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04 Jan - Merry Christmas!

Date: Sunday 4th January 2004.
Position @ 1200 Local 6 January 2004, (GMT -3): 63° 26' South 19° 28' West.
Next destination: Signy
ETA: 10th January 2004
Distance to go: 834 nm
Distance sailed from Halley: 822 nm
Total distance sailed: 11992 nm
Current weather: Cloudy, fine, clear
Sea State: Low seas, swell, pack ice to port

Wind: SSE 10 knots
Barometric pressure: 991 mmHg
Air temperature: +2.1°C
Sea temperature: -1.7°C
Position map - click to enlarge. Click to see position map.

This Week on ES

Relief at last!

In last week's diary Halley relief was just getting underway. For most of this week, everyone has been working on 12 hour shifts to get all the cargo movement done. Relief this year was complicated by the large amount (8-9 km) of sea ice between the ship and the ice shelf, and a sizeable crack in the sea ice which had to be bridged.

The bridge worked extremely well and was strong enough to enable snocats to take their loaded sledges straight over it. This is what it looked like - in fact you can't see the bridge at all as it is covered in snow, but the flags around it mark the crossing place.

Bridge over a sea ice crack - click to enlarge. Approaching the bridge - click to see image

There was plenty of activity on and around the ship during relief, with drums of fuel, bulk fuel, cargo, food, personal kit and vehicles all being taken off the ship and onto sledges for the long ride (9 km of sea ice then 12 km over the ice shelf) to Halley. The sledges are taken in relay, firstly over the sea ice and up the "ramp" (a slope in the ice shelf which enables vehicles to be driven up from the sea ice to the ice shelf) to the caboose, which is a staging point where a temporary tea room/shelter, mechanic's workshop and refueling point have been set up. Here the "sea cats" drop off the full sledges and collect an empty one for the journey back to the ship, while a "shelf cat" picks up a loaded sledge and takes it to Halley. Of course when waste is being taken out of Halley towards the end of relief, the opposite applies.

D4 being unloaded - click to enlarge. Craning a D4 dozer off the ship onto the sea ice - click to see image

As there are risks inherent in any sea ice travel, snocat drivers on the sea ice must all wear a manually operated lifejacket (so that it doesn't inflate and trap them in the cab), must drive with the door and sunroof open, and must have a driver's mate with a throw line and radio. When the weather closes in and snow is being thrown into the cab by the tracks and the route over the ice becomes deeply rutted, sea cat driving is not to be envied. Often a pile of snow on the back of a sledge is seen to move and out pops a driver's mate who has been huddling in a corner trying to escape the flying snow.

Lenny off to face the flying snow - click to enlarge. Lenny Evans, driver's mate - click to see image

Even in these snow-covered parts there is a great deal of wildlife - there are skuas and snow petrels flying overhead, and plenty of Emperor and Adelie penguins (the Adelies are often found following the line of drums put out to mark the route over the sea ice - they think each drum is a fellow penguin and set off towards it, then when they reach it they see another drum in the distance and do the same thing!). Crabeater and Weddell seals have been lounging around on the sea ice, and one morning a group of what we think were Minke whales put on a show just off the port side of the ship.

A whale doing its thing - click to enlarge. A whale seen from the ship - click to see image

A Weddell seal on the sea ice - click to enlarge. A Weddell seal on the sea ice - click to see image

After 5 days of hard work from everyone, relief was finally complete, so the Halley winterers and summer teams all piled into sledges with their kit and went up to base - the day shift in the evening, and the night shift at 2 am, pulling up the drum line and the bridge behind them.

Loading kit onto a sledge - click to enlarge. Loading kit and ready to go... - click to see image

With everything stowed away, the Ernest Shackleton sailed at 08:00 the following morning (Saturday). From having 42 FIDS on board to having just 5 (we picked up Gavin Francis the doc and Craig Nicholson the chef from Halley), the place seems very quiet, and gash (cleaning duty) seems to come round very quickly nowadays...

The good ship Ernest Shackleton - click to enlarge, The good ship Ernest Shackleton moored alongside the sea ice - click to see image


Christmas: Take 2

The ship's Christmas Dinner took place on Sunday 4th January. Julia and Dave instructed us FIDS in the art of napkin origami - Gav wanted to take the easy route and do the "Bishop's Mitre" but Julia was insistent on the "Fan" and, 26 fans later, we had to agree that yes, the fans really did look very nice.

The 3 chefs aboard excelled themselves in producing the menu of Lobster Bisque, Gravadlax, Turkey, Fillet Steak and trimmings, then a very rich Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. And of course mince pies, mulled wine and Christmas cake for anyone whose stomach could fit more in. After that most people retired for a siesta!

Christmas Dinner on the Shack - click to enlarge. A belated Christmas Dinner - L-R: Rags, Noel, Ben, Gav, Chris and Julia - click to see image



Birthdays this week: Craig Nicholson on January 4th (but he didn't tell us!)

Forthcoming Events: Arrival at Signy around 10th January

Contributors this week: Me

Diary 15 should be available around the 11th January, but may be delayed depending on events at Signy.


Apologies for the lateness of this installment which was caused by Christmas celebrations and then seasickness...

Bye for now, Sue D.

(Happy 3rd Birthday to Olly on Wednesday 7th - lots of love from your absent Aunty Poops)