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05 Dec - Signy Island

Date: Sunday 05 December 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-4): Jordan Cove, Bird Island, South Georgia
Next destination: King Edward Point, South Georgia
ETA: 2000 Sunday 05 December
Distance to go: 78.0 nm
Total Distance sailed from UK: 8539.2 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast, foggy, reduced visibility
Sea State: Calm at the cove with low, easy swell
Wind: WNW Force 2
Barometric pressure:992.0 mmHg
Air temperature: 3.5°C
Sea temperature: 1.5°C

The Cloud above the ship is coloured yellow !Click on Image to see the Satellite Image of Shackleton at Bird Island.  (Note : a 39nmile long Iceberg floating in the top right hand corner is represented in bright yellow ).

Coat of Arms

Mare Harbour to Signy. Bird Island to King Edward Point.

Last week the vessel was securely tied alongside in the Falklands, but in the space of a mere week, the Shackleton has traversed the Drake Passage to the South Orkney Islands and visited Signy, and then continued on to South Georgia.   Having arrived in the Falklands with 24 passengers, we embarked a further 9 ‘pax’ to make a total 65 persons onboard.  As you can imagine on a vessel which accommodates 72 maximum, it is pretty cosy onboard.  The 4-man cabins (click on the virtual tour to see cabin details) are full of FID’s and their chattels, which makes it as commodious as a bunk-room on a submarine. (apologies to any submariners who are not of the opinion that submarines are like ‘sardine tins’!). Not all the cabins are 4-man berths. There are those who are lucky enough to share a 3-berth, a 2-berth or even, on occasion, a 1-berth cabin. Cabin allocations are made by our very own Micky ‘cross-my-palms-with-silver’ Quinn, who shuffles on-coming and off-going personnel around to best accommodate all the ladies together, those who are destined to stay onboard for a length of time, and those who are only transiting overnight !  Good work Mick.

With our little ship full to the gunwales with cargo, FID’s and fuel, the vessel went to sea on Monday morning (29th) and the weather – though ‘fresh’ – was kind to those new-joiners who have not experienced the motion-of-the-ocean on the Ernest Shackleton. To begin with, the vessel pulled out into East Cove to launch and do some practice and maintenance on the lifeboats. There was the usual muster of the FID’s at the sounding of the bells as per regulations and even our cargo tender ‘Tula’ got to get her bottom wet.  The conditions were excellent for launch and recovery operations. When we left East Cove and headed for the South Atlantic, the departure was flat calm and only notable by a brief but impressive visit from an RAF Seaking helicopter, ‘Tiger 67’.

Tiger 67 Click on the Thumbnail to Enlarge.

In past times, the Seaking would request permission and then carry out training drills onto the deck of the vessel. There is a good example on Diary No.5 in the 2000/2001 Antarctic Season.

It was a three day journey to our first call at Signy Base. We usually see our first Icebergs as we cross the Antarctic Convergence and near the South Orkney Islands, but this year the ice is way to the South of the Islands. Instead of a ‘iceberg alley’, sightings were restricted to only the occasional icebergs. Not that icebergs are not awesome in any number, but there were far fewer in the area than normal.  Every time I have travelled to Signy from the Falklands, we have travelled to the south of Signy Island and around to the eastern side, but this trip allowed us to take the slightly shorter route through the Normana Straits.

Chart Click on image to see chart.

Going between Coronation Island and Signy Island, we arrived bright and early on Thursday morning (02nd) and slid into Borge Bay in reasonable conditions for carrying out our relief operations. The Base Staff had reported that due to an Northerly blow recently, the Bay had filled up with brash and ice which would preclude a relief at the ready-made jetty, but there was plenty of open beach where landing of cargo and personnel could safely be accomplished only a short walk away from the buildings. 

All this was done under the watchful eye of a Signy Island Skua !

Click to see our security guard at Signy.

by Petra

This week we stopped on Thursday for a brief visit at Signy.  For those amongst us who have not been South before this was a very exciting day. Some people woke up very early and could watch the first icebergs passing by the portholes of their cabins (without even getting out of bed). When we went out on deck we could see that the ship had anchored in Borge Bay at Signy Island.

Although the weather was not very good many people could go ashore, some for work (some mastwork needed to be done), some remained at the Signy Base (Bye to Marlijn, Stef, Davide, Mauro and Dirk) and some came for a jolly, including me, (‘Doctors always go on jollies’, I was told). There was also some cargo to unload and carry to the base before we could venture off.

SignyHelen at Signy Base (All the sea ice had been blown in the night before, so no elephant seals or penguins near the base)

Helen (thanks Helen) took us all for a walk to Cemetery point, where we could see our first elephant seals ( a colony of about 40 elephant seals) and lots of penguins (Chinstraps, Adelies and Gentoos) walking about. We all were quite excited and took billions of photos of every single penguin and elephant seal and iceberg that was around. (please bear with us when we come home and bore you with all these pictures).

The Shackleton at Signy

Shackleton at SignyClick to enlarge the Shackleton.

Unfortunately the photos do not include sound, because there was much belching and roaring going on amongst the elephant seals. Sometimes they blow their nose clear and the snot comes flying everywhere. (Urghhh, thank you Petra – Editor).

Some of the male seals were fighting (over females, as usual…) and most of them had some scars or bleeding wounds.

Wildlife at SignyThe Wildlife.

Naturally we all liked the elephant seal pups, which look like fat giant maggots with huge brown eyes, waiting for mum to come back and nurse them.

Unfortunately the weather was too bad for refuelling on Friday, so there was no reason to stay and we left toward South Georgia with the ‘Witch of the West’ showing us the way.

Witch at Signy Click to see the ‘Wicked Witch’ !

Passing the South Orkneys via Washington’s Strait was another wonderful experience. Again we had to take pictures of every single iceberg. (They really all look different  and come in all shades of blue and all forms).

Petra at Signy Click to see the Authoress Enlarged.

Cheers, Petra


After the efforts of ‘Wavey-Frances’ last week, I think Wavey-Davey has been spurred into inspiration this week as we have received a barrage of the usual awful jokes on the Bridge recently. Actually, Davey has been on ‘top-form’ and at the risk of using up his entire repertoire in just one edition I’ll publish a good handful of samples here for your ‘groan-ability’ !

Following the cheese joke from Frances last week, Wavey will not be out-done…

Which cheese is the only cheese made backwards ?? EDAM, obviously.  ???  (ps. Now spell ‘e’,’d’,’a’,’m’ in reverse ??).

What was Bing Crosby’s last hit ?  - - - A Golf Ball ?

When Wavey-Davey is on a ship with a Lady Doctor, his best chat-up line is ‘come up and see my itchings sometime ?’ 

Why is it dangerous to use the phone book in China ???

Because they have so many ‘Wings ‘ and ‘Wongs’, it is so easy to wing the wong number !!

Finally, did you know the Italians are thinking of putting a Clock on the Leaning Tower of Pisa ???

They figure it is pointless to have the Inclination, if you haven’t got the time ???

(that last one was actually a Wavey-Stevieb joke, purloined from the Falklands Radio !!!).


At Signy, as mentioned by Dr. Petra, we worked an amount of cargo, but fuelling was not possible.  All that lovely ice in the cove (seen behind Helen in the above picture), prevented the Tula getting right in to the Jetty where fuel lines could be run from the ‘flubber’ in Tula to the Shore Fuel Tanks. As it was the weather ‘manked out’ * and so after staying overnight outside of Borge Bay, in the lee of Signy and Coronation Islands in 60 knot winds and on Thursday, we decided it was pointless to wait around with no lull in the foreseeable future. Returning to the Bay only verified that the conditions were too rough to work, and so we pointed the ship to the East and sailed for South Georgia.

Everything onboard was battened down in anticipation of a very rough crossing, but overnight the conditions improved markedly and Friday (03rd) was a nice day.  Fog prevailed for most of the journey Northeasterly to South Georgia, but a lull in the wind conditions meant that the Captain re-appraised his intended destination.  Having imagined Bird Island to be at the mercy of Westerly gales, the intention was to go direct to King Edward Point on the Northeastern side of the Island. However, in conversation with Bird Island Base on the HF Radio we discovered the conditions were favourable for a visit there first.

We arrived off a balmy Jordan Cove today (Sunday 05th) and apart from reduced visibility resulting from fog, the sea conditions were good enough to work in.  Most unusual for Bird Island really.  Our remit here today was to deposit one scientist, Akinori Takahashi, and uplift three others from the Base.  However, with such good weather, the opportunity to launch Tula and make a cargo run was too good to pass up.  The cargo operations were complete with just one run of the Tula to the Base with provisions and back to the ship with their accumulated waste. This will be in total contrast to the anticipated workload in January when the I is tasked with bringing in the bulk of the materials required for the forthcoming Bird Island Base rebuild.

Starting cargo operations at about 10.00am, we had finished all that needed doing by 01.00pm and so were at liberty to depart and head for King Edward Point, which is where we will take up the story again next week !!!…

* ‘manked out’ – to deteriorate. From ‘mank’ or poor visibility and bad weather conditions.

But it was not all work and cargo operations on the ship this week, lest we sound boring ?  We can relate that a very civilized Cheese and Wine evening was planned for the Saturday evening, and there to make a photo-diary of the proceedings was our very own Dr.Petra and her beloved camera.

PostScript: Ties or ‘Tied to the Shackleton’…

On Saturday night we had a cheese and wine evening. Very civilized we all dressed up in our best clothes as shirt + tie were a requirement.

Click on all the following Images for Details.

Cheese and Wine eveningAki, Tiago, Miriam and Ben the Dentist...click on the fair assembly.

Some people do not own ties, but made an effort to stick to the dress code (Andy O’Dare)

Wipex TieClick on the Wipex Tie !

Others like Sparkie Steve actually managed to produce a stylish Bow Tie.  (shame about the jeans) !

Stevie B in Bow Tie Steve the Bow Tie

Other people obviously own a tie but no shirt!

(However, Mickey Quinn the Purser, did manage to sell a few ties after sporting this example all night).

Mick the Tie Salesman Mick the Tie Salesman

And finally there are people who created new methods of wearing ties. (Nathan, Kathy and Ben the Dentist).

The Warriors The Warriors

The dance floor was always packed with people. Dancing was just a little more challenging because of the motion of the ship!

(This shot is the result of the ‘moshing’ and ship’s motion, rather than an unsteady hand by the cameraman !).

Dancing Bbblurddd Shotttt Offf Thhhhe Dancccce Flllloorrrrr


Having deposited Akinori in Bird Island today, we embarked Iain Staniland, Paul Cousens and Mike Reid which took the total persons onboard to an impressive 67 persons.  This is particularly apparent at mealtimes.  During ‘normal’ operating times, the messroom is a steady stream of crewmembers filtering through the gastronomic array as their watch-keeping duties permit. However with 67 persons to feed in the space of about half an hour, it becomes a bit of a traffic jam at the potatoes. We get heavy congestion around the fish course, and the tailbacks at the pudding counter are just plain reminiscent of the M25 during rush hour !!!

I think the catering staff of Mark, Ray and ‘Rab’ deserve a special mention for always coming up with the goods in plentiful supply and regardless of the weather.  Hopefully we can do a full catering department expose for next week’s web page. Don’t move that dial !…

Birthdays this week:  Bosun’s Mate Chris ‘Chicago’ Littlehales had a cake made for him this week, and it remains to be seen if one appears in the messroom for Kev Larkin who has a birthday this very day.

Forthcoming Events: Travel to King Edward Point to deposit Mr. Staniland who has just come onboard, but uplift 2 others from the Base. There is cargo to be worked and we will say goodbye to the 2 South Georgia Government Fisheries launches that have travelled all the way down from the UK on our helideck. Many new-comers to these parts are looking forward to the chance to go ashore and explore and visit the museum at Grytviken.

Contributors this week:  Acknowledgements to Dr.Petra for her pr�cis of the Signy call and for being ever-present with her digital camera.

Diary 3 should be written on Sunday 12th and published on Monday 13th, operations permitting.

Stevie B
Comms Officer.