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17 Feb - Continuing Operations at 'Drescher Inlet'

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC - 3 hours): 72°50'S  019°33'W - Alongside fast ice, "Drescher Inlet"
Next destination: Signy
ETA: 23/24 February (depending on ice conditions)
Distance to go: 1201 nm
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 15802.3 nm

Current weather: High clouds, sunshine, fine and clear with good visibility and contrast.
Wind: ESE x Force 5
Barometric pressure: 988.0 mb
Sea state: n/a
Air temperature: -3.6°C.
Sea temperature: -1.7°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.

The ship at the The Ernest Shackleton pictured on the morning of Sunday February 17 2002 at the "Drescher Inlet". Click on the image for a better view.

The plan for the past week has been to fly all the non wintering personnel at Halley out to the ship in stages, starting on Monday. However, the weather conditions have caused a bit of a hiccup with this. If the weather was good at Halley then it was not good at the ship and vice versa! Tuesday saw a change in the wind direction and the pack that had been sitting to the north of us has started to move back in to the shore lead and by Wednesday morning the lead had gone!

As one sits on the bridge and watches the pack moving in front of the ship, it looks very much like a lava flow from a volcano, as it slowly drifts past. Much like a lava flow, there is a lot of energy at work involved with this mass movement.

As there was no flying taking place a number of onboard safety briefs were held on Wednesday morning involving all the ships personnel. This ranged from how to start the emergency fire pump, emergency generator and operation of the emergency steering gear, to how to operate isolation valves and cross flooding equipment. A video on piracy (now becoming a major problem in many parts of the world) was also shown. On Thursday morning an exercise was held involving a fire in the ship's Paint Locker. For these exercises a special smoke generator is used in order to fill a space with smoke and so make the scenario more realistic.

There has been an increase in the number of adult Emperor penguins in the vicinity and it is fascinating watching these large flightless birds leaping out of the water and onto the fast ice.

The weather was too poor for flying operations to take place for most of the week. On Friday afternoon there was a short window in which one of the BAS Twin Otter aircraft flew down from SANAE (the South African station) to drop off some cargo and also for a dental patient visit. The flight returned to SANAE in the early evening just before the weather at the ship deteriorated.

On Saturday, 16th, another window of weather presented itself and one aircraft rotation from Halley was made, with five passengers returning to the vessel. The aircraft at SANAE also returned to Halley later in the evening but, due to poor weather once again, it did not land for fueling but continued direct to the base.

With good indications of a settled weather period on Sunday, an early weather observation was planned for 0500 ships time, but the weather once again proved to be getting the better of us and there was some 30 knots of wind, blowing snow, poor visibility - not what a pilot wants for flying. However, within a few hours the weather improved and flying operations began.

View from Twin Otter - Click to enlargeDuring the course of Sunday some five rotations from Halley and a passing flight from SANAE called in at the ship to offload returning cargo, waste and passengers and to take the final items of required cargo to the station. Interestingly also turning up in greater numbers were the emperor penguins, with some sixty birds passing the ship. The site of twenty birds slowly working their way up the ski-way used by the aircraft (from one marker drum to the next) was impressive.

Twin Otters on sea ice next to the ship - Click to enlargeTwin Otters on the sea ice next to the Ernest Shackleton. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Forthcoming events:Embark final outgoing personnel from Halley on Monday and depart for Signy Island.

Mike Gloistein