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03 Mar - Signy, King Edward Point and Bird Island

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200 (UTC - 3 hours): 54°00'S  038°02'W - At anchor, off Jordan Cove, Bird Island
Next destination: East Cove, Falkland Islands
ETA: March 06
Distance to go: 751 nm
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 17778.3 nm

Current weather: Overcast with Bird Island low mank, low seas, long, moderate SW'ly swell, vessel rolling and pitching to starboardd anchor.
Wind: SSW'ly x Force 4
Barometric pressure: 1010.1 mb
Sea state: Moderate
Air temperature: 4.4°C.
Sea temperature: 3.0°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.

Waste outside Tongsberg House - Click to enlargeLast Sunday, the 24th, saw the Ernest Shackleton finally anchor in Borge Bay, Signy, and run personnel ashore using the ships Fast Rescue Craft. Since our last call at Signy in January the demolition team have been very busy knocking down the old buildings and fuel tank. By the time we arrived they had run out of storage space for all the waste that had been generated. The original intention was for the ship to uplift all the waste from the base, but as we still have a large quantity of the Halley cargo onboard, this would not be possible. The image here shows a view of Tongsberg House, which is still to be demolished, and some of the outgoing waste waiting to be uplifted.

Tula loading drums - Click to enlarge Early on Monday morning the cargo tender Tula was launched and six rotations to the base were carried out during the course of the day, removing as much waste as she could. This is a slow process and each rotation takes about two hours. Personnel not directly involved in the cargo operations were allowed ashore to have a look around the island and stretch their legs. The picture shows Tula, operating at low water and so standing off from the jetty, loading drums of waste.

One improvement made to the jetty at Signy and which proved to be a great success, was the building of a 'railway' for transporting the heavy bundles to Tula. Is this the southern-most railway in the world?? The picture shows the railway at Signyin action.

With another early start to operations on Tuesday, Tula was once again launched and completed eight rotations. Once back on board that evening, with everything secured, the Ernest Shackleton weighed anchor and departed Signy, bound for King Edward Point, South Georgia.

Tula discharging her cargo - Click to enlarge During our stay at Signy the ship uplifted some 400 cubic metres of waste,  which comprised approximately 90% of the demolition waste.  It is hoped that the remainder of the waste will be collected during the final call to the base when it is closed down for the winter in early April. The picture shows Tula alongside the Ernest Shackleton, preparing to discharge her cargo.

The Roulette Wheel - Click to enlarge The journey north to South Georgia was a good one, with following seas. Thursday saw the seas come round to the quarter and so the motion of the ship increased, with heavy rolling and pitching. This did not dampen spirits onboard and on Thursday evening there was a casino night with much gambling using the well known currency The Shackle! Cocktails were also provided as a means of sustenance!! The picture shows the roulette wheel, designed by Matt Jobson (seen in the picture).

Making good time the vessel entered East Cumberland Bay on the morning of Friday 1st March and tied up to the jetty at King Edward Point by 0730 and cargo work was started at 0800. There was not a great deal of cargo to be moved and a few boxes of interbase cargo was loaded. Some of the technical staff onboard went ashore to help out with base work and at 1230 all personnel were back onboard. At 1300 the vessel moved off the jetty and proceeded back out to sea for the short passage to Bird Island, arriving at Elsehul at about 1900. However, with the weather conditions not being too good it was decided that the ship would steam overnight and see what Saturday morning looked like for cargo operations. The wind had picked up to 25/30 kts and there was a rough sea with a moderate swell.

If anything the conditions overnight worsened and so all of Saturday was spent steaming in a box in the vicinity of Bird Island. During the afternoon the cloud cleared and the sun shone giving spectacular views of the Willis Islands, Bird Island and South Georgia. At first light on Sunday morning conditions were seen to have improved and so the vessel steamed into Bird Sound and anchored at about 0715. Tula was loaded on deck with the cargo for the base and then at 0930 she was launched. Following the short journey to Jordan Cove and the base,Tula discharged her cargo and loaded base wastes for disposal in the Falkland Islands. At 1148 Tula was back onboard and secure and the vessel prepared to depart for the Falklands.

Historical note: The cargo tender Tula is named after the ship used by John Biscoe during his British Expedition of 1830- 1833. The Enderby Brothers sent out two ships, Tula and Lively (Captained by George Avery), who circumnavigated the Antarctic continent. The vessels visited the Falkland Islands in 1830, searched, without success, for the 'Aurora Islands', visited the South Sandwich Islands, discovered Enderby Land (on the 24th February 1831).
Lively was wrecked in July 1832 in the Falkland Islands.

Forthcoming events: The vessel will now return to the Falkland Islands. Between the 7th and 16th March all pax and crew will be leaving the vessel, with the exception of the Doctor and Dentist, and Captain Lawrence and his crew will join the vessel to complete the final part of the Antarctic season.

Mike Gloistein