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28 Dec - So near-so far

Date:  Sunday 28th December 2003.
Position @ 1200 Local, (GMT -3): 74° 24.2' South 27° 01.1' West
Currently at Halley
Distance sailed from South Georgia: 2521 nmiles
Current weather: Fine
Sea State: Calm

Wind: NWly 2 knots
Barometric pressure: 1002.8 mmHg
Air temperature: 0.3° C
Sea temperature: -1.1° C
Click to see position map.

This Week on ES

So near and yet so far...

...that's what it felt like for all of us on the ship during most of this week. We touched the sea ice at Halley near Creek 2 at 11:45 ship's time last Monday and most people expected a straightforward and fairly speedy relief. However, this was not to be as there was 7 km of sea ice between us and the creek - a fair way but not impossibly far - with two large cracks, one of which was not crossable without a lot of modification to both cracks and machinery. The original plan was for the ship to get into one of these cracks by smashing her way through the sea ice, then (hopefully) splitting the ice on the seaward side away from the landward ice and mooring there.

So a couple of days of ice-smashing ensued - for us on the ship this was pretty exciting. Imagine being on the set of a disaster movie where every 3 minutes or so, without warning, the room/cabin you are in erupts with a mighty CRASH and you are thrown backwards and forwards between the various walls. Strangely, no-one in this movie is screaming and there are cheers and laughter every time the commotion happens. That's what it has been like, although with not so much of the laughter and cheers during the night when we are trying to sleep...

Unfortunately, all this ice smashing was not as successful as hoped (we have progressed about 1 km) and a change of plan was required. Halley base personnel constructed a strong bridge over the main crack in the fast ice and this is now enabling the cargo-laden sno-cats to be taken across the sea ice and up the ramp at Creek 2 to the ice shelf, from where the sledges are taken the further 11 km up to the base itself. The full relief process swung into action this morning and is so far progressing well.

First contact!

Although it was a long time between reaching Halley and beginning relief, from the start we have had visits from the Halley team and it has been great to catch up with old friends and meet new folks. First up to the ship were Paul Torode, Crispin Day and Martin Bell last Monday. Eight people were taken up to base from the Shackleton the following day - they were winched down from the ship then hopped onto the "Happy Sledge" and were towed off by ski-doo. Will we ever see them again??!

"We Come in Peace..." "We Come in Peace... - click to see image. Off to Z by Happy Sledge Off to Z on the Happy Sledge - click to see image.

Carols, mulled wine and mince pies.

Well, with all the uncertainty of just when relief was due to get underway, we have had plenty of time on our hands. So far we have had two carol singing sessions, the first on the forecastle and the other one up on the Monkey Island. Both were accompanied by plenty of mulled wine and both were broadcast to the bridge and the long-suffering inhabitants of Halley by VHF radio. All carols were interrupted at some point by cries of "Brace! Brace!" by those keeping an eye on the ship's progress, as the bow rose up and smashed against the ice for the millionth time and mulled wine, plastic cups and FIDS were thrown against the nearest solid object. On the whole the standard of singing was passable, and we discovered some long-lost verses of well-known carols ("and soon Miss Fanny Bright was seated by my side"??! "Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed/Bruise in us the Serpent's head"???!!!).

 "Brace! Brace!" "Brace! Brace!" - click to see image.

Christmas Day - and a visit from Santa.

The ice-breaking subsided in time for Christmas Day and we managed a few festivities. Lo and behold, we had a white Christmas; and even better, Santa must have been reading our position reports as he managed to find us on Christmas morning! The elves had collected a (clean - apart from Steve Randall's) sock off everyone on Christmas Eve, and the man himself arrived at 10 am on Christmas Day. After insisting that everyone sat on his knee to tell him their Christmas wishes, he gave us all (wait for it...) a sock each (filled with goodies), along with a glass of sherry, a handful of chocolates, and a shiny hat. Unfortunately Dave Worthy could not be found, let's hope that Santa eventually managed to catch up with him...

"Hello little boy" - Cris meets Santa Cris the bosun (known to most as Chicago) meets Santa - click to see image.

Even the Captain gets presents... Has the Captain been a good boy this year? - click to see image.

After the excitement of Santa's visit, we continued the fun with board games (Twister, anyone?) and the traditional post-lunch James Bond film, followed later on by a Christmas curry complete with curried sprouts, then a Christmas quiz compiled by Keith and very ably delivered by Quizmaster Rhi"anne Robinson". Celebrations and an arm-wrestling contest continued late into Boxing Day, but were fairly civilized because Boxing Day was due to be...

...A Gruelling Day of Self-Improvement.

First off on Boxing Day was the Engineers' Challenge - a tug of war contest against the might of the engine room. The ladies were first up and, although we were rank outsiders, we put up a good show against the solid hulks of muscle (and maybe a teensie bit of fat) which keep the ship going. However, the male FIDS let the side down with a very poor show, pleading poor footwear as an excuse.

Engineers 2 - FIDS 0. Well done to Pete's team (Pete, the Toms, Rag, Paicey and Malcolm) and shame on you, lads.

The boys take on the engineers The boys - or are they the girls? - take on the engineers - click to see image.

Before, during and after the heaving contest detailed above, the hold became more active than it has been for a long while. No, we hadn't started relief - it was the Boxing Day Triathlon. Ben takes up the story...

The Ernest Shackleton Boxing Day Triathlon.

After a day of Christmas excess what better way to blow out the cobwebs than to enrol in a gruelling multidiscipline fitness test. Thus the Ernest Shackleton Boxing Day Triathlon was born. With bloated stomachs and sore heads the Shackleton FIDS lined up to throw themselves into the challenge of a sprint Triathlon in the ship's hold. The swimming leg of the traditional triathlon was replaced with 2km on the rowing machine, this was followed by a tough 500 calorie burn off on the bike and we finished with a 5km blast on the running machine (all halved for women and novices).

Terry on the rowing machine Terry on the rowing machine, with Ed in attendance - click to see image.

What seemed like a great idea after a few lagers at Christmas dinner seemed like madness at 8 in the morning on Boxing Day having spent Christmas night drinking a bit more light ale. So it was with thick heads and heavy hearts that we pulled on our trainers and made our way down to the dingy hold cowering in fear of the torment to come. Despite the task ahead and the hangovers the turn out was 100% and as the day progressed we shook off our malaise and were swept along with the spirit of the occasion. Soon the dingy hold was transformed into a veritable throng of triathlon mad adrenalin junkies whooping, shouting and willing each other on with absurd enthusiasm. Because of the unprecedented turn out, the racing, which began at 08:30, was still going strong late into the evening and it wasn't until after 8pm that the last competitor (Milsy) stepped off the running machine to rapturous applause from the swelling crowds. He ensured himself an extra round of applause and left us in no doubt as to extent of his efforts as he then vomited in the nearest bin.

Milsy - fetch a bucket! The final competitor, Milsy - click to see image.

The triathlon day was a riotous success with most FIDS and even some of the crew taking part. During the day numerous personal bests were set, bets were placed, and scores were settled but as the organiser (Neil Farnell) put it " It wasn't a race it was just us giving 100%". Naturally he went on to take gold in the men's elite race.

Munki not getting drunki Event organiser and eventual winner, Munki - click to see image.

Today (Saturday) we awoke to a stunning cloudless day of sunshine, mirror calm water and still air. The penguins are happily splashing and playing next to the ship's hull and storm petrels swoop and dive over the icy water. Relief begins today so we look forward to our first steps on the ice of Antarctica…..

The results of the triathlon are shown below. Everyone put in a massive effort (except Craig) and many thanks to Munki for organising the whole

Ben the Dentist


MUNKI 7:30 21:46 20:35 49:51 1
BEN 7:05 23:02 20:00 50:07 2
ED 7:04 21:43 22:18 51:05 3
CRAIGY BABY 6:59 19:47 25:19 52:05 4
PAICEY 7:21 25:04 22:48 55:13 5
JEFF(v) 8:27 27:52 20:40 56:59 6
GRAHAM 7:43 24:48 25:41 58:12 7
LORD 7:25 24:40 28:30 60:35 8
CHRIS H 7:25 32:10 23:50 63:25 9
ALFONSO 8:04 29:00 28:55 67:59 10
NATHAN 8:35 40:45 31:10 80:30 11
MATT 3:24 11:23 10:32 24:59 1
KEENO 3:18 12:31 12:45 28:34 2
TED(v) 3:34 15:00 13:42 32:16 3 (1V)
DATA 3:39 14:18 15:18 33:15 4
SHAGGY 3:52 18:37 14:11 36:40 5
RHIAN 4:16 16:48 16:11 37:15 6 (1L)
GARETH(v) 3:54 17:57 15:30 37:21 7 (2V)
SHIGGS 3:45 16:44 16:57 37:26 8
LENNY(v) 4:07 15:32 19:16 38:45 9
TERRY 3:58 20:04 18:28 42:30 10
VANESSA 4:28 18:50 19:24 42:42 11 (2L)
NIGEL 4:19 19:49 19:35 44:03 12
MILSY 4:06 20:16 21:30 45:52 13
SUE P(v) 5:35 28:04 21:24 55:03 14 (3L)


Prize Giving

Elite (Ironman) Men

  1. Neil Farnell - Munki
  2. Ben Molyneux - The DENTIST!!
  3. Edwyn Dodd

Novice (Tinman)

  1. Matt Ashley - McNab
  2. Mark Keen
  3. Ted Bowen - "How hard can it be??"

Ladies (Tinman course)

  1. Rhian Salmon - La La
  2. Vanessa O'Brien - Nessie

Veterans (Tinman Over 40)

  1. Ted Bowen
  2. Gareth Wale

Spot Prizes

Fastest Row:

  • Ironman - Craig Nicholls
  • Tinman - Mark Keen

Fastest Bike:

  • Ironman - Craig Nicholls
  • Tinman - Matt Ashley

Fastest Run:

  • Ironman - Ben Molyneux
  • Tinman - Matt Ashley

Prizes for extraordinary effort:

  • Ironman - Jeff Cohen
  • Tinman - Nigel Colgan - plunge1
  • Ladies - Sue Patterson

Birthdays this week: Dad (Dave Worthy) last Sunday (21st Dec).

Forthcoming Events: HALLEY RELIEF!!! At last!

Contributors this week: Ben the Dentist, not forgetting photo contributors Tom Waller, Jeff and of course our official photographer Terry.

Diary 14 should be available around the 4th January.

Well that's the news from us - as relief has started today we're now all back in busy mode.

To all our families and friends - I think I'm speaking for most people when I say that we've been having loads of fun over Christmas but that doesn't mean we haven't been thinking of you. Everyone has stopped for a quiet moment at some point during the festivities and thought of those back home or spending Christmas elsewhere. Happy Christmas and have a great New Year - loads of love and best wishes to all of you from all of us on the Ernest Shackleton.

Bye for now, Sue D.

(Tons of love to Ma and Pa, and to Marky, Janey, Olly and my brand new 5 day old niece Ella Jane. Hope Christmas wasn't too hectic!!! Best wishes to all my friends at my former home - KEP and Grytviken. And to Nigel - miss you loads, lots of love and kisses xxxx)