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18 Apr - Back to Rothera!

Date: Sunday 18 April 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT -3): 53°31' South 058°19' West.
Next destination: Stanley
ETA: Monday 19 April 2004
Distance to go: 121.1 nmiles
Distance sailed from Port Lockroy: 722.0 nmiles
Total distance sailed: 25724.0 nmiles

Current weather: Partly cloudy, fine and clear
Sea State: Slight sea, low swell
Wind: NNW, Force 3
Barometric pressure:1008.9 mmHg
Air temperature: 8.8°C
Sea temperature: 7.7°C

Click on image to enlarge.

This Week on ES

The Abandoned Bases Clean-Up Awards

Following a collection of votes from FIDs, AWG and crew, the Ernest Shackleton Easter Awards ceremony (similar to the Oscars, but on a slightly smaller scale) was held on the evening of Easter Sunday - I'll let the awards speak for themselves...

The Jesus Look-Alike Award for looks most in keeping with those of Christ:

Jobbo - beard not model's own...Matt Jobson pre-shave - click to see image

The Antarctic Wildlife Award for most impressive wild animal seen:

ChicagoCris "Chicago" Littlehales - click to see image

The Treaty Award for the most loveable foreign accent:

BecRebecca Roper-Gee - click to see image

The BBC Catwalk Award for being the most photographed man:

NigelNigel Blenkharn - click to see image

The Hydraulics in Action Award for the most popular plant:

KubotaThe Kubota tractor - click to see image

The Life Through a Lens Award for best director:

SarithaSaritha Wilkinson - click to see image

The Strop Me Up and Strap Me Down Award for best Cargo-Handling FID on the shore :

MairiMairi Nicolson - click to see image

The Slack Gash Award for least effort made in ship cleanliness: Pete Milner, Pete Willmott and Jake Dudek

The Mrs Doubtfire Award for most fastidious gash: Richard Burt

The Dental Diversion Award for least time doing the job employed for: Ben Molyneux

The Lifetime Achievement Award for services to Antarctica:

Dave BurkittDave Burkitt - click to see image

The night also produced many entertaining entries for the Caption Competitions - unfortunately most of them are not suitable for inclusion in a family publication like this web diary, but a flavour can be seen in this slightly puzzling winning entry from Dave Burkitt:

Chicago and RebeccaA winner in the Caption Competition - click to see image

Return to Rothera

Well, back we went to Rothera - a visit added to the itinerary to drop off the Single Otter aircraft which we had collected from Deception Island (see diary for 4 April). This was a wee bit strange for both the outgoing Rothera winterers, who had already said their goodbyes to the place, and for the current wintering team, who had said their goodbyes to the outside world for the next 8 months (or so they thought!). Fortunately, the pleasure at seeing old friends again far outweighed the awkwardness of the revisit and everyone had a fine time.

Return to RotheraOur welcome back at Rothera - click to see image

The Otter was once again craned onto a trailer, this time attached to a Massey-Ferguson tractor, and was taken off to the hangar for storage and safekeeping. Its wings and assorted extras soon followed and while we were alongside the wharf, we collected the rest of the Rothera waste for transport back to the Falkland Islands and the UK for disposal. This means that next season it will not have to be dug out of the accumulated snow, making things a lot easier for those on base. Our fleeting final call (and this time we promise it WILL be our final call!) lasted just over 24 hours, and on Tuesday afternoon we left the winterers to their fate (again) and set off round the outside of Adelaide Island to Detaille.

The Otter goes for another rideThe Otter on the move again, at Rothera - click to see image

Another attempt at Detaille

Detaille Island (Base W) had earlier defeated us in our attempts to get in and clean up the site. This base, larger than those at Danco and Prospect Point, was intended to be the site of the clean-up camp back in March, but strong winds and unfavourable landing conditions had led to an abandonment of this idea and relocation of the camp to Danco Island (see diary for 14 March). We decided to have a further crack at getting in to Detaille to assess possible landing and working sites for a future clean-up programme - but once again strong winds held us back and we were unable to launch the boats. So, Detaille - so near and yet so far...

Detaille - so near and yet so far...Detaille Island huts: we got this close - click to see image

A second visit to Akademik Vernadsky

The following morning (Thursday) we arrived back at Vernadsky. Vernadsky is now a Ukrainian research station but was formerly a BAS research station known as Faraday before it was handed over to the Ukrainian National Antarctic Programme in 1996 (see diary for 21 March). Four members of the AWG team - Dewi Edwards, Dave Mitchell, John Taylor and Nigel Blenkharn - had previously wintered at Faraday with BAS. They had been camping at Danco Island during our previous visit to Vernadsky so had not been able to see their old base, but this time all four of them were members of the party which visited the station. Once again, the Ukrainians were excellent hosts and the visitors returned glowing.

Veterans at Vernadsky
by Nigel Blenkharn

As we entered Meek channel & motored around Marina point on Galindez Island to the Ukrainan base Vernadsky, I was in very familiar places but the timing was all wrong. These events took me back to 1995/96 when I wintered here & Vernadsky was a British base called Faraday. Three other people in the group had also wintered here at various times from the mid 80's. They were Dave Mitchell, Dewi Edwards & John Taylor. Everything seemed the same but different people were greeting us ashore & welcoming us in a strange language.

Their radio operator Pavel came to the fore to save the day over the language barrier & spoke good English which was better than my one word of Ukrainian .... or it might possibly be Russian. We moved inside with our gifts & were then given a quick tour of their base. It was all in good order & still laid out with very little alteration from when we handed the base over to them in February 1996. It was really like walking back in a time machine as different members of our group pointed out things that they had built or modified from when they wintered here.

Nigel, Dave, JT and DewiThe Faraday veterans at the Vernadsky bar - click to see image

The tour ended in the bar where we were given the traditional base welcome of a drink ....... some things are the same whatever nationality runs the base. The Faraday bar was renowned as the best bar in Antarctica for its scenic views from the windows, the choice of drinks on offer, the hospitality & the great party that usually followed!! Not that we had any chance to party as this was a flying visit, but we did have time for a few games of pool. Other people departed to visit Wordie House which is on the orignal base site & was built in 1947. It is situated about 400m away on Winter Island which is across the creek but visible from Vernadsky. The purpose of this visit was to check the condition of the hut & make a list of any faults/damage found so that next season they can be repaired to endure the harsh weather conditions it stands in. Wordie House is one of the BAS huts that is preserved due to the special importance that it has played in British Antarctic Territory history.

Once this job had been done we then all left, wishing the Ukrainian base group a very happy winter & I secretly hoped deep down that I may get another opportunity to visit this special place some day, as Faraday was the place that I first wintered in Antarctica.

Nigel Blenkharn

Dewi was particularly pleased to see the Faraday Thumb which he had made back in the 1980s. It was originally painted bright orange and situated on one of the small islands near the base, but is now painted yellow with welcome messages in many languages and is attached to the wall of the chippy shop (carpenter's workshop).

Dewi's thumb on the chippy shop at VernadskyThe Faraday (now Vernadsky) Thumb - click to see image

Port Lockroy again and a calm crossing of Drake's Passage

As a final flourish in our busy Abandoned Bases tour, we paid a second visit to Port Lockroy. This was the first visit for many of the FIDs on board and it was a treat to be able to look round the museum. In addition, we were able to deliver a large number of artefacts from the two bases at Danco and Prospect Point to the Port Lockroy museum, including fire extinguishers, boat winches, many food tins, brooms, clothing, books and magazines, and some sacks of coal recycled from Prospect Point for the stove at Lockroy. Once again, Max FID Labour came in handy...

All too soon we were summoned back to the Ernest Shackleton and climbed the pilot ladder for the final journey north. On Friday we passed the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula and left Antarctica for the last time. For the 2003/2004 season at least, there was now no turning South...

For the second time, our course north through Drake's Passage was unusually calm - a great difference from our journey south a couple of weeks previously. This time, mugs stayed where you left them, there were no bangs and crashes, and our stomachs stayed unruffled. Below is an example of the wave height forcast charts we recieve every day - this one is for the period of our crossing of Drake's Passage (in our case, between the Antarctic Peninsula and the Falkland Islands). Yellow, orange and red colours show unpleasantly large waves, while green and blue colours represent lower wave heights. As you can see in the image, we were lucky enough to have green all the way!

S. Atlantic wave height chartA wave height forecast chart - click to see image

Crewman of the Week

In keeping with the "veteran" theme of this week's diary, the featured member of the crew of the RRS Ernest Shackleton is our oldest and most experienced man on board, the Bosun Charlie Chalk.

Charlie is 56, and has been at sea since 1963 - all his working life. He has worked on BAS ships (Bransfield, James Clark Ross and Ernest Shackleton) for the past 12 years.

Charlie ChalkCharlie on his way to the gym - click to see image

Charlie's hobbies include walking and gardening. He is the unofficial ship's gardener, taking tender care of the plants in the Yellow and Red rooms. He has been married to Ethel for over 30 years, and says hello to her and to the regulars at his local pub, The Avenue in Hull.

Forthcoming Events: Arrival in Stanley, then the trip NORTH!

Contributors this week:

Nigel Blenkharn for his account of Veterans at Vernadsky. (See you soon, Nigel!)

Photos: Rebecca, Saritha, Dave Burkitt, Detaille and the four Faraday veterans by Rebecca Roper-Gee; Matt Jobson and caption photo by Ben Molyneux, b/w photo of Nigel Blenkharn is from the 1995 Faraday winterers' photo, wave height chart from Steve Colwell at BAS, all others by Sue Dowling.

Diary 30 is already up and running! (thanks, Steve!)

Many thanks to the Rothera winterers for putting up with the rude interruption to their winter. And thanks again to the Ukrainian team at Akademik Vernadsky for their hospitality and friendship.

Bye for now, Sue D.