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03 Dec - Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands

Date:  Tuesday 03 December 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 51° 54'S 058° 26'W - alongside in East Cove, Falkland Islands
Next destination: Signy Island
ETA: Friday morning - 08th December 2002 (cargo operations and weather permitting)
Distance to go: 710.0 NM
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 7293.2 NM

Wind:  WSW x 28 kts
Barometric pressure:  998.1 mb
Sea state: Moderate alongisde main jetty East Cove
Air temperature:  9.2°C.
Sea temperature: 7.5°C.
Click here for ships track

The Webpage now arriving on your workstation is the late arrival from Mare Harbour, calling at Mount Pleasant, Stanley, BAS Cambridge, and Bristol Temple Meads... (have you noticed that Bristol Temple Meads gets into ALL routes ?)...The management would like to apologise for the late arrival of this service which was due to circumstances beyond our control (namely a Port visit to Mare Harbour)...We trust this has not too greatly inconvenienced you. The service will shortly be continuing on to Signy, Bird Island and King Edward Point, South Georgia shortly. This service is not an Express Service, but does include a buffet service which may be located near the front of the vehicle. We thank you for your patience and hope you will take the opportunity to travel with the Ernest Shackleton Webpages in the near future. Mind the doors!!

He's Back !!

WAVEY DAVEY IS BACK....and in good form too!

No sooner had we all returned to RRS Ernest Shackleton, then Wavey Davey was back on the bridge regaling us with gems like:

'Did you hear about the two ships that collided ??
One had a cargo of red paint, and the other had a cargo of blue paint'
'Did you hear that both crews were marooned ????'

Boom boom!**

(** For those of you who are new to the Shackleton web page, Wavey Davey is Able Bodied Seaman Davey Taylor, who drives his colleagues nuts with his incesant one-liners and 'have you heard of...' jokes. His light-hearted zaniness is a relief to us all on a long passage south ).


It is always great to see new arrivals onboard the Ernest Shackleton. The new FID's are so enthusiastic and they see things afresh with their eyes that perhaps so many of the crew now take for granted, as commonplace. That is certainly the case with this week's visit to Mare Harbour and trips over to Stanley, here in the Falkland Islands. Many of the crew are unable to get across on the 50 minute bus-ride to Stanley, and if they did, would they be inclined to take a trip out to Gypsy Cove, or walk over Tumbledown. The new, eager FID's are eager to try it all and reminds us all onboard what a diverse and rich tapestry is available on the Falkland Islands to those who are willing and able to seek it out ! Dr Gavin tells all ....

Montevideo to the Falklands
by Gavin Francis, Ship’s Doctor

All change!
A lot changed on the Shackleton this week. There is a new crew onboard, 20 or so “FIDs” have joined the ship, and we have left the warm waters of the tropics and are into the cold waters streaming in from the south around Cape Horn. This has meant a new abundance of wildlife to be seen (both onboard and off it!).

"FIDs" for those who aren’t familiar with BAS slang, are all those personnel who are going south to work on British Antarctic Survey bases. It’s an endearing term among those to whom it refers, but for the ship’s crews it can mean all sorts of things....usually they like the idea of new FIDs, because it means some different company, and more help with cargo and "gash" (another endearing word – meaning "cleaning up all the rubbish"), but it can also be a term of abuse (when they’re hogging all the sofas and appear to be lying around all day not doing anything particularly useful). The word "FIDs" is historical and comes from an acronym of the "Falkland Islands Dependency Survey", which was the name of the British Antarctic Survey in its earlier days.

So with an army of new Fids on board we set off from Montevideo on a rainy Monday afternoon. The wind was getting up, and after a quick boat drill we were all warned by the Captain to take some sea-sickness medicine and if we were feeling ill to go straight to our bunks. The next few days blurred for a few of those on board as they battled with gravity, the rising swell, their own unbalanced equilibrium and extreme nausea......but most people managed to spend a bit of time out on deck. The change south of the Rio de la Plata was striking. We immediately began to spot Black-browed Albatrosses, Giant Petrels, Cape Petrels and even Magellanic Penguins. After a couple more days some Royal and Wandering Albatrosses were also spotted in the distance by Paolo Catry, our resident ornithologist.

Black-browed Albatross following the ship - Click to enlarge

Above: A black-browed albastross following the ship. Click the image to enlarge it.

On Friday we arrived in the Falkland Islands. For those seeing the Falklands for the first time they seem to be transplanted from the west coast of Scotland and deposited out in the South Atlantic: their landscape of low peat moors and wind-scoured hills look more at home in the Hebrides than off the coast of Patagonia.

The Falklands - Click to enlarge

Above: A typical Falkland Islands view. Click the image to enlarge it.

Previously in these diaries I mentioned the Scotia Antarctic Expedition of William Bruce. One hundred years ago Bruce followed almost exactly our route to Antarctica, past Madeira, Cape Verde and the Rio de la Plata estuary. On the 6th of January 1903 they sighted the Falklands:

"In the cold grey dawn the low, bleak, treeless, but grassy land looked very like some parts of the North of Scotland, and this home-feeling was intensified a few hours later when we passed through the Narrows into the fine land-locked harbour of Port Stanley, and saw the peat-stacks crowning the heights behind the town, and smelt the peat-reek mingled with the fresh odour of land which is so evident after a long spell of the briny ocean."
(The Voyage of the Scotia RN Rudnose Brown first published 1906, Blackwood & Sons)

We weren’t to pull into Stanley harbour, but instead to the port of Mare Harbour about 35 miles over the moor to the south of Stanley. As we pulled in to East Cove we waited for the Hydrographic Ice Survey Vessel, HMS Endurance, to vacate a space for us at the dock!

HMS Endurance in Mare Harbour - Click to enlarge

Above: HMS Endurance in Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands. Click the image to enlarge it.

That evening there was another chance to meet up with friends on RRS James Clark Ross – she was still in Stanley after leaving Montevideo a day before us.

Stanley is our last port before Antarctica; the last chance to go to a swimming pool, eat in a restaurant, or buy last-minute delicacies in a supermarket. For most of us, however, the opportunity of seeing some penguins was far more exciting! There is a Gentoo penguin colony within walking distance of Mare Harbour, and a Magellanic penguin colony within walking distance of Stanley itself. While the BAS "old hands" warned us we would be seeing enough penguins to last a lifetime, those of us new to this game couldn’t contain ourselves and set off at the first opportunity.

The Magellanic penguins near Stanley are in Gypsy Cove, a beautiful bay of golden sand and turquoise water on the other side of the harbour from Stanley itself. It could be the Caribbean (except for the waterproofs, woolly hats and, of course, the penguins). Gypsy Cove is next to Yorke Bay, a stunning beach stretching for over a mile which is sadly out of bounds because of mines left by the Argentinians during the conflict in 1982.

Gypsy Cove - Click to enlarge

Above: Gypsy Cove, Falkland Islands. Click the image to enlarge it.

Magellanic penguins - Click to enlarge

Above: Magellanic penguins at their burrow in Gypsy Cove, Falkland Islands. Click the image to enlarge it.

On Bertha’s Beach, less than an hour’s walk from Mare Harbour Gentoo penguins and even the odd King penguin are seen waddling up and down the sand. For the Gentoos to get up to their nests they have to negotiate an obstacle course of dunes, steep embankments, heather moor and a few telephoto-wielding FIDs.

Berthas beach and some FIDS - Click to enlarge Gentoo penguins - Click to enlarge

Above: Some FIDS on Bertha's beach (L) and some gentoo penguins (R). Click on the images to enlarge them.

The male and female Gentoos take turns to incubate the eggs while the other goes out to sea both in order to keep them warm and protect them against marauding skuas. The skuas are opportunistic thiefs and are usually found skulking around the colony waiting for the chance to swoop in after some unprotected eggs.

FIDS and a skua - Click to enlarge

Above: A skulking skua being carefully watched by the "model" lying down.....who is no other than Dr.Gavin himself! Click the image to enlarge it.

But it’s not all penguin spotting in the Falklands – two of our ship’s complement entered the Stanley half-marathon on Saturday. Neil Farnell came in 2nd place, and Paul Torode 11th. This was against some extremely stiff competition both from the Falkland Islanders themselves and some of the military personnel from Mount Pleasant. Well done!!

Mount Pleasant itself is only a few miles up the road from Mare Harbour. There are regular buses between the two, and quite a few onboard have been up there to visit luxuries such as the cinema, ten-pin bowling and laser-questing. For a few onboard this will be their last chance for two and a half years. The thought of leaving civilisation behind has brought on a few new resolutions. Four of the guys gave up smoking as of the 1st of December, and there has a been a new craze in Antarctic haircuts as we get closer to leaving for the south.

An Antarctic haircut - Click to enlarge

Above: An Antarctic haircut in progress. Click the image to enlarge it.

When we finish cargo in a couple of days we’ll leave for the South Orkney Islands and Signy station. After seeing their first penguins, for some bodies on board, it is going to be their first chance to see icebergs!

Sunset in the Falkland Islands - Click to enlarge

Above: Sunset in the Falkland Islands with the Shackleton in the foreground. Click the image to enlarge it.

Thought of the Day : Why is it that the 3rd hand on a watch is called the 2nd hand ???

Whilst the bulk of the FID's were out discovering the newly found (re-found) Falkland Islands, the majority of the crew were hard at work with the business of the day - which was off-loading and loading cargo. Our Sister-ship, RRS James Clark Ross, has this year been filled to the gunwhales with materials enough to rebuild the Bonner lab that burnt down last year at Rothera. Consequently, RRS Ernest Shackleton sailed south with a majority of normal cargo destined for Rothera that has had to be left here in the Falklands for the JCR to take in on the 2nd call. Also here in Mare Harbour, is a multitude of cargo that did not complete the journey to Halley last year and is being loaded for another attempt on the Weddell Sea Ice this year. The forward hold has subsequently been practically emptied and refilled over the 4-day period.

The main cargo hold - Click to enlarge The main cargo hold - Click to enlarge

Above: The main cargo hold being filled for the journey South. Click the image to enlarge it.

But whilst the holds were being emptied, those FID's discovering the Islands also discovered the facilities at the MPA (Mount Pleasant Airport) which have been well chronicled in these pages over the years. This week it is the time of the Ernest Shackleton International Squash Championship Team to make a showing. Taking time out one afternoon, to 'sign for' some racquets and balls, Dr 'Smasher' Hooker, Nathan 'Too' Keen, Mark-ed Man Godfrey, and Steve 'Sticky' Buxton all started battling each other on No.6 and No.5 courts. The pictures say it all.

Squash in progress! - Click to enlarge Squash in progress! - Click to enlarge Ouch! - Click to enlarge

However, in the pursuit of the championship, all players returned to the ship in less than 'perfect' condition. And who says 'a little exercise is good for you ?'!

Forthcoming events: Make all secure for sea and depart the Falklands after initial testing of boats in the sheltered harbour. Head for Signy and a small amount of work there later in the week.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Dr.Gavin for his great narrative on events in the Falklands, and accompanying pictures.

Diary 11 will be written on 08 December 2002 and should be published on 09 December 2002

Stevie B