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09 Nov - A Dreadlock Holiday

Date: Sunday 09th November 2003.
Position @ 1200 (UTC): 06°44 N 028°02 W.
Next destination: Montevideo, Uruguay, South America.
ETA: Thursday 20th November 2003
Distance to go: 3026.0 km
Total Distance Sailed: 3674.0 nmiles

Current weather: Broken Cloud, Fine, Very Warm and Clear.
Wind: Sou'Easterly,  24 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1011.3 mb.
Sea state: Slight sea and swell.
Air temperature: 27.1°C.
Sea temperature: 27.9°C.


The RRS Ernest Shackleton, is still on route to South America and her forthcoming crew change. Personnel onboard are busy making preparations for the handover and obtaining their flight details that will return them home to the UK shortly after our arrival in Montevideo. But apart from that, it is a hectic time on the decks with the bi-annual, trans-atlantic face-lift which the Shackleton usually receives. By which I mean a good lick of paint.

This week has seen the white paint flowing and covering all the available surfaces, ... handrails, superstructure, window frames, Fids...!!

 Dreadlocks-Rhian Gets Painting!
Dreadlocks-Rhian Gets Painting!
 Dreadlocks-Everybody Get Painting!!!
Dreadlocks-Everybody Get Painting!!!
Click on Images to Enlarge.

What is this fascination for Dreadlocks onboard???

By Friday 07th we had long since seen the end of the Biscay Blues (see last week's Diary) and were cruising over balmy oceans in tropical heat and passing by isolated islands on route. Our journey took us by the islands of Madeira (Portuguese), the Canaries (Spanish) and the Cape Verdes (Portuguese). On each occasion we were afforded splendid views from only a mile or so distant, but unfortunately we had to steam on by and time and itinerary would not allow for stop-overs en route. One particular island in the Cape Verdes was elusive as it hid amongst low clouds. The officer on watch peered from the bridge window trying to identify the island which - at only 7 miles - should have hove'd into view, but naught was seen on the horizon except cloud, cloud, cloud.

 Click on the image to try to see the Hidden Island. Click on the image to try to see the Hidden Island.

Not until he looked UP did he notice a mountain hiding in the clouds above? The cloud was so thick, that it managed to hide the island almost completely and had we not known it was there - could have easily sailed right past without ever sighting her. This put me in mind of the days of the old sailing ships who would have first charted these oceans. How many of those, similarly, sailed directly by without ever finding an Island to claim for King and Country???

A Life on the Ocean Waves

It’s a curious thing being at sea. It’s much more than just being confined to the ship and having everything move all the time. The ship itself is a new environment to learn about. If you don’t shut all the doors properly the carpets get wet. You can’t really open the windows for fear of having an unexpected dousing. Everything must be tied down all the time.

There are all the new names to learn. Walls are bulkheads; floors are walls in the hold; windows are portholes; the Captain controls things from the bridge and the roof of the bridge is the Monkey Island. It’s all very confusing at first, especially when you don’t feel too great (as is the norm for the first three or four days.)

Then there’s the sea itself. It’s huge. That might sound obvious but when you’ve spent three weeks traveling through it, you realize just how big huge is. It’s bigger than you expect, maybe even bigger than you can imagine.

 Look into the Deep Blue Sea. Look into the Deep Blue Sea.

It’s blue as well. Another obvious statement but I was surprised at just how blue. It’s a deep, penetrating, mesmerizing blue that sucks you in and won’t let go. Once you’ve seen it, it’s never forgotten. Three weeks ago I was pretty much a landlubber but now I understand the forces that pull people back to the sea, encouraging them time and again to leave land over the horizon and venture forth onto the seemingly endless plain of blue. I know I’ll never quite be free of that draw and just seeing the ocean again, after a while away, will always evoke profound emotion.

The ship is great. As far as I’m concerned she’s the most beautiful vessel ever to leave a port and she’s got a crew to match. I accept that I might be a bit biased but they’ve certainly looked after me so far. They’ve brought me all the way from Immingham to the Equator. Ordinarily I would describe Immingham and the Equator as, “worlds apart”, but I can’t get away with that now because I know that this same water connects them, and so many other diverse locations, every day, forever.

While it’s very big, the sea is also very restrictive. You’re on the ship and that’s it. There’s no nipping down the shops or round to a friends or to the pub for last orders. I suspect it will be similar when I get down to Antarctica. Many million square miles of pristine wilderness to explore and I’m only allowed to get my hands on the bit within the handrails. If I was a, “glass half empty” person, I would think, “how frustrating!!” but luckily I’m a, “glass half full” person so I think that just seeing, for one moment, the majesty and enormity and beauty of this powerful, untamed ocean is a privilege that I’m hugely thankful for and that I shall treasure forever.

Thanks to everyone who’s played a part, no matter how small, in getting me here. Thank you also to my friends and family who have supported me and continue to support me while I’m away. It’s very much appreciated.

Frank Swinton

Ps. 'I'm more of a 'this glass is half empty' kind of person, and my philosophy is ... 'it's YOUR round, Frank!' (Ed.)

Wavey-Davey's Weekly Whit-spot.

Davey says - 'He once had a girlfriend.
But when she found she was not the 'only pebble on the beach',...
She grew a little bolder!'

!!!!!    Pledge-a-dread: Sponsored Head Shaving Extravaganza    !!!!!!

This week, the RRS Ernest Shackleton is CROSSING THE LINE and the eight uninitiated BAS employees on board are scared. Very scared. Especially Rhian.

In what started out as an innocent joke in the bar, Rhian has found herself committed to having her DREADS CHOPPED OFF for charity.

 Rhian's Dreadlocks

On the proviso that every one on the ship makes a contribution, Rhian has agreed to have her head shaved and Ben (the dentist) has agreed to match the sum they raise. The money will go towards building an urgently needed intensive care ward for a children's hospital in Malawi (see below for more details).

We're now opening bids to bases, ships and the world at large! How much would you give to see Rhian's dreads go? How much would you give to see the photos? All you have to do to pledge-a-dread is send an email, now, to Ben Molyneux or Rhian Salmon stating the amount you pledge. If an excess of £1000 is pledged, and the crew all sign up, the dreads go, photos will be published on the Shackleton website in a week, and you'll get an email explaining where to send your money to. We accept cash, cheque and BAS account transfers!

Please, send an email now to rasa@south…  if you're within BAS or rhian@felixsalmon.com if you're in the rest of the world!


The Philippa Clarke Hospital Wing.

Malawi is the sixth poorest nation on Earth. Medical facilities are extremely limited and rely upon funding from international aid and charitable donations. The QECH hospital in Blantyre is one of the country’s biggest hospitals and is alarmingly under-funded. To make matters worse, funding has been increasingly diverted away from primary care and towards disease research facilities. Alongside ongoing poverty, the result has been crippling under-funding of the hospital.

The demand for medical treatment is enormous with patients often walking or being carried for days to receive basic medication. One of the major problems is a lack of space to accommodate these patients. The children’s ward is the worst effected with up to 100 patients occupying each room of 20 beds. This basic problem seriously limits the ability to provide treatment and often the patient’s chance of survival.

Ben the Dentist’s mum (Prof. Molyneux) has been working in this children’s ward on and off for the past 25 years and desperately needs more beds. The charity was set up to provide funding for the building and furnishing of a new wing, “The Philippa Clarke Wing”, to provide space to treat the desperately ill in a separate intensive care ward. She is on site and at hand to deliver all donations directly into the project.

And on a lighter note : Saturday (08th) saw what is hoped to be the first of the tropical BBQ's on the RRS Ernest Shackleton. Again the catering staff of Mick, Richard, Rob and Mark, pulled out all the stops and ably assisted by Halley chef Kevin and the Halley 'Goffor' Crew, managed to pull together a Hilton-style quality BBQ with chicken, and steak, and fish, and vegetables, and burgers and sausages and all manner of good things to eat. Washed down with lashings of liquid refreshment and fruit punch, the evening was convivial and hot and steamy and ... well, it was even better than the nightly 'workouts' offered as always by Ritchie the Chef on the poop deck!

 Chief Antonio at the barbeque. Chief Antonio is not really unhappy but deeply concentrating on the task in hand as he wields the tools of the BBQ Grill.
 The evening meal. And a slightly out-of-focus shot of the ensemble as they gather for the evening's meal on the poop deck.

At one point, there were even 'interlopers' trying to gate-crash our party as the smell of the BBQ wafted across the decks. Flying fish - attracted by the lights from the deck, were seen to be flying in through the open scuppers and the aft rails to try and join the party. Luckily they were spotted and returned to the oceans where they belonged - as this was an 'invitation only' occasion, and none of them showed with the necessary invites !


It was terrible. I thought I had seen my last at one point during the evening yesterday. I was flying along, minding my own business when it happened. I found myself high-and-dry and on the very verge of existance itself. Lights! I saw bright lights all around!! I've often heard it said that as you pass away you can see bright lights !. I'm sure I was in heaven. All around there stood angels - at least I think they must have been angels - and I remember thinking to myself ' this is it '. I was at the very gates to eternal life when somebody grabbed me and threw me back into the comfort of the oceans!

When asked now ' Do I believe in a life after death ? ' I say 'Yes. I've been there!'

Forthcoming events: Continue for Montevideo, South America.

Contributors this week : Rhian for offering to put her head on the Chopping Block .... or at least a good portion of it. And thanks too to Dr.Frank for what is frankly a frank insight to life at sea! And finally, to all those who have gained Dreadlocks in the pictures this week. All in a good cause!

Diary 7 of the forthcoming Antarctic Season will be written on 16th November for publication on 17th November 2003

Stevie B