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09 Feb - Kites at Halley

Date:  Sunday 09 February 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 75° 18'S 030° 53'W
Next destination: Off Halley, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica
ETA: Continuing with northwesterly transect for science
Distance to go: N/A
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 16191.2 NM

Current Weather: Cloudy, dull and cold (again!)
Wind:  NE x 20 kts
Barometric pressure:  993.7 mb
Sea state: Calm in light pack ice
Air temperature:  -1.8°C.
Sea temperature: -2.1°C.
Click here for ships track

The Weather Window

The weather this week - Click to enlarge
The weather this week
Click to enlarge

The photo above shows this week's view of our world at 12.00 noon on a Sunday. The Antarctic Low that has kept us out of Creek 2 for the latter part of the week has started to fill and the ensuing better weather has arrived with light snow falls and occasional breaks in the cloud to allow a beam of sunshine. But it is still very cold!!!


It has been a busy week this week for the 'Kiteoholics Anonymous' on RRS Ernest Shackleton. Despite attempts to keep 'wraps' on the seedy and vibrant underworld of the 'kite flyers', they just came busting forth from the vessel whilst alongside Creek 2 at Halley this week.

Kite flying - Click to enlarge
Kite flying near Halley
Click to enlarge

It was a mild Tuesday evening alongside and at the cessation of work for the day, they started appearing on the sea ice in droves. From about 10pm the immediate skies were filled with an array of colours and a collection of 'craning necks' underneath them !

Kite flying - Click to enlarge

Although some of them sat on the sidelines, it wasn't long before they too were hooked and trying their hand at kite flying. Dr Lyndsey was not immobile for long before she too - weak-willed - gave in to the lure of the pretty flying things in the sky.

This was not a first time on the kite strings for seaman James Baker. He has apparently been hooked on kite flying for a while. He is under treatment for it, but lacks the conviction to finally 'shake' the habit.

Kite flying - Click to enlarge

Kite flying - Click to enlarge

Penny the Dentist had difficulty at first. Kite flying doesn't come naturally to everyone. But it wasn't long before she too had joined the fraternity. The main problem with 'Kiteoholicism' is that these people have to admit they have a problem. Without conceding that they have a problem, how can they possibly come to terms with their obsession, and thereby take the first steps to recovery ? 'I just tried my first one, to see what it was like' said Penny. 'My mum and dad would probably have killed me if they had known. They always thought of me as such a 'balanced' child, and I dread to think what they would have thought had they found out I had turned to kite-flying'!?!?

Kiteoholicism is not just a disease that can inflict the weak, the infirm, the dentists and the dejected ! Kiteoholicism can strike anywhere. Here we find a well-reputed scientist, Povl Abrahamsen, who recently took up the habit. I am afraid there is no hope for Povl as he embarks on the long dark road to being an out-and-out kite flyer. BAS are presently working on a revised Drug, Kites, and Alcohol Policy, whereby they can police the use of such stimuli in Antarctica!!!

Kite flying - Click to enlarge

Kite flying - Click to enlarge

Even Chief Officer David Gooberman was caught in the act, with the reputed 'instigator' Bob Roullier seen in the background. In an interview, Bob admitted to being a confirmed Kiteoholic. 'It started when I was young', said Bob. 'I started with a small one, and then tried another....before I knew it, I was compelled to buy even more and more kites. It wasn't enough to have just the one. Eventually I started on the big stuff. I've tried to give them up, but it's difficult when you are so far down the line'.

Bob is now undergoing the course of treatment for kite-flying and these Kiteoholics Anonymous meetings are sure to help. Anyone seeking help with similar problems should phone the helpline on 01800-KITES-HELPME !!!


Wavey Davey Says :-
He used to get so drunk, he would see Pink Elephants.
'Have you seen a psychiatrist ?' asked his Doctor ...
'No' said Davey 'Only Pink Elephants !!'

Povl *(scientist) Says :- Did you hear about the Dwarf (..sorry, 'vertically challenged person) Psychic Criminal who escaped ???
The police are now looking for a Small Medium at Large !!

The Vessel's Work this Week

This week has largely been a week for dodging icebergs in Creek 2.

Since arriving at Creek 2, Halley, we discovered that most of the sea ice had disappeared, leaving us only a small, but workable, portion of 'Quayside' to work on in front of the Creek 2 Ramp. The condition of the ice edge - as seen in the picture below - was solid with a 'clean' edge that presented no problem for going alongside. The temperatures upon arrival (-5.0/-6.0°C) were chilly enough to start freezing the sea directly about us and a 'scum' of ice crystals formed all around which made a mosaic of patterns on the sea surface. Click on Image to see the 'frozen waves'.

Ice ramp near Halley - Click to enlarge
Arrival at Creek 2, Halley. Viewed on Sunday evening, we lay off until the Monday morning before going alongside and tying up.
Click to enlarge

But on Tuesday and Wednesday, our 'make-shift port' was threatened when 'HMS Large Icebergs' came cruising by. The danger is that these sizable bergs (some as big or bigger than the little Ernest) could block us in alongside the ice edge, so Captain Gatti was forced on occasion to slip the moorings, disappear away from the ice edge and cruise around until the offending vessels drifted by.

An iceberg intrudes our space - Click to enlarge Cartoon sketch if the iceberg - Click to enlarge

It was amusing to see one particular berg (pictured above left) as it floated by with 3 Adelie penguins sitting in the 'bridge position' who seemed to be totally unfazed as they floated by the big red vessel and towards some rather sizable and towering ice cliffs. I do wonder how many of these little chaps fall victim to collapsing ice cliffs, broken ice bridges or capsizing ice bergs ??? Nevertheless, Captain Penguin made several visits on HMS Iceberg, to the Creek 2 harbour.

These interruptions only caused momentary lulls in the cargo workload alongside. All 450 drums of Avtur, all cargo, all backload of waste from Halley and a slack handful of vehicles were all craned to and from the ship up until Thursday evening when the weather finally defeated us and sent us packing. With a depression moving into the Weddell Sea area and the barograph falling to a 984 mb low, the ship needed to be back at sea and away from all those killer bergs. The winds and poor visibility on the ice shelf also precluded the transit of vehicles from the base to the ice edge. Even as the low descended on Thursday evening, visibility was closing in and you could only see 2 or 3 drums ahead on the drum line*.

(*Drum line = 10km-long line of drums in the snow to mark the 'road' from the ship to the base. Used for visual navigation by the Sno-cats).


The Shackleton's upcoming science cruise has already gotten started with the deployment of three current-meter moorings around the Brunt Ice Shelf. These moorings are for the Halley Lifetime Project, and are designed to measure how much water flows beneath the shelf. This should give some idea of how much the shelf is being melted from the bottom.

The moorings are all sub-surface, and will be retrieved next season. They are, however, designed to record data for two years, and the acoustic releases should work for three years. Basically, they consist of an anchor, in our case 500 kgs of old railway wheels, and an acoustic release directly above it. The release is made so it listens for pulses from the surface; when we want to retrieve it, we just have to transmit a code from the ship, and it will open a hook, releasing a ring, which is attached to the anchor. Then the whole mooring should return to the surface. Attached to the line at various levels are current meters. They have little propellers on the top, and large veins, so they orient themselves into the current. Then, every hour, they will record the speed and direction of the current, as well as the temperature and salinity of the water. In addition, there was one sediment trap near the bottom of each mooring. It is essentially just a big funnel, collecting falling particles into a little bottle.

Bogi with a current meter - Click to enlarge
Bogi with a current meter
Click to enlarge

Along the line, various buoys are attached. There are 17-inch glass spheres, encased in plastic hardhats, and a large steel sphere at the top of each mooring. When deploying the moorings, the top is released first, and while slowly steaming into position, the rope and each instrument is carefully released out over the stern of the ship, making sure that it doesn't get damaged. When the ship has reached the mooring position, the anchor is dropped with a big splash, and pulls all the buoys and instruments down with it. Now we just hope to see the moorings again next year.

Bouys, bouys, bouys - Click to enlarge

Above: Bouys, bouys, bouys! Click the images to see the team at work.

Author : Povl Abrahamsen

Having been blown out of Creek 2 on Thursday evening, the vessel went off to deploy the current meters along the Brunt Ice Shelf. We revisited Creek 2 on Friday and again on Saturday morning to find that not only was the weather too bad to allow a resumption of cargo operations, but also that several more of those HMS Icebergs had taken up moorings right where we wanted to be!

Creek 2 Sunday 02 February - Click to enlarge Creek 2 Saturday 08 February - Click to enlarge

Above:Before (L) and After (R) shots. On arrival Sunday 02nd February, and Creek 2 revisited on Saturday 08th February. Icebergs abound. Click the images to enlarge.

Thus it was that on Saturday lunchtime, that Captain Gatti called Halley base to announce he was going to proceed with 3 days of ocean science and only then return to Creek 2 when the weather forecast was more promising.


Since Saturday, RRS Ernest Shackleton has been employed in doing 'CTDs'. Steaming to about 35 nmiles south of Halley, we began a NorthWest transect doing CTD probes every 3 nmiles (initially) and then 5 nmiles afterwards. Povl will no doubt be filling in the details in next week's pages.

Forthcoming events: . Depart the Brunt Ice Shelf and proceed on the 100 nmiles program of science in the Weddell Sea.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Kiteoholics Anonymous. Thanks also to Povl for the 'Science Bit'. Watch out for more from Povl as we conduct the science cruise over the next weeks.

Diary 21 will be written on 16th February 2003 for publication on the website by 17th February 2003.

Stevie B