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05 Jan - What a relief!

Date:  Sunday 05 January 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 72° 15'S 019° 33'W - north of Stancomb Wills
Next destination: King Edward Point and Bird Island, South Georgia
ETA: Not until 13th January, ice conditions permitting
Distance to go: 1795.0 NM - depending on route taken due to ice conditions
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 11060.7 NM

Current Weather: Overcast and grey, but good visibility
Wind:  W x 10 kts
Barometric pressure:  994.1 mb
Sea state: Slight seas
Air temperature:  -0.9°C.
Sea temperature: -0.7°C.
Click here for ships track


Today, work started upon the new Halley 6 Base building project, on the Brunt Ice Shelf. Here we can see ship's officers of the RRS Ernest Shackleton seconded to work on the project in advance of the main construction team.

A new Halley?? Click to enlarge
Steve Buxton, Douglas Leask, and Alan Newman lay the foundations
Click to enlarge

In an effort to cut down on the re-building budget, only local raw materials are to be used in the building - excavated by Alan 'Tarmacadam' Newman at a local 'quarry' !

The local quarry - Click to enlarge
The local quarry
Click to enlarge

Work on the new base is estimated to take 'forever' at the rate of building initially shown by Mr Alan !!!

Work continues apace!! - Click to enlarge
Work continues apace!!
Click to enlarge

What a relief!

By Friday 03 January the relief operation at Creek 2 had finally come to a satisfactory conclusion and it was now time for some well-earned R & R. Crew and FIDS alike had all worked incredibly hard (as had our opposite numbers on base) and time off was very much welcome. In the morning bosun Charlie Chalk, Bob Roulles, Jim Baker and 4th engineer Rob enjoyed a long walk over the sea ice westwards towards Creek 1 whilst Mick Quinn, Joseph Nicholas and Mark Jones prepared our re-scheduled Christmas dinner.

The menu
Click to enlarge and tantalize your tastebuds!

At 1100hrs Halley Base Commander, Steve Marshall, accompanied by Halley winter chef Stu McMillan opened a shop and post-office in the Yellow Room. Parcels were weighed and applied with stamps, and numerous postcards were written hastily. The mail was then bundled to be taken back to Halley ultimately to be despatched on the BAS Twin Otter onward to Rothera and then on the Dash 7 to the Falklands. Merchandise such as polo shirts, t-shirts, landfill coffee mugs and badges were snapped up as souvenirs. After some shrewd and hawkish retail techniques had been used expertly by Antarctic veteran Martin Bell (Halley senior vehicle mechanic), no one left empty handed.

A few ‘sharpeners’ were downed in the Red Room before we all moved en-masse into the Mess room at 1400hrs for our Christmas dinner. It was a wide and varied menu including Seafood Bisque, Duck with Raspberry Confit, Salmon, Beef Wellington with Pepper Sauce and the ubiquitous traditional Christmas Pudding and Custard. These excellently cooked dishes were washed down with some fine wines from the ship’s bond. Crackers were pulled, hats were worn and Wavey Davey collected the jokes!

Christmas Dinner - Click to enlarge
All set for Christmas Dinner
Click to enlarge

Halley tour – Saturday 04 January

Saturday 04 January was our new departure date, one day ahead of schedule. Shore leave terminated at 1300hrs for a 1400hrs sailing thus allowing a number of ship’s staff to go up to the base for a look round. The visiting party enjoyed a tour around the main accommodation platforms, the Laws and Drewry buildings, and also a tour around the science platforms, including the Simpson building which houses the UV analyser which was instrumental in the discovery of the ozone hole above the Antarctic.

Building at Halley station - Click to enlarge
One of the legged platforms at Halley research station
Click to enlarge

In addition the more brave of the group descended some 25 metres underground into the service tunnels which house the electrical cables and water supply systems that are distributed around the base.

The De Havilland Twin Otter was seen taking off from the ski-way to the east of the base....

A Twin Otter departs Halley - Click to enlarge
A Twin Otter departs Halley
Click to enlarge

It was headed with a full load for Berkner Island in the centre of the Ronne Ice Shelf some 2 and a half hours flying time to the west. This was a reminder that not all the cargo discharged from the ship was remaining on the base – much of the scientific equipment would be transferred onwards out to remote field parties including the Berkner Island ice-drilling project. For all of us who unloaded and manhandled those heavy metal boxes (some weighing hundreds of kilos) out of hatch number one ‘tween deck, spare a thought for poor Genevieve Littot and Trevor McCormack (ES FIDS) who have to do the same in Berkner Island using a crane that they have to build on site!

When the tour party were back aboard the gangway was hoisted aboard. Crispin Day was then set down on the ice and with assistance from Catrin and Ed Davies the mooring ropes were released from the dead-men and hauled aboard. Jim Baker then hauled the ‘doughnut’ aboard for the last time.

The 'doughnut' is brought on board - Click to enlarge
The "doughnut" is brought onoboard
Click to enlarge

The ship’s horn was sounded and the Captain guided the ship out using the thrusters to move her sideways. There were numerous bergy-bits and three icebergs quite close to the berth which we kept a salutary distance from before turning north-east and steaming at 11 knots into the Weddell, marking the start if the journey back to Stanley.

Our 'bay' as we arrived - Click to enlarge Our 'bay' as we departed - Click to enlarge

Above: Our 'bay' as we entered on Christmas Eve (left) and our 'bay' upon departure day, with icebergs encroaching upon our departure route! Click the images to enlarge them.

Sunday 05th January

We have now been steaming for nearly 24 hours in windless conditions on a slate-grey glassy sea. The water is open and we are making excellent progress. The Weddell is still full of pack ice and so it is anticipated we will have to sail considerably east, perhaps as far as 9 degrees West before sailing north again in preparation for the journey eastwards past South Georgia, where we will be picking up passengers and setting down Maggie Annat.

View from the ship - Click to enlarge

Dr Peter


Wavey Davy has been threatened. His throne is under a constant barrage of attack from would-be contenders for his undisputed title as king of the awful jokes. Despite the usual arrangement of offerings, Wavey takes the biscuit with his latest offering :-

Question: 'What do you call a boomerang that will not come back ???'
Answer: ' A Stick !!'

But on January Friday 3rd, the RRS Ernest Shackleton team engaged in the pleasureable pastime of the 'Christmas Feast'. One of the landmarks of this event was the pulling of the Christmas Crackers complete with the strange collection of toys, party hats and gags. One Cracker joke plucked from the dustbin of obscurity has been offered up to the webpage by Antonio the Chief Officer. He liked this one : -

Question: 'What is round and mean ??'
Answer: ' A vicious circle !!'

Wavey Davey is now looking for an employment opportunity providing awful jokes for the Christmas Cracker industry !

Thought of the Day: Why do Tugboats ... PUSH ???

Forthcoming events: Journey to South Georgia, calling at Bird Island

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Dr Peter Riou for excellent narration and pictures.

Diary 16 will be written on 13 January 2003 for publication on 14 January 2003.

Stevie B