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29 Feb - Circuits and badminton

Date: Sunday 29 February 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT -3): 53° 00' South 042° ' West.
Next destination: Stanley
ETA: 3 March 2004
Distance to go: 587.6 nmiles
Distance sailed from Bird Island: 189 nmiles
Total distance sailed: 20014 nmiles

Current weather: overcast, thick fog
Sea State: Moderate sea and swell
Wind: NWesterly Force 6
Barometric pressure: 1010 mmHg
Air temperature: 5.6 °C
Sea temperature: 3.6 °C
We are here... Click to see position map.

This Week on ES

King Edward Point - Again...

Well, we never miss an opportunity to stretch our legs here on the Shack, so another visit to King Edward Point (my old home) was very welcome to all of us on board. However, it was a rather unplanned stop to pick up some cargo and we needed to get on to Bird Island as soon as possible in case the weather and ice conditions were dodgy there. The weather at KEP was variable, with sunshine, fog and snow showers all taking their turn during the day. Some folks went out for a run, some took in the museum for one last time, some visited the base and the AWG team, some went out sightseeing in the small boats from both the ship and the base, and some people even stayed on the ship all day! But I think everyone had a good time, whatever they got up to.

At Grytviken, the ship-raising which had just started when we paid our last visit here (see diary for 25 Jan) was in full flow. The classic photo of the old sealing vessels Albatros and Dias leaning over next to the Grytviken jetty is no more, as they are now both afloat again so that any remaining fuel can be removed from them.

 Before... Dias and Albatros back in the old days...

 ...and after raising the ships ...and now afloat again, with the Chilean tug Luma in the background

- click on images to see them

Max FID Labour at Bird Island

After a full day at KEP it was farewell to the team for the last time this season, and onwards to Bird Island. There was no point arriving at Bird Island just before darkness so we steamed overnight along the north-east edge of South Georgia to get there first thing on Friday.

This time we were there to WORK - an estimated 8 tons of scaffolding needed to be shifted round to the nearby Seal Study Beach to replace some of the old scaffolding there. So Max FID Labour was required, and Max FID Labour duly piled into the work boat Tula and set off to the base. There was a huge amount of ice around and the drivers of Tula (Mate John Harper and A/B Nelly) had an interesting time weaving round the assorted lumps that were in our way. The weather started off sunny and clear, and the sights from Tula were stunning with flocks of prions, large albatrosses (Wanderers, Black-brows, Grey-heads), giant petrels, penguins, shags, and fur seals all in abundance amongst the many glowing wind- and wave-sculpted blocks of ice.

 An iceberg as seen from Tula Passing an iceberg in Tula - click to see image

 Nearing the BI jetty Approaching Bird island - click to see image

Once at the base, Max FID Labour immediately set to work carrying scaffold poles, planks and clips across the beach, over the seal-infested tussock, through rocky areas and over to the Seal Study Beach where a small team was removing old bits of scaffold to take back to the jetty for transport back to the ship as waste. A small team of base members assisted by the weaklings (ie. me) moved the Bird Island cargo into stores and the waste boxes, drums, compactor bags, etc. onto the jetty for the Tula team to hoist on board.

 Max FID Labour Carrying scaffolding round to the SSB - click to see image

 At the SSB The Seal Study Beach - click to see image

Max FID Labour did a great job and most of the work was completed by the end of our first day at Bird Island. Smelly, aching and hungry, we all piled back into Tula for the run back to the Shack. The next day we went ashore again and the work was finished by 11 am, enabling us to go for a walk and see some more wildlife. Isaac Forster, the albatross man at Bird Island, took a group of interested FIDs up to see some of the wandering albatrosses on their nests and we were lucky enough to see a new chick which had just hatched. We then waded through tussock, bog, mud and worse, losing wellies, mukluks and our sanity in the process, to get to Big Mac, the large macaroni penguin colony on the island. On the way back to base we managed to catch sight of a South Georgia pipit, the most southerly songbird in the world, which is fairly common on Bird Island but now seldom seen on mainland South Georgia because of the introduced rats.

 The Len at Big Mac Lenny Evans viewing the penguins at Big Mac - click to see image

While we had been working at Bird Island, a visitor had arrived - the famous Wendy. Wendy is a slightly deranged female fur seal who likes humans but doesn't think much of other seals. She likes human attention and maybe the arrival of 30-odd FIDs was what had attracted her to Bird Island this time. Who knows? Whatever, she was a very welcome addition to the base contingent, and we think she enjoyed herself too.

 Patio and Wendy Sue Patterson and Wendy - click to see image

All too soon our time on Bird Island was over and we had to return to the Ernest Shackleton. This in itself was a bit of an adventure, as the wind had increased a lot since the morning and conditions were too rough for Tula to work in. We returned to the ship in batches of 6 in the Fast Rescue Craft, with the large swell blocking our view of the ship at times and big waves crashing over the boat and soaking everything inside - exhilarating for some of us but just plain scary for others! We were all soon safely on board however, and set off for our next stop - Stanley.

Circuits and badminton

Life on board ship continued as usual this week - the weather was in general unusually calm so full use was made of the hold. The badminton net stayed up so Sue Patterson and Chris Gilbert were able to play their grudge match against the Engineering team of Craig Paice and Mal Inch (the Engineers remain the undisputed champions). Matt Ashley organised a well-attended circuits session so folks could work off the flab, and the Green Room cinema facilities were well-used. Keith and Ash recruited teams of willing volunteers and miscreants to make things in the galley - Elaine Cowie's bread making skills and Rob Shortman's chocolate biscuit cake deserve special mention.

 Circuits in the hold BAS Head of Personnel Fiona Brazil joins in with the circuits - click to see image

Crewmen of the Week

This week we feature the bridge team - no, not a group of ageing grannies who meet once a week for a drink and a natter... well, actually...

Noel Lynam (Second Officer) having been previously mentioned (8 Feb), we turn our attention to the rest of this band of ship's officers who hold the responsibility for us getting to the right place at the right time, safely and with the minimum of faff.

Captain John Marshall (also known as "the Laird") is a Scot who has worked on BAS ships since 1988. He is something of a speed freak on land and owns a BMW and a Caterham 7, with a hydraulic lift in his hi-tec double decker garage.

The Captain is responsible for everything on the ship.

 The Laird Captain John B. Marshall - click to see image

Chief Officer John Harper has worked for BAS for 24 years. He lives in Spain with his wife and his two daughters Megan and Marion, and their dog and cat Berta and Oscar. They also have a dog in Uruguay called Luka who likes catching cats!

John deals with small boat operations on the Shackleton and also with cargo matters, as well as doing his time on the bridge.

 The Mate Chief Officer John Harper - click to see image

23 year old Devonshire lad Chris Handy is the Third Officer. He deals with the day to day running of the small boats, and is also in charge of life saving equipment and fire fighting gear.

 Captain Chaos Third Officer Chris Handy - click to see image

Forthcoming Events: Arrival in Stanley and farewell to the Halley team

Contributors this week: Me, with crew photos taken by Chris Gilbert, and photo of ships at Grytviken by Martin Collins.

Diary 23 should be available soon...

Apologies again for the lateness of this installment. Special mention to Naomi Huntley, who wants to know where her dad is! And a message for the ex-Halley bunch - I found my camera, thanks for everyone for looking and sorry for the hassle...

Bye for now, Sue D.

Congratulations to Richard and Miranda McKee on the birth of Hamish Frederick on Leap Day - almost a cruise ship baby!!!

And commiserations to Steve Mee, who didn't get any marriage proposals this year - roll on 2008!