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24 Nov - Meeting James Clark Ross

Date:  Tuesday 26 November 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 38° 40'S 055° 56'W - running down the coast of Argentina
Next destination: Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands
ETA: Friday morning - 29th November 2002 (at 2100z)
Distance to go: 720.0 NM
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 6573.2 NM

Wind:  NW x 28 kts
Barometric pressure:  1000.1 mb
Sea state: Moderate
Air temperature:  18.4°C.
Sea temperature: 13.4°C.

We're Back !!

The SJL Team are back in force, on RRS Ernest Shackleton after a 4 month leave, and there are plenty of stories to be swapped of 'things done' or more likely 'things not done' during our time off the vessel. But it is always great to get back together and at times it is like we've never been away. Many thanks to Mike G for his sterling reports during the busy North Sea Periods and especially the Refit in Portsmouth. Mike is now away to start his OTHER job, which is husband to a wife, father to his daughter, and 'handyman' to his homestead.

Arriving in 'Monte' by Gavin Francis, Ships Doctor

This week got colder....The Tropics to Montevideo

We've been ambling along the coast of Brazil all week, out of the tropics and towards Uruguay. You really start to have an impression of how large a country is when it takes you a whole week at 11 or 12 knots to travel the length of it. It's also been the last week for Captain Marshall's team - from Montevideo they're all heading off for a few weeks travelling in South America, or flying home.

We've had a magnificent cruise down over the past few days - on Monday we were treated to a school of Humpback whales broaching around the ship. Unfortunately none of them were jumping out of the water, but we spotted a couple of them lying still, tails high and waving in the breeze. They lay like this for over half an hour before dropping away into the ocean again. By Tuesday we were coasting the latitude of Rio de Janeiro, and sea traffic began to grow heavier. Tankers and fishing vessels became a more and more common sight when out on deck watching for petrels, shearwaters or whales. Vigilance paid off on Wednesday when some Sperm whales were sighted off the bow, and also a small pod of Pilot whales.

Latitidue of Rio - Click to enlarge
Passing latitude of Rio de Janeiro
Click to enlarge

As we move further and further south we've also been treated to clearer skies. New constellations appear every night on the southern horizon, and the old familiar ones such as Orion and Cassiopeia, are disconcertingly (for me) upside down. There haven't, however, been any more UFO sightings.

No matter what the impression this diary gives, we don't spend all our time out on deck watching the waves - there's always plenty of other things going on. The ship's office has been in a flurry of activity getting all the paperwork ready for the crew handover, we've been carrying out full emergency drills on subjects as diverse as Fire, Casualty retrieval, Oil spills and Piracy. These waters (along with West Africa and the South China Sea) still have among the highest piracy rates in the world.

On the medical side, I've been running an advanced First Aid Course teaching some of those on board how to handle medical emergencies they could encounter in the Antarctic. Some of the modules included basic life support, suturing, plastering and how to use a defibrillator.

Tom puts a cannula into Craig - Click to enlarge
Tom Balfe putting a cannula into a surprisingly calm-looking Craig Paice
Click to enlarge

As regards medical research, Professor Jo Arendt from Surrey has been running a project on board examining the effects of the ship's watch shifts on the body clock. Some of us are wearing wrist-watch style activity and light meters, and once a week the willing volunteers have been dutifully collecting all of their own urine for 48 hours. This is then transferred to the "Wet Lab" where Jo and I spend a delightful morning measuring it all, putting it into test tubes for analysis back in the UK, and then freezing it. It will be analysed for levels of the hormone melatonin, which is normally peaks during the night in when the body clock is in normal rhythm.

The wet lab research project - Click to enlarge
The "Wet Lab" research project
Click to enlarge

On Saturday we woke up to see land, and later that evening pulled in alongside our sister ship, RRS James Clark Ross in Montevideo harbour. This is the first time since the ships were named that they've been side by side - definitely a cause for celebration! Everyone scrambled for the opportunity to go aboard one another's ship, and there were a few heated arguments in the respective bars about which was the better vessel (we all know it's the Shackleton really!!!!). The JCR headed off for Stanley on Sunday afternoon, and the Shackleton gained a few more passengers when the personnel heading down to Halley (and some for Bird Island) came on board. The images below show the two ships together. Click to enlarge the pictures.

The JCR and the Shackleton - Click to enlarge The JCR and the Shackleton - Click to enlarge

We've been enjoying our last few hours of being in the heat, and those who've arrived equipped for the cold have been sweating under the palm trees around the harbour. It won't be long, though, until those jackets come in handy - next weekend we'll be in the Falkland Islands, and from there will head down to the Signy in the South Orkney Islands and will start seeing some ice. At last!

Gavin Francis

Having journeyed from the UK on Wednesday 20th November, the SJL Team flew from London Heatherow to Sao Paulo and onwards to Montevideo in plenty of time to await the arrival of RRS Ernest Shackleton on the following Saturday. One day was all that was needed to hand over the ship to the familiar relief crew and then the JBM Team were able to depart the ship for a night in the hotel before an early departure for the UK on the Monday morning. Unfortunately for the off-going team, their return journey would take them on the reverse route Montevideo-Sao Paulo-London and onwards, but involved a 13-hour wait-over in Brazil for a connecting flight.....13 HOURS !!!. Only the thought of 'going home' could ease the burden of a 13 hour layover.

Then on Monday afternoon, the ship departed Montevideo in rain and showers for the Falklands. The going was rough enough to send everybody to their beds early that night, but no reported cases of severe seasickness amongst the crew or FIDs alike. That was a good start and bodes well for the forthcoming season!

One additional note : is that Captain Stuart Lawrence was unable to join his crew in joining the Ernest Shackleton in Montevideo. Instead Captain John Marshall has agreed to stay on until the Falkland Islands to give a handover to the new Master of RRS Ernest Shackleton, Captain Graham Chapman. Capt. Chapman joins us from the sistership RRS James Clark Ross, where Graham has spent a number of years as Chief Officer. Captain Chapman will oversee the Halley relief and will be supported later in the season when Captain Lawrence is able to rejoin the vessel for his last voyage in the Spring. The SJL Team (sorry, that is the GPC Team) take pleasure in welcoming Captain Chapman onboard.

Capt Marshall hands the 'keys' to Capt Chapman - Click to enlarge
Capt Marshall handing over the 'Ignition Keys' to Capt Chapman!!!
Click to enlarge

Forthcoming events: Arrive at Mare Harbour and tranship cargo for Halley that was left there at the end of last season. Uplift more scientists and support staff for the stations and continue to Signy, South Georgia and onwards to Halley......

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Dr.Gavin for his précis on the events prior to leaving Montevideo.

Diary 10 will be written on 01 December 2002 and should hopefully be published back on schedule on 02 December 2002

Stevie B