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02 Feb - Heading for Halley

Date:  Sunday 02 February 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 74° 23'S 026° 57'W
Next destination: Halley, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica
ETA: Sunday 02 February 1700 local time (2000 zulu)
Distance to go: 66.8 NM
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 16019.4 NM

Current Weather: Cloudy, dull and cold
Wind:  SW x 26 kts
Barometric pressure:  981.7 mb
Sea state: Moderate
Air temperature:  -3.6°C.
Sea temperature: -1.3°C.
Click here for ships track

The Weather Window

Weather window - Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

This week's view of our world at 12.00 noon on a Sunday. The weather has been great up until today when the pressure dropped, the clouds clouded in, and it became cold and miserable. Just like home, perhaps?!!!

This week has been a week at sea, for all onboard RRS Ernest Shackleton. Having departed Signy last Sunday we have been blessed with really good weather and favourable sea and wind conditions and enjoyed an uneventful and comfortable voyage back into the Weddell Sea and down to Halley. There, to arrive this very afternoon.

We are carrying only 9 FID's onboard - including our very own Doctor Lyndsey and Dentist Penny, so the common rooms have been quiet and there has been little action to report. The greatest pastime enjoyed onboard this week has been 'whale-watching' and we have not been disappointed in the number and frequency of such sightings. Tuesday's mill-pond sea was particularly useful for spying the tell-tale breaking of the surface and plume of spray as the whales come up to 'blow'. The 12-4 watch reported sightings of blue whales (Balaenoptera Musculus) in the morning - a not so common experience - and this was confirmed by further sightings throughout the course of the day. Minke whales (Balaenoptera Acuto-rostrata) are the more common types often seen around the Weddell and everyone is becoming quite adept at classifying the sightings according to our 'Whales of the World' illustrated handbook. (by Lyall Watson, Hutchinson Press). Personally, I think the difference between a minke whale sighting and a sei whale sighting is pretty academic really - since all there is to see is a splash of sea, a spout of water, a flash of the dorsal fin and a surge of surf. That sighting is only a brief - yet exciting - occurrence, before it disappears once more under the ocean ! As the Chief Engineer, Derek, says : 'why can't they stand on their tales like Flipper and give us a real look at the damn things ??'.

I suspect that is why the Fids and Crew cannot become blasé about whale spotting, as they do about penguins, seals and albatrosses. They're so elusive that it's all over before you can get tired of the sight of them !

Meanwhile, as seen from the picture of the ship's progress above, our track has taken us over to 20 degrees West, in search of open water for our passage South. Compare this to the wider track that we had to take to go into Halley in December (01 degs West) and the outward track in January (07 degs West). But it has not been all 'plain sailing'. We have encountered the Weddell Sea pack ice all along the way. We skirted it and occasionally had to break through some broken spurs of the stuff, and by the end of the week we found that a finger of this pack was pushing us further and further north. Totally the wrong way to go!

Our track - Click to enlarge
Our track
Click to enlarge

As seen from the above image, our track should have taken us directly Sou'SouthWest at one point, but the ice conditions led us in a totally different direction. Or should I say 'different directionS' !! It wasn't until we finally broke into clear open water on Friday that we were able to push up the speed and resume that nice 'straight line' course for Halley.


Everybody's getting in on the act now. There is an endless stream of inane jokes wending their way up to the bridge as everyone onboard tries to 'outdo' Wavey Davey in quality and quantity of terrible jokes !

Wavey Davey Says :-
'He went to Venice for his holidays'.....but it was flooded !

But Mick, the Pursers, says :-
This man owned a parrot which swore like a sailor. It could swear for five minutes straight without repeating itself. The trouble was the guy who owned him was a quite, conservative type , and this bird's bad language was driving him crazy.
One day, it got to be too much, so the guy grabbed the bird by the throat, shook it really hard, and yelled: "Quit it!" But this just made the bird mad and he swore more than ever. So the owner got really mad and locked the bird in a kitchen cabinet. This really aggravated the parrot and he clawed and scratched, and when the guy finally let him out, the bird cut loose with a stream of vulgarities that would make a veteran sailor blush. At that point, the guy was so mad he threw the parrot into the freezer. For the first few seconds there was a terrible din. The bird kicked and clawed and thrashed. Then it suddenly became quiet. At first the guy just waited, but he started to think the parrot might be hurt. After a couple of minutes of silence, he became worried and opened up the freezer door. The bird calmly climbed onto the man's outstretched arm and said: "Awfully sorry about the trouble I gave you. I'll do my best to improve my vocabulary from now on".
The man was astounded. He couldn't understand the transformation that had come over the parrot.
Then the parrot asked: "By the way, what did the chicken do?"

And even the Captain is at it !! Capt Antonio says :-
Did you hear about the Dyslexic, Agnostic, Insomniac ???
He used to lay awake all night long, wondering if there was a Dog ???

Oh dear. What have we started ... ?

Before leaving Signy this week, we had chance to lower the boats over the side for dropping off passengers and collecting them again after completing some projects of work on the base. Only the light boats were able to get through the proliferation of ice that had fastened itself into Factory Cove.

A lot of interest was raised about our sighting of the 'black ice berg' at the start of the year. I kid you not ! This was the genuine article. And as if to prove our point, we saw another fine example while we had the boats in the water around Borge Bay. Penny the Dentist was on hand to take some pictures for the webpage, and although not as sizable as the last example, the close proximity of the boats to the berg really shows the colour off to it's full advantage.

A black iceberg - Click to enlarge A black iceberg - Click to enlarge

Above: Another black berg in Borge Bay. Photos by Penny Granger. Click the images to enlarge them.

Whilst we have not had to contend with the level of pack and ice floes that Capt Marshall's team did last year, we have still had our share of ice to crunch through and to give the Deck Officers David, Alan and Douglas something to 'play with' on the journey down - especially since passing the Inaccessible Islands in mid-week.

It prompts me to steal yet another of Mike Gloistein's offerings from yesteryear, but it's good and quite apt for our ice-breaking attempt on Halley this week.

The following were suggestions made by school children in Year 6 in the Falkland Islands on the subject of breaking out of pack ice.....

1. Take all your cooking salt and pour it over the side of the ship.
2. Boil the kettle and pour it on the ice.
3. Wrap the ice up in a warm blanket and wait.
4. Use mirrors to reflect the sun.
5. Get the Captain to use a stretch light saber (as in Star Wars).
6. Have a very big BBQ and melt the ice.
7. Use the left over curry as de-icer
8. Accidently-on-purpose nick the Olympic Flame and drop it in the ice.
9. Get an army of suicidal Lemmings to throw cluster grenades at the ice.
10. Invite a lot of politicians down to create hot air.
11. Steal Mt. Vesuvius
12. Use Captain Kirk's Photon Torpedoes and blast it away.
13. Draw some very bright pictures and colour in brightly and shine on the ice to melt it.
14. All the crew jump up and down on the ice.
15. Take the drunken sailor out of the scupper, stick him in the oven for an hour and throw him in the ice.
16. Yell insults at the penguins and send them into a fiery rage !!
17. Have all your birthdays at one time so that the candles will melt the ice.
18. Pour on chocolate sauce and eat it.
19. Have an extra Guy Fawkes night and day.
20. Pour 10 gallons of strong diesel on the ice and light a fag!
21. Send rude messages to Marvin The Martian and get him to melt the ice with a laser-beam.
22. Throw Jalapeno Peppers on the ice !!!!

Compiled by Mike Gloistein.


It has been many months since I last wrote a 'male of the month' for publication in the webpage. It is nigh time I rectified this omission so this week we are going to introduce you to one of our longest-serving crewmembers,.. GEORGE !

George - Click to enlarge
George on a tea break
Click to enlarge

George is instrumental in all of the Man Overboard drills that we hold onboard, and has been seen to actively take part in many an emergency exercise, but why is it always George who gets himself lost ? Gets himself into trouble ? Is always in the wrong place when there's a fire, flood, or other such catastrophe onboard ? Some would say George is the Jona of the crew, and I'm inclined to agree !!!

George - Click to enlarge George - Click to enlarge George - Click to enlarge

When George IS managing to stay out of trouble, he leads a perfectly happy and active life onboard the RRS Ernest Shackleton.
1. We find him working out in the trimroom.
2. Time for a sauna after a healthy work out.
3. And in the mess room. Hey up, George, that's an extra ½ an hour on the bike tomorrow night !!!

Arrival Halley is expected later this Sunday afternoon. This prompted our 'pre-Halley' BBQ on the poop deck, under the helideck, for the Saturday evening. So the helideck lamps were strung up, the BBQ warmed up, the fresh meats and fish prepared for a good char grilling, and an assortment of 'pops' and wine produced to see the evening through. The skeptics thought it would be 'too cold' for eating 'al fresco' but the fires were lit at 1630 hours and were still being stoked and fed by 2200 hours with lots of crew huddled around for warmth and pickings off the grill ! Afterall, if Halley can do it - so can we !

Rob and Al at the BBQ - Click to enlarge Neil and Penny keep an eye on the steaks - Click to enlarge At the woodpile - Click to enlarge

Above: L-R 'Cold' ??? 'Who's cold' ??? Rob Shortman, and Big Al Thomas sporting the Caribbean Shirt show exactly how tropical Antarctica can be !! Neil Wilson and Penny Granger rustle up the odd side of beef on the griddle. At the woodpile. We finally see a picture of Wavey Davey Taylor and he is getting his 'comeuppance' from Mark the Chief Steward. That'll teach him to go around telling stooopid jokes !!! Click the images to enlarge them.

But on the whole, a very 'bracing' and convivial evening was had by all. The T-Bone steaks, ex-Monte all went down very well !

Forthcoming events: Due to arrive at Creek 2, Halley afternoon of Sunday 02, but unlikely to tie up to the ice tonight due to inclement weather and poor visibility precluding the base personnel from traveling down to assist in the tying up operations. Work cargo on Monday and remain alongside Creek 2 until completion of cargo work during the week. Our Science Cruise will then commence and take us into the Weddell to the West.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Mike G for his compilation on ice breaking, and the sad collection of 'jokers' who all contributed to Davey's Wit Spot this week.

Diary 20 will be written on 09 February 2003 for publication on the website by 10 February 2003.

Stevie B