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22 Dec - Into the ice!

Date:  Sunday 22 December 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 69° 25'S 006° 20'W - en route to Halley
Next destination: The "Creeks" at the Brunt Ice Shelf, Halley (conditions permitting)
ETA: A 'Book' is to be arranged to guess the actual arrival time at Halley, - so take a guess ?
Distance to go: 571.8 NM
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 10216.9 NM

Current Weather: Heavily overcast, but bright with good visibility
Wind:  E x 18 kts
Barometric pressure:  998.2 mb
Sea state: Calm in 2-3 tenths ice
Air temperature:  -1.8°C.
Sea temperature: -1.4°C.
Click here for ships track


Irrespective of any claims, by the likes of Mr. Livingstone and his Peers, it has exclusively been denied in the Cambridge Corridors of Power, that there are plans to privatize the metro system between the UK in the Northern Hemisphere and the Antarctica in the Southern Hemisphere. It is anticipated that the Government will continue to subsidize the network way into the Century. Regular Commuters on the Network are even hopeful that in the not too distant future, there may be an expansion of the existing Network to incorporate stations at Cape Town Central, or Ascension Island Junction. The Network has been in existence for a number of years and presently incorporates two major routes as shown below :-

The "UK-Antarctic Metro"
Click to enlarge

This is brilliant. First seen on RRS Ernest Shackleton, wandering nonchalantly through the mess room, this t-Shirt design was sported by none other than your friendly and enthusiastic co-web editor, Dr Gavin. I think it's GREAT. It is the brain-child of Gavin's colleague Sue Dowling, in collaboration with others of the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit (BASMU) - so 'Good Work Doctors', and 'Where can I get one ???'

Alex Ramsden, the JCR doctor had the idea whilst living in a shared house in Devon with Gavin and Sue. They were training for BASMU near Plymouth. Alex wanted to put a basic change of address card out to his friends which used the London Underground symbols to chart his way from Portsmouth to Uruguay to the Falklands and to Antarctica. Sue, the King Edward Point (KEP) doctor, thought it was a brilliant idea for a team t-shirt, and designed it to include the JCR and the Shackleton, and all the places they would call on the way. Whilst in Devon there were a number of people who helped in the Dr's training enormously, and so a limited run of about 20 t-shirts was made. Each Doctor bought one or two, and gave the others to the people who trained them as a thank-you gift.

Unfortunately, the t-shirt design is a limited edition and not readily available from the shops and outlets of the bases and ships - yet. It may be an idea to start a campaign for 'More Editions of T-shirts Readily Offered' (METRO). Sign up now and influence the outcome ! (Editor).

Polynyas and The Weddell Sea
Gavin Francis, Ship’s Doctor

For the whole of this week RRS Ernest Shackleton has been at sea. We left King Edward Point on South Georgia last Saturday morning, and headed east in order to get around the sea-ice in the Weddell Sea (Click on the above map to see details of our track). On the ship we are regularly up-dated with satellite pictures which, depending on cloud cover, tell us where the ice is most concentrated and where we are most likely to be able to push our way through. There has been an unusually large amount of ice this year, but in the past two weeks it has (fortunately!) all started to break up.

To get nearer to a “polynya” (a large area relatively clear of sea-ice) the ship had to travel almost due east for over 30 degrees of longitude. It was exciting when we reached the longitude of Land’s End (one of my favourite places!), and we didn't start to turn west again until we were at longitude 1 degree west – that's as far east as the Isle of Wight!

A couple of Fin Whales were spotted before we turned into the ice, and soon afterwards the jolts and rumblings in the hull began (which we remembered well from the days of breaking through the ice to Signy).

Ice fields before the polynya
An ice field before the polynya

Antarctic Petrel alongside the ship
Antarctic Petrel flying alongside the ship

The ice is in floes which vary from one or two to hundreds of metres wide. Usually looking out from the deck there are only endless stretching mosaics of ice and sky and the Antarctic seems devoid of life. But then we spot a leopard seal or a crabeater seal snoozing on a floe, or a couple of chinstrap penguins, or see minke whales coming up for air. Much of the time the ship is followed by Antarctic petrels and snow petrels (above). (which nest as far as 80 degrees south).

Preparation for arriving in Halley has been swinging into action. Last year the ice was so thick that the barrels of fuel for the generators and vehicles couldn’t be delivered, so this year we have nearly 2000 barrels of AVTUR (a kind of kerosene) to deliver, in order to re-stock two years' worth of supplies. This means that the relief when we arrive will be longer than usual. We have been preparing with seminar groups on handling cargo, use of vehicles, the dangers of sea-ice and first aid. But it hasn’t been all seminars and tutorials – there has been a serious epidemic of peroxide, brought on by the realization that none of us will be having any job interviews for a while.....

Dave and Gavin - Click to enlarge Paul, Nathan and Phil - Click to enlarge

Above: Left - Dave Longrigg and Gavin Francis and right - Paul Cousens, Nathan Keen and Phil Locke. Click the images to enlarge if you dare!!

And this week also saw the 2002-2003 season’s first Horse Race Meeting. In the absence of any race-tracks, gentry (!), money to gamble or, in fact, horses, it’s surprising how far a little imagination will go.....

The Race Track - Click to enlarge The Race Track - Click to enlarge

Above: The Race Track - Click to enlarge

The horses were moved according to the throws of two dice, and a hastily printed currency came into common use – "The Shackle". On a point of interest - the proceeds of the evening donated to the RNLI Lifeboat Box amounted to a considerable £ 125.00. Well done, and a big thank you for all the enthusiastic punters who took part in a perfectly convivial evening.

One Shackle

There were an array of hats on show would have put the ladies of Ascot to shame.....

Sue is flowery Formal Paul
Frightening Paul Formidable Steve

Above: A number of costumes for the race night - Sue is flowery, Paul is formal, Paul is frightening, and Steve is formidable.

Sue Reason and Genevieve Littot - Click to enlarge Penny Granger and Ms Nicholson - Click to enlarge

Above: The Ladies - Sue Reason and Genevieve Littot (left) attend the races along with Penny Granger and Ms. Nicholson??? (Click to enlarge)

The next day we were into the polynya, a great big hole in the sea-ice about the size of Wales. The reason why polynyas form where they do is not fully understood, and so scientists at BAS have been studying the temperature and salinity of the water at different depths in order to build up a picture of the sea currents below them. To do this, a remote sensor connected to a copper wire is released over the stern of the ship and data about temperature and salinity collected by computer as it descends. For a full explanation of 'Expendable Bathythermographs (XBTs)' refer to Mike Gloistein's article in Shackleton Diary 10, Dec 1999.

Trevor McCormack and Jim Baker in action - Click to enlarge
Trevor McCormack and Jim Baker in action
Click to enlarge

BAS conducts many different scientific programmes in Halley, examining all sorts of phenomena such as the Aurora Australis, the ozone hole, and very low frequency radio waves (which means that in Halley you can listen to lightning strikes in Canada!) The medical research involves the effects of the winter darkness on the body clock, and this year a new lab to study the constituents of the very clean air is being built. In the days of Scott and Shackleton the different scientists and tradesmen used to spend the winters teaching one another about their specialist subjects. Today the tradition lives on, and this week we had the first of these presentations.

Lecture time - Click to enlarge
A full house as the Fids hear about the work of the Clean Air Sector Lab (CASLAB)
Click to enlarge

Some of us have been on the ship for two months now, and most people have been on board for a month. Everyone is starting to feel the effect of all the fine eating and lack of opportunity for exercise. With this in mind Neil Farnell has set up a private circuit training gym on the after-deck. The gym must have one of the best views of any in the world, and is very dependent on sea conditions, but can also be a bit on the cold side.

Neils gym - Click to enlarge
The Antarctic Circuit Training team in action
Click to enlarge

We are out of the polynya now and back into loose floes of sea ice. On Saturday the 21st, Midsummers day at 11.20 am (GMT – 3) we passed the Antarctic Circle at 66 degrees and 40 minutes south. We were very disappointed not to see a line in the ice, or at the very least a penguin holding a sign!

From here it’s uncertain what the condition of the ice will be, but there is hope that we could be at Halley before Christmas. It all depends on the weather, the way the ice is breaking up and moving, and the density of the icebergs which break off from the Stancomb-Wills Glacier which lies between ourselves and Halley. Our Christmas decorations are up, the sounds of former dubious Christmas Number Ones have been heard leaking from a few cabins, but we are still unsure where we’ll be celebrating Christmas this year. Well, there’s one thing we can be sure of – at least it’ll be a White Christmas.....

This is also my last web-diary, because all being well I’ll be on base by this time next week and the current Halley doctor, Lyndsey Bishop, will take over as the ship’s doctor.

So MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone, and Lots of Love to all my favourite people in Scotland, England and Italy – you know who you are!



Continuing in a nautical vein...

Question : 'Where does Noah keep his bees' ???
Answer :' In his Arc Hive' !!

ICE TERMINOLOGY compiled by Mike G. This section has appeared before, but it is always worth a re-run!

Some of the expressions that may well appear in the Shackleton web pages in the coming weeks.

Iceberg - A massive piece of ice of greatly varying shape, protruding more than 5m above sea-level, which has broken away from a glacier, and which may be afloat or aground. Icebergs may be described as tabular, dome-shaped, sloping, pinnacled, weathered or glacier bergs.

Bergy bit - A large piece of floating glacier ice, generally showing less than 5m above sea-level but more than 1m and normally about 100-300m² in area.

Floe - Any relatively flat piece of sea ice 20m or more across. Floes are subdivided according to horizontal extent as follows:
Giant: Over 10 km across
Vast: 2-10 km across
Big: 500 - 2000m across
Medium: 100 - 500m across
Small: 20 -100m across

Floeberg - A massive piece of sea ice composed of a hummock or a group of hummocks, frozen together and separated from any ice surroundings. It may typically protrude up to 5m above sea level.

Fast ice - Sea ice which forms and remains fast along the coast, where it is attached to the shore, to an ice wall, to an ice front, between shoals or grounded icebergs. Vertical fluctuations may be observed during changes of sea level. Fast ice may be formed in situ from sea water or by freezing of floating ice of any age to the shore, and it may extend a few metres or several hundred kilometres from the coast. Fast ice may be more than one year old and may then be prefixed with the appropriate age category (old, second-year or multi-year).

First year ice - Sea ice of not more than one winter's growth, developing from young ice; thickness 20 cm - 2 m.

Growler - Smaller piece of ice than a bergy bit or floeberg, often transparent but appearing green or almost black in colour, extending less than 1m above the sea surface and normally occupying an area of about 20m&178;.

Ice blink - A whitish glare on low clouds above an accumulation of distant ice.

Ice edge - The demarcation at any given time between the open sea and sea ice of any kind, whether fast or drifting.

Ice shelf - A floating ice sheet of considerable thickness showing 2-50m or more above sea level, attached to the coast. Usually of great horizontal extent and with a level of gently undulating surface. Nourished by annual snow accumulation and often also by the seaward extension of land glaciers. Limited areas may be aground. The seaward edge is termed an ice front.

Lead - Any fracture or passageway through sea ice which is navigable by surface vessels.

Pancake ice - Predominantly circular pieces of ice from 30cm - 3m in diameter, and up to about 10cm in thickness, with raised rims due to the pieces striking against one another.

Polynya - Any non-linear shaped opening enclosed in ice. Polynyas may contain brash ice and/or be covered with new ice or young ice.

Sastrugi - Sharp irregular ridges formed on a snow surface by wind erosion and deposition. On drift ice the ridges are parallel to the direction of the prevailing wind at the time they were formed.

Sea ice - Any form of ice found at sea which has originated from the freezing of sea water.

Tabular berg -A flat-topped iceberg. Most tabular bergs form by calving from an ice shelf and show horizontal banding.

Water sky - Dark streaks on the underside of low clouds, indicating the presence of water features in the vicinity of sea ice. A helpful indication when working in sea ice as to which direction to take.

Thought of the Day: If today is the first day of the rest of your life....then what was yesterday ???

IT ONLY REMAINS, for all of us onboard RRS Ernest Shackleton to wish you all at home...

RRS Ernest Shackleton

A Very Happy and Peaceful Christmas, and a Prosperous and Successful New Year. See you all in 2003.

Forthcoming events: Arrive at Creek 2 of the Brunt Ice Shelf and start an immediate relief of Halley Base. A full relief of Halley was not possible last year, so this year there is more cargo to be landed and 2 years accumulation of waste to be returned to the UK. A 12 Hour Shift System will start almost immediately to allow a 24-hour continuous operation which will continue throughout Christmas, New Year and until completion at some time in the first week of January 2003.

Contributors this week: Many thanks to Gavin for his excellent reporting in this weeks and this season's diaries. Gavin relinquishes the 'web pen' in favour of a summer at Halley, but Dr's Peter and Lyndsey who will remain onboard will doubtless be volunteered into contributing in his place !!
Thank you to Dr's Sue Dowling and Alex Ramsden for unwittingly appearing in our webpage and I shall be asking their permission retrospectively for their consent!
Thanks to the Shackleton Camera Team whose odd selection of pictures on the communal network drive have been purloined for this week's offering, and finally to Mike Gloistein at home for letting me steal his previous web-page work without telling him !

Diary 15 will be written on or around 29 December 2002 but will not be available for publication until after 06th January 2003.

Stevie B