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24 Feb - North to Signy

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC - 3 hours): 60°42'S  045°34'W - At anchor, Borge Bay, Signy Island
Next destination: South Georgia and Bird Island
ETA: March 01
Distance to go: 493 nm
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 17038.3 nm

Current weather: Overcast and clear, low seas, long, moderate SE'ly swell, vessel rolling and pitching to starboard anchor.
Wind: S'ly x Force 4
Barometric pressure: 988.3 mb
Sea state: Moderate
Air temperature: 2.7°C.
Sea temperature: 0.4°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 final flight from Halley, bringing the last four personnel to join the vessel, arrived on Monday morning. Once onboard and the aircraft was away back to Halley (and in fact onwards to Rothera the same day), the clearing up operation could begin. All the empty drums and flags that had been used to mark out the ski-way for the aircraft had to be removed and brought back onboard the ship. Once that was completed, then the final stowage of cargo needed to be done and so it was not until early evening that the ship was able to move away from the fast ice.

Aerial view of the ship against the ice - Click to enlargeA final aerial view of the Ernest Shackleton alongside the fast ice at "Drescher Inlet". One Twin Otter aircraft is seen on the ice close to the ship.

With a small group ashore to release the lines, the ship used its thrusters to maintain its position alongside the ice, and then once the lines were free the shore party came back onboard via a lifting cradle and our small ROV crane.

The wind had changed in the previous 24 hours and the shore lead, which was closed on Sunday, had opened up once again and so our escape was that much easier than we had at first anticipated. Using images received on a daily basis via our weather satellite receiving equipment it was possible to determine the best route for us to take. This was to follow the shore lead to about 13° West, where we then turned to the north. The tail end of the Weddell Pack (which had caused us so much trouble getting to Halley in December and again at the end of January) was encountered between about 70°S and 68°S, but whilst heavy it did not present any great problem for us.

The drawback of escaping the pack is that we are now back at sea and suffer from the effects of the wind and weather and on Wednesday we were experiencing a moderate SW'ly swell, causing the vessel to pitch.

By Thursday the wind had increased to about 40 kts, gusting 50kts at times. The barometer had been dropping steadily and had bottomed out at 956 mb (having dropped from 992mb some 17 hours earlier). This then meant heavy seas and the vessel pitching even more. For some this would mean an enforced stay in their bunks!

With little change in the weather as we approached Signy on Saturday it came as no great surprise that we could not anchor in Borge Bay and so the vessel steamed slowly through the night in the Orwell Bight. Also in the vicinity were a couple of vessels fishing for krill. One, a reefer ship for storing the catch, and two fishing boats, although only one was seen at the time of our arrival.

Forthcoming events: Complete cargo operations at Signy and proceed to South Georgia and Bird Island

Mike Gloistein