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11 Jan - En route to Signy

Date: Sunday 11 January 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT -3): 60° 43' South 45° 36' West.
Currently at: Signy
Distance sailed from Halley: 1722.3 nmiles
Total distance sailed: 12892 nmiles
Current weather: Overcast, fine, clear
Sea State: Calm

Wind: Light airs
Barometric pressure: 963.4 mmHg
Air temperature: +6.1°C
Sea temperature: -0.1°C
Position Map - click to enlarge. Click to see position map.

This Week on ES

En route to Signy

Most of the past week has been spent en route to Signy. We had a fire and boat drill on Monday during which Gavin went through the use of the Neil Robertson rescue stretcher - here's Ash our 2nd Cook trying it for size:

 Ash finally under control - click to see image. L-R: Gav, Craig (hidden), Ash, Keith, Ben, Dave - click to see image

Other than that, the journey has been fairly uneventful - the sea ice seems to have moved further north than a few weeks ago but didn't delay us too much.

New series!

Crewman of the Week

This week's featured member of the Ernest Shackleton crew is Dolly.

 Dolly at Signy - click to see image. Dolly - click to see image

Dolly (more properly known as John McGowan) is 22 and from South Elmsall in Yorkshire.

He is an Able Seaman and describes what he does as "driving boats and painting things". He cut his teeth on the RRS Bransfield, the Shackleton's predecessor.

Arrival at Signy

We arrived at Signy at 6 am yesterday (Saturday 10th) and the crew were quick to put the FRC (fast rescue craft) into the water. The FRC scooted off to the base and the work boat Tula followed soon afterwards, to be loaded up with base waste for disposal.

Motorman Craig and 3rd Engineer Rags were detailed to sort out the Signy generators as there have been a few problems with them this year. They were due to stay on base overnight so were quite excited about becoming FIDS for a couple of days!

Signy is now a summer only base but a number of important scientific projects are being carried out there. When we arrived there were 8 people staying on base but we are taking three of those away with us. The base is small and neat, and the surrounding scenery stunning. Unfortunately we didn't have the clear weather of the Shack's last visit (see the diary for 7 December) but what we did get was probably more typical Signy fare.

 I could live here - click to see image. Signy, with the Shackleton at anchor in the distance - click to see image

Jude, a member of the science team at Signy, took Gavin and me for a walk over to the Gourlay peninsula to see the wildlife there. It is just about the perfect time of year to visit, as the Adelie penguin chicks are large enough to hang around in creches all day and run after their parents to pester them for food, and the chinstrap chicks have not long hatched so are tiny cheeping balls of fluff. While we were sitting near the colonies having a bite to eat, a large leopard seal leapt out of the sea trying to catch its own lunch - but the penguins were too agile and it had no luck. As well as the leopard seal, we saw elephant, fur and Weddell seals, a lone macaroni sitting amongst the chinstraps, giant petrels, sheathbills, skuas and terns. In the distance was an iceberg graveyard containing bergs of many sizes, shapes and colours, from giant tabular bergs to small blue bergs carrying penguin passengers. Truly a photographer's paradise - except that my digital camera batteries ran out! So sorry, no photos...

On the way to and from Gourlay, we passed one of the freshwater lakes that Jude is studying. There are a number of freshwater lakes on the island and part of what Jude does is analyse the chemical make-up of the lake water. For a large part of the year, these lakes are completely frozen and this particular lake has only thawed in the past week or so.

 Khyber lake (before the batteries went) - click to see image. Khyber Lake, Signy - click to see image

Today a group of base personnel came on board and we took them over to nearby Coronation Island where they collected some samples of the grasses growing there - grass at this latitude is in short supply. After they had finished this science work (and done some dodgy dealing with the cooks) they were taken back to base in the FRC and we were away again - next stop the Falkland Islands.

 A pretty iceberg - click to see image. An old iceberg near Coronation Island - click to see image

 All aboard... - click to see image. The Signy team on their way home - click to see image

Forthcoming Events: Choppy seas forecast for the journey back to the Falkland Islands...

Contributors this week: Me, but many thanks to Jude and the Signy team for making us so welcome.

Diary 16 should be available around the 18th January.

Bye for now, Sue D.