! Click to enlarge Chief Officer John Harper getting a trim at the hands of Third Officer Noel Lynam.

With several skidoos,  two sets of skis,  a kite and some hastily erected rugby goal posts,  there has been ample opportunity for outdoor recreation.  When the aircraft were not flying there were chances for all onboard to either walk,  ski or skidoo to a melt pool in the fast ice where a number of Weddell seals had hauled out.

Lenny Evans with a Weddell seal - Click to enlarge  Lenny Evans with a Weddell seal on the fast ice.  Once again the ice shelf can be seen in the background.

The kite flying also proved to be good fun.  There are in fact a number of kites onboard and these are of the more expensive type.  One has been used by Dave Ellis to pull him around the fast ice on his skis.  Hard work, but very impressive to watch as a good speed can be maintained.

Dave Ellis on the move with his kite - Click to enlarge  Dave Ellis on the move with his kite.

One disappointment here is that the emperor penguin colony expected here appears to have been blown out to sea earlier in the season.  Dave Ellis and Paul Cousins,  both experienced travelers in the Antarctic,  went on a recce mission to try and locate the colony.  It had been thought that it was located close to a ramp up onto the ice shelf,  but following a good look in the general vicinity nothing could be found.  Normally if there was a colony nearby there would be a continuous stream of adult penguins going back a forth,  to feed the growing chicks.  Whilst we have seen a few chicks,  there have been very few and the number of adult penguins has also been low.  It is thought that the colony was to the outside of the vessel's position,  near to the cliff of the ice shelf,  and that during a blow earlier in the season this has broken off.  The effects of this to the colony would be devastating as the chicks would still have been unable to swim and most likely they would either drown or be killed by predators, such as leopard seals and  killer whales.  This,  alas,  was also the fate of the penguin colony close to Halley this season.

With about a week left for the ship to remain in the area the final sorting out of essential cargo,  that will fit inside a Twin Otter, is being completed on board the ship, and when the last flight rotations occur with the outgoing personnel  these last items will go to Halley.

...and finally,  for those who are keen on extremes of temperature there is the chance to have a hot sauna followed by a roll in the snow.  The air temperature was about -8°C at the time and the process was repeated three times.  Each to their own....

A roll in the snow - Click to enlarge  Paul Cousins,  Penny Granger and Dr Thomas Rieley rolling in the snow.

Forthcoming events:    Complete as many tasks as possible for Halley from the Drescher Inlet.

Mike Gloistein