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07 Dec - Icebergs

Date: Sunday 7th December 2003.
Position @ 1200 Local, (GMT -3): 57°56 South 43°04 West.
Next destination: Bird Island.
ETA:   PM Monday 8th December 2003.
Distance to go:  291 Nautical Miles.
Distance sailed from Signy: 233 Nautical Miles.

Current weather: Overcast, Moderate visibility...
Wind: North-Easterly, 20 Knots.
Barometric pressure:  996 mb.
Air temperature: 1.6°C.
Sea temperature: 0.9°C.
Position Map 7/12/03 Click to see position map.

This Week on ES

We've had a stunning time on the Shack this week. The trip to Signy from Mare Harbour was full of wonder, we saw our first icebergs and the sea was flat calm all the way allowing us to see whales blowing in the distance. We made it to Signy in good time and then we were blessed with four days of glorious weather. We had great views every day out over the snow-clad peaks of both Signy and Coronation Island. For many of us these were the sort of days we were hoping for when we joined BAS and this week we have not been disappointed.

 Sunset over Coronation Island Click to see picture.

For some, there was the opportunity to go for short walks to the whalers' graves at Cemetary Flats where there is a group of Elephant seals or over to the Gourlay Peninsula where there are about 30,000 penguins.

 Elephant seals Click to see picture.

Of course it's not all been play and jollies! The ship's crew worked hard to ensure we got to and from the base safely, the mast guys replaced some of the old sections of aerial, the engineers and plumbers wrestled a new reverse osmosis plant into submission, (eventually!) and the chefs kept us all well fed. Shaggy was shoreside making cakes like a mad thing and Keith and Ash kept those of us on board well fuelled with home made crinkle cut chips!

There was also a VHF repeater to go onto the top of one of the mountains and thankfully the weather was good enough to allow this to happen without a hitch.

The icebergs deserve a special mention this week. For those of us who've never seen one before, it was awesome to wake up one morning last week just before we arrived at Signy and see ENORMOUS bergs towering over the ship. They come in all different shapes and sizes and each one has it's own character. Some look sinister and dark while some just look like big, floating, blue adventure playgrounds. We daren't get too close to them because they can turn over unpredictably but we have managed to get a good look at one or two.

 Blue iceberg with Shack behind Click to see picture.

There have been no less than three birthdays on board this week. Chris the Bosun's, Kev the Scouser's and mine. We've had lots of parties and hilarity to celebrate. One of the more sucessful escapades was a curry night which was enjoyed by all.

A special treat for those of us who were looking out of the windows last night was the appearance of a sun pillar. A sun pillar, is a beam of light that shines vertically upwards from the sun just after it has set. They are created by light reflecting on ice crystals, in the atmosphere. Cirrostratus clouds have the best potential for displaying such optical phenomena associated with the sun. Cirrostratus clouds are high cloud that can appear fibrous or smooth and can partially or totally cover the sky, the importance of them in this situation is that ice crystals form them. Since the sunlight is reflected, the colour of the sun pillar takes on the colour of the setting sun, so often appearing red or yellow. The one that we viewed was a vivid orange colour, and lasted for long enough that photos could be taken!

 Sun Column Click to see picture.

We're now en route to Bird Island and South Georgia and we're looking forward to seeing the old whaling stations as well as the new BAS stations.

First view of the Antarctic

By Simon Coggins.

The night before the first icebergs had just started to appear on the horizon. The next morning we awoke to find we were sailing through a forest of them. Tabular blocks of ice the size of tower blocks, smooth luminous blue ice that seemed to glow in the bright sunshine, immense archways of ice carved by the wind and sea, snow covered bergs with penguins scattered across them. The Shackleton is six floors high yet we were still dwarfed by them. In the background we sailed past the rugged snow covered peaks of Coronation Island. It was like sailing through the Alps.

I think what made it so special is that for a lot of us, seeing the ice for the first time made us feel that we've finally made it to the Antarctic. After many months (or in some cases years) of effort we're finally here. There's nothing like a block of ice the size of a football stadium to really hit that home!

We arrived at Signy on the best day they'd seen all season. Often the place is cold and damp and covered in mist and fog but today it was crisp and sunny. We managed to get ashore for a while to take a look around the base and go for a short walk around the coast. We walked across pristine white snow hills and saw some Elephant Seals. The next day we visited a penguin colony on the other side of the island where there were 38,000 nesting birds.

This photo is a small part of a panorama I took. The whole thing took 20 photos and covered half the horizon. This place is just too vast to fit into a single picture.

 Mountains on Coronation Island Click to see picture.

Forthcoming Events: Arrival at Bird Island and King Edward Point, South Georgia with relief and maintenance work.

Contributors this week: Simon Coggins thanks both for your words and you technical support. Vanessa O'Brien for the information on sun pillars.

Diary 11 should be available around the 15th December.

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday cards and presents, specifically Dad, Sal & John, Sandra & Roy, Emma and Alex. I miss you all.