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16 Feb - CTDs and days in the gym

Date:  Sunday 16 February 2002
Position @ 1200 (UTC -3): 74° 33'S 029° 45'W
Next destination: Off Halley, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica
ETA: Continuing with northerly transect for science
Distance to go: N/A
Total Distance Sailed this Season: 16732.3 NM

Current Weather: Cloudy, dull and cold (again!)
Wind:  E x 23 kts
Barometric pressure:  990.5 mb
Sea state: Moderate sea, low easterly swell
Air temperature:  -1.2°C.
Sea temperature: -1.7°C.
Click here for ships track

The Weather Window

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

Above: This week's view of our world at 12.00 noon on a Sunday. Today's weather is quite 'non-descript' - it's overcast, cloudy and dull....but it could be worse !!!

RRS Ernest Shackleton in 'Science Mode'

Since departing the ice shelf at Creek 2, Halley, the Shackleton has been engaged in oceanography. Every day - and every night - there has been an on-going programme of navigating 'transects' to deploy instrumentation at various 'stations' to discover more about the ocean currents of the Weddell Sea. Scientist Povl will fill you in on the actual details, but in real terms, we have just been heading to the west, into the middle of the Weddell Sea, and into the pack ice !

The ice has no respect for the science we are attempting to do here. The ice will blow this way and that at the whim of current, wind and tides. This means that where we want to launch a nice CTD over the side, there is a solid floor of ice in the way. The Deck Officers have been doing a sterling job of attempting to follow straight line transects through 7 to 9/10's of pack ice and floes....however the result has been many 'spider track' deviations across the charts. At times the ice has become so thick in density and thickness that going on has not been a possibility. Unlike our namesake Sir Ernest who had to stay in position and wait for the pack to break up - our vessel can simply pick her way back out into lighter pack and attempt another route towards the same destination.

The weather for this has largely been overcast and dull all week. Friday and Saturday has seen an easing of the winds, a thinning of the cloud layers and even the appearance of some most welcome sunshine. The biggest drawback to this has been 'obscured satellite images'. The Dartcom Satellite Images are very useful for indicating areas of open water (as seen from space) but with total cloud cover all over the Weddell Sea, the images have not been of much use to us. So as in Sir Ernest's day, navigation has largely been by experience, judgment and sheer guesswork.

Highlights of this week were HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY. Although Cupid was unable to make any personal deliveries out here in the middle of the ice pack, I am sure all onboard were thankful of the email system which allows us daily contact with our nearest and dearest back home. There was also many an expensive satellite telephone call homeward on Valentine's Friday, so praise be to the wonders of technology !

The only other highlights come every meal time when Richard the Chef produces the good stuff, ably assisted by Joe the 2nd Chef and Mark the Steward. (see below Page 3 Male).


Wavey Davey Says :- His dog is a blacksmith !
Try to kick it and it makes a bolt for the door !?!

Additionally, I was stood eating a small bunch of grapes and chatting to, amongst others, Wavey-Davey, Mark the Steward and Richard the Chef in the Mess Room. Then a grape dropped from the bunch I was holding and scurried off across the Messroom floor in the direction of the Galley. I looked at the grape. I looked at Davey. He looked at the grape. He looked back at me and with a very serious face said those immortal words ...
'What's that ? The Grape Escape ???'

Laugh ? I could have nearly dropped me' grapes ! Good one Davey.


While RRS Ernest Shackleton is usually that well-oiled machine that we all know and love, there are times when there are hiccups and things don't go altogether too smoothly. Manning can be a particular problem. When the Deck Officers and Engineers go off for spells of up to 1 year at college, we have to find 'stand in's' and 'replacements'. Then there is the steady turnover of personnel on the ships generally. A constant stream of new faces on the bases is to be expected every relief, but why anyone would possibly want to leave such a fantastic ship and fantastic job working in such a fantastic place ... (do I get my payrise now Capt? - Editor) ...so it is surprising to see a turnover of new faces onboard.

The latest 'new face' is that of Richard Simpson - our new Chief Cook. Richard is from the North East and joined us during our last call at the Falkland Islands. But as I have mentioned, things don't go smoothy, and now a restless crew have already made overtures to 'get rid of Richard' !!! The following signs have been posted around the ship....

Poster - Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Richard Simpson, Chief Cook - Click to enlarge
Richard Simpson, Chief Cook
Click to enlarge


Note : Due to operational constraints, the article by Povl is not yet ready for publication. A full review will follow next week, but meanwhile, we have pictures of the CTD work involved, being carried out on the main deck of RRS Ernest Shackleton.

CTD preparation - Click to enlarge CTD launch - Click to enlarge

Above: CTD preparation and launch. Click the images to enlarge them.

It must surely be cold out on the decks launching CTD's morning, noon, and night. Temperatures have plummeted way down along with the lack of sun to warm things up and a constant wind-chill from the ever present 20 - 30 knots of wind. Although they are wrapped up warm against the elements, and there is always the possibility to take warming tea-breaks between stations, it has been cold enough to keep a smattering of snow on the decks and clinging to the tracks of the vehicles on the helideck. I even managed to grab the camera for some 'arty' shots out on the deck myself.

Icy weather on the deck - Click to enlarge icy weather on the deck - Click to enlarge

Above: Icy weather on the deck. Photos by Stevie B. Click the images to enlarge them.

Owing to the abundance of good food...

The ship has been going crazy.....it's the 'keep fit' and 'lose weight' regime that seems to be spreading like a disease right throughout the crew. There are a few lucky ones who have managed to avoid this malady, but largely we are all on a health drive - surely initiated by the over-abundance of good stuff coming out of the galley. Coupled to this is the fact that the Upper Cargo Hold is once again devoid of cargo - having dropped it all off at Halley - and that leaves a vacant space to re-introduce the 'badminton court' (first introduced in July 2000 in the North Sea. Diary 37 refers).

Luckily, the main instigator of our expanding waistlines, Richard the Cookie, is also a bit of a keen keep-fit freak himself and has also instigated a session of 'circuits' in the gym for those willing (and able) to suffer the strains and aches of outrageous exercise!!!

Here we see a typical 'after-work' amassing of the hopeful and the hopeless... ?

Dr Lyndsey - Click to enlarge Navs Alan - Click to enlarge
Instructor Richard with Sparkie Steve - Click to enlarge Dentist Penny - Click to enlarge

Above: BEFORE (the warm-ups) DURING (the exercises) and AFTER (...dinner!) Clockwise from top left: Dr.Lyndsey, Navs Alan, Dentist Penny, and Instructor Richard with Sparkie Steve one night in the 'gym'.

Forthcoming events: Continue with the program of science in the Weddell Sea. Finish as many CTD stations as possible before our mid-week review of the situation at Creek 2, Halley. Weather and ice permitting, we will go in alongside for our final call Halley and collect the last of the waste and cargo, uplift all but the 16 over-wintering 'Halleyites', and then close down the base for the winter. We will then set sail for the Falkland Islands via more base work en route.

Contributors this week : Many thanks to Richard for making us all fear for our very figures !

Diary 22 will be written on 23rd February 2003 for publication on the website by 24th February 2003.

Stevie B