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03 Nov - Stormy Weather

Date: Monday 03rd November 2003.
Position @ 1200 (UTC): 31°56 North 016°50 West.
Next destination: Montevideo, Uruguay, South America.
ETA: Thursday 20th November 2003
Distance to go: 4669.0 km
Total Distance Sailed: 2031.0 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast, fine, warm and clear.
Wind:  Southerly, 14 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1017.4 mb.
Sea state: Moderate sea and swell. - at last.
Air temperature: 21.3°C.
Sea temperature: 21.4°C.


The RRS Ernest Shackleton, finally departed the UK on Tuesday 28th October to begin the 2003/2004 Antarctic Season.

With Passengers Rhian, Frank, Venessa, Craig, Michael, Gareth, Kevin, Ben, Tina and Pauline safely onboard, we headed directly out into bad weather. On the way up to Immingham, we had encountered gale 8 from the Northeast, so with head winds and accompanying seas, we had pitched our way North most uncomfortably.  Now we departed into a gale 8 from the Southwest with head winds and accompanying seas ... again.  But this time the 'uncomfortable' lasted from our departure of the Humber Estuary on Tuesday until we had managed to cross the Bay of Biscay on Saturday when things finally moderated.

 Click On Images To Enlarge Storms. Click On Images To Enlarge Storms.

 Satellite Picture of Bay of Biscay this Week. Satellite Picture of Bay of Biscay this Week.
Satellite Picture showing the Low Pressure System and the effect on the winds as seen by the Isobars. The closer together the 'isobars' - the stronger the winds. Each 'Barb' on the arrows depicted on the line-chart, equates to 10 knots of wind. As can be seen as we approached the Bay of Biscay, we hit 40knts of wind gusting 50's.

In 'real terms', this meant that cups, papers, books, CD's and anything that wasn't permanently cemented to a surface was 'fair game' for being thrown across the cabin. All areas on the ship were redecorated in that 'lived-in' motiff that resembles a particularly untidy student's digs at college ! It also meant that the majority of passengers - and some of the crew - were laid low with the 'mal de mer'. I myself can confirm the motion on the ocean can make one feel particularly nauseous.

Having endured the ever-present movement throughout the week, Saturday brought a moderation, as the winds came right down to Force 2 and blue skies appeared. The residual swell was still coming from the 'fore and thus maintained an amount of movement and occasional 'lurch'of the ship, but the 'feel-good' factor as people were able to get out and about, go on decks and even resume a majority of tasks that are just impracticable in heavy seas, saw the ship return to normality.

 Click on Image to see the start of the first good day. Click on Image to see the start of the first good day.
Saturday dawned bright and much calmer and was caught on camera.

Wavey-Davey's Weekly Whit-spot.

Davey gets 'political' this week with a joke guaranteed to offend someone having a Sicilian, Glaswegian or even a comic heritage.

Davey says - 'what's the difference between the Sicilian Mafia and the Glaswegian Mafia ?'
'One makes you an offer you cannot refuse, whilst the other makes an offer you kannae understand !'

This is dedicated to Mick, our Glaswegian Purser !


All is well out on the ocean waves. For many of us this is the beginning of our first long sea voyage and has been eagerly awaited with equal measures of excitement and nervous anticipation. After a couple of false starts we were all assembled together for the final departure and began shifting our belongings aboard. The crew kept one eye open to get an idea as to what they were in for over the next few weeks. I am sure their hearts sank as eight sandal wearing Fids awkwardly clambered up the gangway carrying guitars, bongos, bicycles and a didgeridoo. Mike (Rooney) seemed particularly keen and was photographed frantically by an excited entourage of family and well wishers wherever he went.

After a final night out in Grimsby (where else?) we all had cameras at the ready to take a last photo of picturesque Immigham dock before the off. Once all the final bits of cargo were safely aboard, we headed off through the dock and out into the Humber to great cheers from the Fids out on the roof of the bridge. Heading into the dark the sea was flat and our spirits were high. One of our worries was inevitably the ship movement and how we would cope. After a confident start we were all fine and even ventured a few ales in the evening, probably not wise. Day two had most of us reaching for the ‘Stugeron’ and spending longer than usual in our bunks. Now into day three we are heading across the Bay of Biscoe and feeling the effects of being broad-sided by a 6m swell. The ship has rearranged the position of anything not secured or lashed down including the contents of a few stomachs, a baptism of fire for the likes of us Fids. But, we are beginning to grow sea legs and the sea and air temperature are beginning to rise and we look forward to the flat, balmy tropical waters ahead (touching plenty of wood).

Ben .

To gauge how much the seas were moving around us, I managed to get some photos on the aft poop deck as the conditions 'moderated'. Standing in the relative safety of the companionway, I was able to take shots of waves breaking over the aft end and then lapping around under my feet on the deck and even climbing as high as the companionway grating to tempt my shoes and socks to a good soaking !!!&*$%!^.

Looking at the pictures below two things are clearly visible. The first is that the 'freeboard'* of the aft end of the RRS Ernest Shackleton is very low.

Why it was built this way ? I cannot say. We have 'gates' on the aft end which allows for deployment of instruments over the back-end by use of a gantry crane, and the low freeboard probably assists in this, but during rough weather, the aft deck is awash and restrictions for entry onto the deck come into force for all personnel onboard.

Secondly, as the sea pours onto the back deck, it looks as if the sea is very high and spilling onto our decks. But orientate your head to make a horizontal horizon, and you can see that in fact the starboard side of the vessel is dipping low in the water as she rolls once again.  Seconds later, the ship rolled the other way, the waves disappeared well below the freeboard, and on the port side, the photographers shoes got a right good soaking ... again !

* Freeboard = Height that the outboard edge of deck is above the water-level


 Another 'roller'. Click image to enlarge. Another 'roller' braces itself for an attack on the Shackleton's aft quarter.

 And on it washes. Click image to enlarge. And on it washes.

But at the time of writing, the weather is positively beautiful and the seas are flatter. The aft decks are no longer awash, but we hear over the official communications that our sistership, the RRS James Clark Ross, has now taken over where we left off, and are suffering terrible gales on the way to Signy. (consult the Diary pages for the James Clark Ross for more stomach-churning details). So our commiseration's go out to all onboard her.

And finally, as we see the end of the very busy month of October replete with it's dry dock, and refit in Portsmouth and the loading program in Immingham, someone onboard remembered that October 31st heralded Halloween or All Hallow's 'Een. Look what was facing us with a grisly smile as we entered the mess room on Friday evening. Do we sense a touch of 'dentistry' about this effort ??? Nice one Ben !

 Click on Image to check out the Halloween Smile.  Click on Image to check out the Halloween Smile.

Forthcoming events: Continue for Montevideo, South America. The program of painting on decks begins as the weather becomes more favourable for applying, drying and getting a lovely suntan into the bargain !

Contributors this week : Ben Molyneux, ship's Dentist, for his 'first impressions'.

Diary 6 of the forthcoming Antarctic Season will be written on 09th November for publication on 10th November 2003

Stevie B