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26 Jan - A visit to Signy

Date:  Sunday 26 January 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 60° 42'S 045° 31'W
Next destination: Halley, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica
ETA: Monday 03 February - depending on departure from Signy and ice conditions in the Weddell Sea
Distance to go: 1670.0 NM
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 14416.2 NM

Current Weather: Patchy cloud, blue skies, brilliant sunshine
Wind:  SE x 13 kts
Barometric pressure:  997.0 mb
Sea state: Calm
Air temperature:  2.8°C.
Sea temperature: -1.3°C.
Click here for ships track

NEW FEATURE - The Weather Window

A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words - I don't know who wrote that, but how true ? From this week, we will give you a pictorial view of our world at 12.00 noon on a Sunday. I only started this week, because it will make you spit when you look at our weather as you freeze and get wet, if you are back in Europe !!!

Weather window - Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

A busy sort of week, onboard RRS Ernest Shackleton, this week. Starting off alongside at FIPASS, Port Stanley, the ship completed all it's unloading operations and took bunkers as the opportunity allowed. We had been busy playing 'musical berths' with other vessels in what is becoming a busy little harbour. Cruise ships, jiggers, Falkland Island Resupply Vessels (FIRS) and even the odd 'expeditionist' (David Cowper on his Polar Bound), all vie for a spot alongside. (not to mention the occasional BAS vessel ?) Bear in mind that we had the 2000 empty Avtur barrels to deposit - ex-Halley and their 2 years' amassed waste to discharge.

The Falklands Island's summer has been pretty 'rugged' this season, and apart from a very pleasant 'get-out-on-decks-and-get-all-those-outside-jobs-done' Saturday morning, the weather deteriorated and cargo operations were largely overseen by drizzle, high winds, and dark skies. Not the best of weathers for the tourist vessels. Indeed on Monday 20th, the Royal Princess cruise ship had to cancel her anticipated call at Stanley because of high winds and unpleasant conditions. This would have been a blow to Falklands Islands tourism trade as the ship carries up to 2000 passengers ! Never mind, all the more room for us in the too few tea-shops in town !

By Tuesday 21st, all work was completed and RRS Ernest Shackleton sailed from Stanley at around 11.00am local time under the command of Captain Antonio and although it was sunny, we immediately ran into head on seas once clear of Port William and Pembroke Point. It was enough of a swell to make the vessel pitch as she notoriously does, and to lay-low the FIDs who were ever-absent at lunchtime. Luckily, the seasick-feelings subsided as the vessel turned Southwest for Mare Harbour and the seas came around to the stern quarter.

Stanley Harbour to Mare Harbour is a distance of 48.3 nmiles but was somewhat extended as we went 'wide' to produce the most comfortable passage for all on board. It takes only 5 hours to complete the journey, but allowed plenty of time for the weekly Fire and Boat Musters which we conducted on the way round.

We arrived at Mare Harbour at 1600 hours local time on Tuesday, tied up and directly commenced loading 450 drums of Avtur and break-bulk cargo for our next call Halley. But Tuesday night after the work was done, was 'going ashore' night.

As described many times previously, the MOD bus service to MPA (Mount Pleasant Airport) runs every hour allowing plenty of opportunity for people to go up to the military complex and stretch their legs - and their wallets! Well documented is the cinema, the bowling alley, the bars, the NAAFI shops and other facilities available to us when we visit MPA. One disappointment was the lack of cinema this call. We all hoped to catch the latest release of the 'Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers', which I am sure you have all seen at home by now. However, we have not, and unfortunately we still have to wait as the cinema was closed due to 'exercise commitments' on the base. We chose to descend on Mare Harbour right in the midst of the 'exercise' period whereupon, the military are busy and curfews are imposed for the duration. It did not stop a good contingent of ship's crew from booking 2 lanes of the bowling alley and whipping up a storm with the various bowling techniques on show. The two-handed delivery of Rob Shortman (Fid), and 'shot-putting' technique of Mike Jones (3rd Engineer) have to be seen to be believed ! Other notable showings came from Lindsey 'One-leg' Bishop (Doctor) and 'Sitting Steve' Buxton (Radio Officer). There was 'Breakdancing Dave Gooberman (Chief Officer) and Joe 'Barnes Wallace' Nicholas too... I think that says it all !

Wednesday 22nd was yet another miserable day - weather-wise - and sympathies must be extended to those working on the decks for the remains of the cargo operations. By 1700 hours local time, all was done, the ship was made ready for sea and Captain Gatti took her out into the South Atlantic at 1800 hours bound for Signy.


Wavey Davey Says :-

Two men were fishing in a boat. They were doing very well and caught lots of fish.
The first man said to the second ' We ought to mark this spot and come back here again'.
'Good Idea', said the second man, 'leave it to me'.
The next fishing day, the first man asks the second 'did you mark the spot ???'.
'Of course I did', said the second fisherman, ' I marked a big 'X' on the side of the boat '...
'You STUPID idiot', said the first fisherman.
' ... we might not get the same boat !!!'

Fishermen - Click to enlarge


After the pretty miserable weather of the Falkland Islands, once at sea again, the weather moderated dramatically and provided us with the smoothest of passages on the 707 nmile journey to Signy. It was an uneventful passage, save for the multitude of icebergs that we started to see only 1 day south of the Falklands.

The seas were mostly slight to moderate, the skies opened up to show many patches of blue, and the white icebergs were a striking contrast. This blaze of vivid colours was material enough for John Kelly (artist) who is being deposited on Signy for 6 or 7 weeks to capture the views of Antarctica for art. John was often seen on the bridge, on the monkey island and out on decks with sketch book in hand and drawing avidly. I asked him how it was possible to capture the majesty and awesome serenity of Antarctica on canvas ? 'You cannot' he replied.

But despite the presence of massive bergs and occasional floes of ice, the weather was warm. Never moreso than on Friday afternoon when crew members and FIDs were seen on deck taking an after lunch sabbatical! I think these 3 pictures sum up how pleasant it can be in Antarctica. Cold indeed !!!

Sunbathing - Click to enlarge Sunbathing - Click to enlarge Sunbathing - Click to enlarge

Above: L-R: Charlie Chalk and Chris Littlehales seen sunbathing on the accommodation aft wearing sunscreen No.4 for minimum protection. Peter Boelen and Karin De Boer more in the open opt for sunscreen factor No.40 for more protection. Povl Abrahamsen - knowing the perils of the Antarctic sun - goes for sunscreen factor No.40,000 for ultimate protection. Povl tests the theory of getting the all-over tan on the hatches en route to Signy !!!

Thought of the Day : If the biscuits at each end of the packet always get crushed,... then why not just leave them out !!????

Finally, the Shackleton arrived at Signy on Saturday 25th January. Having spoken on the airways via radio to both Signy and RRS James Clark Ross, we were aware that the JCR had arrived at Signy only the day before for a scientific mid-cruise break. We had hoped to make Signy by 08.00am on the Saturday morning, but with the proliferation of ice and fog around, we could not manage to maintain enough speed to bring us there in time. Our arrival time was put back to 12.00 noon, by which time the JCR had to leave to continue her science cruise in the South Atlantic. So inter-ship visits and meeting our colleagues was cancelled, but hoots, whistles and blowers were all sounded as we passed close by each other as the other vessel departed Borge Bay and we entered. The last time the two ships were together was in November briefly, in Montevideo. The next time the ships co-incide will be .... ??? Not this season!

RRS James Clark Ross - Click to enlarge RRS James Clark Ross - Click to enlarge

Above: RRS James Clark Ross sails close by on the way back out to sea.

One last word. As a final remark on the remarkable weather we have encountered since the Falklands, 3rd Officer Dougie Leask was on the bridge on Friday evening when he was lucky enough to catch a weather phenomena on his video camera. I have often heard about the 'Green Flash' and oftentimes watched a sunset in the hope of seeing it for myself, but never been successful to date. This is the phenomena whereby the sun goes below the horizon and just as it does so, appears to go totally 'green'. It is entirely due to the bending of the different wavelengths of light produced by the sun and how certain spectrums (green spectrum) bend round the earth's surface more readily than others. This means that to the naked eye, the green is the only visible spectrum seen at this point and although it lasts for only a moment, Dougie was able to capture the sight on video. Apologies for the quality of the illustrations which are downloaded from the TV monitor :-

Green Flash sunset - Click to enlarge Green Flash sunset - Click to enlarge Green Flash sunset - Click to enlarge

Above: Going....Going....Gone.....in a (Green) Flash !!!

Forthcoming events: Due to the amount of ice in Factory Cove this precludes the workboat from accessing the base. Therefore we are unable to work the Tula-load of cargo and the flubbers of fuel that are required for the base this season. The intention is therefore to depart Signy for Halley on Sunday afternoon (26th) and complete the work at Signy on the north-bound call in March. Departure route from Signy will be out to the West and around the North of Coronation Island.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Dougie Leask for the Green Flash, to JCR for an excellent sail by, and to MPA for affording us all a relaxing evening's entertainment on shore.

Diary 19 will be written on 02 February 2003 for publication on the website by 03 February 2003.

Stevie B