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15 Feb - Helicopters and things

Date: Sunday 15 February 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT -3): 75° 27' South 026° 50' West.
Currently at: Halley
Distance sailed from Bluefields: 178 nmiles
Total distance sailed: 18267 nmiles

Current weather: Few clouds, fine and clear
Sea State: N/A
Wind: S by E force 1-2
Barometric pressure: 994.3mmHg
Air temperature: -12.0°C
Sea temperature: -1.1°C
We are here... Click to see position map.

This Week on ES

Helicopters and things

As mentioned briefly in last week's diary, one of the two Lynx helicopters from HMS Endurance crashed near the Bluefields depot site on Sunday evening.

Ben (our dentist) and I were taken over to HMS Endurance by boat and I (being a doctor) was immediately flown up to the site in the remaining helicopter to assist HMS Endurance Medical Officer Sarah Wilmott. I returned almost straight away to HMS Endurance and both Ben and I helped with the medical treatment of the casualties until they were evacuated in the early hours of the morning. The officers and crew of the Ernest Shackleton were on standby to help in any way they could, and indeed fetched a few items from the surgery which were very useful in the management of the injured men. Thankfully, the latest news we have is that the three people injured in the accident are all doing well.

For the next four days we waited in the vicinity of Bluefields while HMS Endurance completed their on-site accident investigation. This included taking accurate photographs of the scene and recovering all the wreckage (using the other helicopter to land it on the deck of Endurance) and was completed swiftly and efficiently. At one point the helicopter used our heli deck while the Endurance one was being cleared, and we were able to chat to Mark and Taz the pilot and co-pilot.

"Did you spill my pint?" The Captain talking to Mark and Taz - click to see image

While we were waiting, we made good use of the time by doing a few essential jobs such as repackaging the Halley winter bond, ie. soft drinks, extra chocolate and crisps which the wintering team have ordered. The deck team put it all onto wooden pallets and wrapped it in plastic wrap so that it could easily be transported onto sledges and over the ice to Halley.

Sorting out the Halley winter bond Sorting out the Halley winter bond in the hold - click to see image

On Thursday evening HMS Endurance was ready to move off so we left Bluefields and sailed north back up to Halley. On the way we were transformed into film stars when a BAS Twin Otter plane flew overhead with BAS photographer Chris Gilbert inside taking video footage of the Ernest Shackleton icebreaking. In fact the ice conditions were so good that we didn't really need to do much icebreaking, and the Endurance must have been a bit surprised when we veered off course and headed straight for an ice floe!

The low sun made for good pictures, but it was definitely time to start sailing north since the low temperatures were causing the sea to start freezing.

A crack lit up in the low sun Low sun illuminating a crack in the ice - click to see image

Back to Halley

We arrived back near Creek 2 at Halley on Friday morning and after a bit of preparation of the ice (by the ship breaking its way into a crack) we moored next to the sea ice edge. HMS Endurance moored up a few hundred metres away and spent the next few days relaxing a bit after the recent excitement, holding cricket matches and sports days on the sea ice. Since sea ice conditions can change rapidly, while conditions were good we got on with moving cargo down from Halley and loading it onto the ship, and vice versa. This was similar to relief at first call (see ES diary for 4th January) although much less intense and without the overnight shifts.

A penguin bigger than a snocat!!!! The Ernest Shackleton moored at the ice edge - click to see image

We had great weather with blue skies and sunshine - some of us managed to escape onto the sea ice to photograph crabeater and Weddell seals and emperor and Adelie penguins. The Endurance had an avid audience of penguins watching their cricket match - they must have been very confused!

Kaiserpinguins Emperor penguins posing for the cameras on the sea ice - click to see image

A lot of the sea ice had separated while we had been away at Bluefields, and consequently we were a lot closer to Creek 2 than previously. The caboose could easily be seen from the ship by the naked eye, and the sno-cat run over the sea ice was much quicker than the 40 minutes or so it took back in December. However, there were a lot of cracks in the ice, and the FGAs (Field General Assistants) Crispin and Ed, who are experienced in assessing ice conditions, were keeping a close eye on these cracks.

A clear view up the drum line The Halley winter bond leaves the ship - click to see image

The ship's company plus a few people from Halley were invited over to HMS Endurance on Friday evening for a buffet and drinks in the wardroom. This was a good chance to meet the people we had worked with over the past week or so but this time in more relaxed circumstances. The following evening there was a barbecue on board Endurance which was well attended by base members and ship's crew.

Sue, Taz, Ben and Richard Having a drink in the Endurance wardroom - click to see image

Saturday night (Valentine's Day) was the first time that the sun had set for some three months and with the clear skies there was a rosy glow on both ships and distant icebergs.

Back end of the Shack The Ernest Shackleton lit up by the setting sun - click to see image

Many of the HMS Endurance folks were taken up by skidoo and sno-cat to Halley for a visit. Our electrician Tom Waller went up to the station with one of these groups. Being a big fan of Shania Twain, he took a Shania T-shirt up with him and had his photo taken at the Halley signpost. Judging by the big grin on his face he had a fantastic time up at Halley!

"It was too cold to wear it..." Tom and Shania at the Halley signpost - click to see image

Back on the ship life continued as usual, with the crew enjoying the last of the peace and quiet before the ship filled up with FIDs returning from Halley. The photo below shows the largest and smallest members of the Ernest Shackleton crew, Chief Cook Keith Walker and A/B Neil Sullivan (Nelly), relaxing in the Red Room after work. Nelly is old enough to go to sea, honest!!!

Captions please... Keith and Nelly - click to see image

Crewmen of the week


This week we have a Valentine Special, featuring two of our most experienced officers, Second Engineer Malcolm Inch and ETO (Comms) Steve Mee.

Malcolm Inch

All the girls love a fireman Mally in his fire suit - click to see image

Mally, 57, is a good egg and a snappy dresser. He works well when cornered like a rat, and is out of his depth in a car park puddle.

He would wish for world peace, and when he leaves the ship he will be sailing to the sunset on his own boat, Festine Lente.

Mally has been working on BAS ships since 1988, and prior to that spent 25 years before the mast on the Royal Navy.

Steve Mee

Stevie thinking happy thoughts Steve as we see him - click to see image

Steve, 38, is a Capricorn, single, and an occasional non-smoker.

He likes animals and caring for pensioners.

He has given me some of his favourite quotes for this Valentine's Day special:

"The Graces, assembled, must have held hands in meadows of Asphodel to create such a face" (V.Woolfe)

"In every movement, a crime is recorded; In every thought, a passion is disturbed."

Roll over, BAS calendar One of Steve's favourite pictures and quotes - click to see image

Forthcoming Events: Saying goodbye to the Halley winterers, poor lambs.

Contributors this week: Photos from Tom Waller, photo doctoring by Ben, and a photo from our returning Official Photographer Terry. I have no idea about the source of Steve's captioned photo.

Diary 21 should be available around the 23rd February, weather permitting...

Bye for now, Sue D.