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16 May - Mobile aquarium

Date: Sunday 16 May 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT -3): 35°51.6' North 025°36' West.
Next destination: Immingham
ETA: Sunday 23 May 2004
Distance to go: 1703.5 nmiles
Distance sailed from Stanley: 5544.4 nmiles
Total distance sailed: 31389 nmiles

Current weather: Partly cloudy, fine and clear
Sea State: Slight seas, long low swell
Wind: E, Force 2
Barometric pressure:1020.9 mmHg
Air temperature: 19.7°C
Sea temperature: 19.2°C

Click to see position map - not to scale!


This Week on ES

This week has seen all of us working hard cleaning the ship from top to bottom. While the deck crews have been outside painting, scrubbing, repairing and generally making the decks gleam, we FIDs have been on our hands and knees inside helping Bellies the Steward to make the ship, well, ship-shape. On Thursday afternoon we all crowded into the galley (that's the "kitchen" for all you landlubbers) to clean all the bulkheads ("walls") and deckheads ("ceilings").

Issy getting to grips with the galley Issy getting to grips with the bulkheads - click to see image

For some reason my camera refused to take any photos of the lads scrubbing, but rest assured you mothers of male FIDs - they are now fully housetrained even if they weren't before they went South...

Jane in the washing up room Jane in the washing up room Lucy attacking the oven Lucy attacking the oven

Click on the above images to see them.

In addition, people have been continuing to do their own particular jobs on board. Jane and I spent most of the week going through the medical equipment and pharmacy, making notes of what needs to be reordered for next year and packing up drugs which have passed their expiry date, for disposal in the UK. In the process we have tidied all the areas where medical kit is stored - if you're reading this, Captain Marshall, you'll be very impressed by how tidy the mezzanine is!

It's by no means all work for us FIDs on the ship - film nights have continued, another barbecue was held on Saturday evening, and jigsaw-mania has hit the ship. The ever-popular game of cribbage is widely played, and although with the higher latitudes the weather is not so blisteringly hot, it is usually mild enough for T-shirt and shorts (or a sock, in the case of our Bosun's Mate). The favourite place for sunbathing and sightseeing is the Monkey Island which is the outside deck on top of the bridge.

Feeding time at the zoo... Jane feeds Chrissy an olive on the Monkey Island - click to see image

Issy in the jigsaw corner Issy in the grip of jigsaw-mania - click to see image


The Mobile Aquarium

Among the containers carried in the aft hold is this one:

A boring old container... The container - click to see image

It may look like a normal refrigerated container, but inside it contains a valuable collection of specimens from the Antarctic - fish and other marine animals collected from Rothera and bound for the aquarium at BAS headquarters in Cambridge.

...until you look inside Inside the mobile aquarium - click to see image

These extra passengers on the ship need very special treatment for their journey. Temperatures in the hold can reach 35°C while the ship is passing through the tropics, and since the fish are used to the low temperatures of Antarctic waters, the temperature inside the container needs to be adjusted to as low as -3°C in order to lower the water temperature in the tanks to around 0°C.

The animals need regular replenishment of the water in their tanks, so there is a big water pump and a series of pipes to enable water to be pumped from the sea into a refrigerated holding tank, where it is kept until it is cold enough to be transferred into the small tanks in which the fish are kept.

The animals joined us on the Ernest Shackleton from their aquarium in Rothera back in March, and have been with us ever since, including a very rough crossing of Drake's Passage and an impromptu visit to their old home. They are due to disembark when we get to the UK next week, when they will be put into special bins and transferred into a refrigerated lorry for their final journey down to Cambridge. Despite all this disruption, they are hardy creatures and virtually all of them will survive unscathed.

For the whole of their journey from the Rothera aquarium to the aquarium in Cambridge, the marine animals are being looked after by our "fish nurse" Lucy Conway. Lucy has been associated with BAS for many years, ever since she did some work as a student back in 1989, and has been to Rothera three times to work with the marine animals there.

Lucy the fish nurse Lucy Conway in the aquarium - click to see image

Lucy checks on all the inhabitants of the aquarium every day. They are fed every three days - fish from temperate waters need feeding every day, but these fish which are used to cold temperatures have very slow metabolic rates and don't need to be fed so often. Lucy also performs a water change every three days.

Here are some photos taken in the aquarium showing some of its inhabitants:

A rock cod coming up to the surface to be fed Antarctic Cod - click to see image

This is an Antarctic Cod, of the genus Notothenia. Antarctic cod are not to be confused with Northern hemisphere cod as they are very different species. One study being performed at Rothera at the moment is looking at the metabolism of the Antarctic cod and whether information learnt from these studies can be applied to human physiology and medicine, specifically the performance of the heart under very low temperatures. The Antarctic cod in the aquarium now recognise when Lucy is about to feed them and all jump up at the surface of the water, which is what the one in the photo is doing. This particular fish is estimated to be about 15 years old.

Baby rock cod in their tank Harpifagers - click to see image

These two fish are both Harpifagers. Although at first glance they may look like baby versions of the Antarctic cod shown above (the cod is approximately 20 centimetres long, and the Harpifagers about 8 centimetres), they are a completely different species of fish, and these rather attractive specimens are approximately 10 years old.

Some wormy things Nemertean worms - click to see image

The pink tape-like creatures above are known to us all as "wormy things", a name also used for them by Lucy. However, she assures me that their proper name is nemerteans. If you have ever watched the BBC TV series "Life in the Freezer", you will have seen a time-lapse sequence showing these worms on the sea bed feeding on a dead penguin.

Isopods Isopods - click to see image

These strangely attractive pink "woodlice" are not insects but crustaceans known as giant isopods. Down at Rothera, the familiar types of crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters are not found and these isopods are the largest crustaceans living at these far southern latitudes. The ones in the aquarium (shown here) are about 10 centimetres long.

Well, that's a quick overview of the Mobile Aquarium and some of its inhabitants. It may seem like a lot of effort for a few fish, but these marine creatures are the basis for important science projects back in Cambridge as well as at Rothera.


More drills

Safety drills are a good way of making sure that everyone on board knows what to do in the event of an emergency (and useful for getting Eric out of bed), as well as being a test of whether particular items of safety equipment work as they are designed to, so as you may have gathered from reading these web diaries we have a lot of emergency exercises.

This weekend was a particularly busy time. On Saturday the Major Incident Plan was tested - the scenario being that there was a fire in the paint store over the aft deck, injuring three crew members. A secondary medical treatment area was set up in the Red Room, and while the fire crews were fighting the fire the casualties were strapped onto stretchers and distributed between the Red Room and the surgery for medical management. The whole exercise went very well and no major problems were identified.

The following day a Man Overboard exercise was performed. Our poor old long-suffering dummy "George" was heaved over the side of the ship and the alarm was sounded. As it was a warm and sunny day, the FIDs were quite happy to perform their designated role of standing on the deck and looking out to sea to try and spot the missing person. The ship did a quick turn, the FRC (Fast Rescue Craft) was launched, and George was quickly recovered.

Collecting George The FRC off to find George - click to see image

George - not on the crew list George just after his rescue - click to see image

As George is constantly waterlogged, smells musty and constantly exudes a stream of stale water, the considered medical opinion was that he was best treated by leaving him on a bench in the sun to dry out. However, Jim and Bob had other ideas and started a valiant attempt to resuscitate him. Jim even gave him mouth-to-mouth! Thanks to their efforts, other than requiring a few stitches in his boiler suit, George lives to fall in the water again another day...

Jim and Bob trying to bring George back to life Jim and Bob resuscitating George - click to see image


Wavey Davey's Wit Spot

Another "doctor" joke from Davey this week - must be something to do with the Editor...

WD: I accidentally sliced and ate a daffodil bulb instead of an onion in my cheese and onion sandwich so I went to Doctor Sue for advice. I ended up in hospital but don't worry, I'll be out in the spring...

Well I think the bottom of the barrel is definitely in sight with that one Davey.

Some people may not realise that Wavey Davey is actually a real person - unfortunately for those of us who appreciate good humour, he is all too real... Here's a photo of a heavily disguised Davey:

David Taylor, esq. A heavily disguised Wavey Davey - click to see image


Crewman of theWeek

At the end of next week we'll be saying goodbye to the Chief Cook Richard Simpson. Richie is an incredible ship's cook, and meals on board have been like going out to a posh restaurant every night.

Chief Cook Richie Chief Cook Richie - click to see image

As the chief culprit responsible for a lot of spare tyres and love handles, Richie has done his best to even up the balance by running nightly circuit training sessions, and has taken perhaps too much pleasure in seeing the Chief Engineer suffer...

Richie has worked on the RRS Ernest Shackleton for two years, has enjoyed every minute of his time on the ship and says he will never work with a nicer crew of sailors. He can't wait to see his two boys Kieran and Morgan next week!


Forthcoming Events: The final week of our voyage up through the Atlantic Ocean.

Contributors this week: Me, with aquarium info from Lucy Conway.

All photos taken by Sue, except the photo of Davey which was taken by Steve B and doctored by Sue.

Diary 34 should be available soon.


Well, by this time next week we should be within a snowball's throw of Immingham and home. After more than a year and a half away I'm glad to be getting back, but over those nineteen months I've had an absolutely brilliant time both at South Georgia and on the Ernest Shackleton. Many thanks to everyone I've met along the way for making my time South so much fun.

To all the teams at Halley, Rothera, Bird Island and especially King Edward Point - I hope you all have the best of winters.

I'll leave next week's diary to Stevie B who is usually a lot quicker off the mark in getting them written than I am, so for the last time...

Bye for now, Sue D.

(Love to all my family and friends, especially Mum, Dad, Marky, Janey, Olly, Ella and of course Nigel - see you all next week! And a big hello to Hassan and Jamal in Istanbul! xxx)