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12 Dec - King Edward Point

Date: Sunday 12 December 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-3): 56°11'8 South 017°35.5'West. On passage
Next destination: Halley
ETA: TBA. Around Christmas time 2004
Distance to go: 1853.0 nm
Total Distance sailed from UK: 9357.9 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast, fine and clear
Sea State: Slight sea and swell
Wind: SE Force 3
Barometric pressure:979.7 mmHg
Air temperature: 0.7°C
Sea temperature: 0.6°C

Satellite picture Click on image to see the enlarged satellite image of Shackleton

Click here to see the proposed route to Halley.

Shackleton alongside at KEP Click on image to see us laid alongside King Edward Point.

No. The RRS Ernest Shackleton is not alongside some Caribbean retreat. The blue waters are those of Cumberland Bay at KEP.

King Edward Point : was the next port of call for Ernest Shackleton when she left Bird Island last Sunday. Leaving on Sunday, after lunch, it was only a day’s steaming around a spectacular Northeastern coastline of South Georgia to Cumberland Bay.  By 2100 hours we were all fast alongside the jetty at the KEP research station. Before anyone was even allowed ashore, we welcomed Ken, the South Georgia’s Fisheries Officer and Alison, the Base Commander to come onboard and give a briefing.  The briefing involved the do’s and don’t’s for the duration of our visit, including ‘stay away from the old Whaling base of Grytviken’. In previous years, this was a great place of interest that one could browse around, but is now an area of intense construction (or destruction) as the old base is ‘made safe’ as it has fallen into disrepair.  The old base is now ‘off limits’ although Tim and Pauline Carr at the Grytviken Whaling museum are ever welcoming.

The rest of the evening was spent in socializing as the base members and complement of the Shackleton got acquainted. Besides which, it was ‘curry night’ onboard. It was too late and too dark to begin the cargo work, so that started the following morning. As mentioned last week, part of our delivery to KEP this year was a pair of patrol boats for the Fisheries business at the Joint Base.  The Prion and the Pippet had travelled all the way down from the UK on the helideck and were finally offloaded during Monday – although not launched until Tuesday after thorough inspections had be completed.

Prion and Pippet at KEP Click on the image to see the new KEP Fisheries acquisitions.

For the crew it was business as usual with cargo and maintenance operations going ahead unhampered by wind, waves or weather, but for the FID’s onboard, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to investigate South Georgia – or as much of it as their little legs would allow.  For some, this was a wander around the bay to Shackleton’s grave, but for others it was a rather energetic climb of Mount Hodges which overlooks the Cumberland Bay.

Mount Hodges View down onto KEP

Click to see ‘Hodges’ above the base, and Grytviken below !

Towering above the old Grytviken community is an impressive peak called ‘Hodges’ and many a FID has made the expedition up the rear-slopes to ascend to a really impressive view across the old base, the new research station and Cumberland Bay (above).

This is just the awe-inspiring stuff to inspire another Antarctic Symphony, a poem, or an artist’s drawing. Such an Artist is our resident Simon Faithfull who has travelled with us from the Falklands, and who’s remit is to produce ‘a drawing a day’.  Since that time, Simon has been busy producing images to depict his onward journey using his own particular medium of art … 

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Mr.Simon Faithfull !’

Antarctica Dispatches

Artist Simon Faithfull is currently on an two-month journey to the frozen continent. Using a Palm-Pilot as a crude sketchpad, Faithfull is making a drawing a day, dispatched to the world via email and appearing on various screens around Britain.

Traveling with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Faithfull will travel to the Falklands via Ascension Island, where he will join BAS scientists on board the ice-strengthened ship RSS Ernest Shackleton. On its way South the ship will visit several sub-Antarctic islands, break through expanses of sea-ice and ultimately reach the ice cliffs of Antarctica. More than a month after leaving England, the sketches will record the final journey inland to the strange science-fiction-like Halley research station perched on stilts above the empty, white wilderness of Antarctica.

Using the extremely restricted means of the Palm-Pilot, the pixilated drawings might depict any number of things: a detail of the ship, a weather balloon disappearing, an abandoned whaling station, Shackleton’s grave, a colony of penguins, a wandering Albatross or a drifting iceberg. The project will convey the extreme mechanics of the journey, the tedium of isolation and the awful beauty of a journey into the void. Ultimately the work will look at what it is that fascinates us still about this beautiful emptiness.

Drawing by Simon Faithfull Drawing by Simon Faithfull
Drawing by Simon Faithfull Drawing by Simon Faithfull

Click on the images around the porthole to see the enlarged sketches by Simon Faithfull.

To subscribe to the email/drawing service please visit: www.simonfaithfull.org/antarctica or send an email with the title ‘subscribe’ to: antarctica-dispatches@cca-glasgow.com

"...whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows...."
The Whiteness of The Whale. Moby Dick, Herman Melville

"This is way the world will look to the last man before he dies."
Admiral Byrd after four months alone at Bolling Advance Weather Base.

Simon Faithfull


Wavey Davey over-exerted himself last week. Having used his stock of jokes, he had to go canvassing for this weeks offering.  What we have to ask now is ‘was it worth it Davey ?’…

What do you call an athletic chicken in a shell-suit ???

An Egg !!!

What do they call a Frenchman wearing open-back sandals ??? … Phillip Phlop ?

And did you hear about the man who allegedly had two left feet ???… He went out to buy a pair of Flop-Flops ???

And topically, Wavey Davey heard the news headlines this morning. He told me that criminals who broke into the British Antarctic Survey Headquarters and made-off with next year’s supply of 2005 BAS Calendars, have been apprehended.  After a brief court appearance, they all got 12 months !!   DoH !!

Monday Night

All day work continued on the decks and the FID’s had a full day of exploration if they could escape being part of the Ch. Officer’s enforced labour ?  But at the end of the day, all congregated in the gathering dusk to join Base Members around the BBQ on shore.  Not content with attacking waistlines with excesses of curry the previous evening, the combined catering departments of the Ship and the Base, put together a really notable spread.  The fish and the spare ribs were particularly to be recommended. 

After promising last week to do an expose about our glorious Catering Department, I choose to delay their appearance till next week owing to the vast amount of reports already in this weeks offering. Don’t miss the 2nd Helpings from the Galley next week !

Skiing Narwhal Glacier

It was a bright and fresh morning, but far too early for my liking, especially after a drink or two (ahem) the night before.  At the Bar-b-q, whilst eating copious amounts of tender toothfish and chomping on huge swordfish steaks, I had a chat to the wintering Doc, Jen, about this and that and the topic came onto skiing.  I’d noticed whilst out on Mount Hodges that day that the terrain would be perfect for skiing, albeit lacking a little snow at this time of year. However, there were a few lines with some cover left and I thought it would be rude not to – my skis aren’t going to be much use at Halley. 

After much nagging and a little blackmail, I persuaded Jen and Andy (he works at the museum) to come out to play. Tim Carr, who runs the museum, was very keen, but still had the footprint on his forehead from where Ben, our friendly dentist, had ripped his tooth out that afternoon. We had a crack(ed) team of pro skiers (ahem) ready for action.  Admittedly, we didn’t look as ready at 6:30am the next morning as we set off for the 2000ft climb, over scree and rubble with skis, boots and a thick head. This was a good beasting and well-needed after some sedentary time on the ship.  We reached the summit of Mt Narwhal quickly and slipped into something more suitable. 

Skiing on Mt Narwhal Skiing on Mt Narwhal Skiing on Mt Narwhal

Click to enlarge the party on the glacier.

Admittedly, the snow wasn’t particularly fluffy, but the location was awesome and the slopes long and quite steep. Andy set off at a hair-raising pace and immediately felt hungry so decided to eat some snow. He said that the snow tasted good, so good that he tasted it several times again before he was full.  I followed sensibly behind and skied as far as possible, working our way down narrow lines of snow on scree slopes. The final challenge was to walk down grinning about our morning and drink tea and eat home made cakes at Tim and Pauline’s Museum.

And all this happened before most people were even thinking about getting out of bed.  Another hard day at the office……..

Whaling Stations

Whaling station

The captain decided that it was a good time to increase the small boat handling skills of the crew on the Shackleton. This would involve practicing beach landings moving people from the ship ashore and back again. We, ever willing FIDS, were more than happy to offer our services as punters and quickly queued for the boats. Of course it would be silly to do this at KEP as the area was well known.  How about somewhere else!  Great idea.

The Shackleton left KEP and sailed NW to a large bay with the derelict Husvik, Stromness and Leith Whaling stations scattered along the coast.  We climbed one by one into the RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) and were whisked ashore near Husvik. This is an eerie place, a derelict station inhabited by aggressive and particularly fast Fur seals and fat and lazy elephant seals.  It is a dangerous site, so we had to keep our distance, but is a ghost town filled with childishly amusing burps and farts and other seal noises resonating in the buildings. 

Our task, for those who chose to accept it, was to risk life and limb dodging fur seals, tackling tussoc grass and braving gnarly Antarctic conditions on a walk around the coast to Stromness. This is the Whaling station at which Shackleton arrived after his epic crossing of South Georgia in May 1916. Our crossing felt like a tribute to this traverse for some, with its own dangers and challenges.  The weather quickly deteriorated into a blizzard, but luckily everyone was prepared with suitable clothing.

Seal pup Click to see the cutest of Seal Pups you could imagine.

The Fur seals were relentless in their attack – their tactics cunning.  We fought them on the beaches.  We fought them in the tussoc.  We fought them on the scree slopes.  Finally, we surrendered to them and waved our white flags cruising back to the ship for tea and medals.  We all realised that South Georgia is an awesome place.

Author : Tim Burton. GA.


Grave of Ernest Shackleton The Object of the Pilgrimage. Click on the Tombstone to enlarge.

One place we all had to visit while we were at South Georgia was Shackleton’s grave. Perhaps you could call it a pilgrimage, as we are all headed to Antarctica. It was a pleasant walk around the cove, dodging the sleeping elephant seals and the occasional feisty fur seal. The first stop is the museum, which covers all aspects of South Georgia’s history, from the discovery of the island, through to whaling, Shackleton’s journey, and the fisheries research that is going on now.

The museum is right next to the remains of Grytviken whaling station. At the moment it is being demolished as it was becoming unsafe, but there are still piles of whale bones, and the tanks were the whale oil was stored, as well as the remains of the jetties and a few wrecks. It’s an eerie place, and an amazing piece of history as it was abandoned in the 60’s and all the machinery and buildings were left behind. Unfortunately most of the area is shut as the demolition is going on, but it was still possible to walk around the edges, and the brilliant pictures in the museum show what it was like when it was complete.

The next stop is the whalers’ graveyard, where Shackleton is buried. Getting there means getting your feet very wet (I really should have listened to Petra’s warnings before going over there in my trainers…), as there are streams running down through the grass. Alternatively there is a walk along the beach, but there were too many fur seals there for my liking! The graveyard is full of the graves of whalers, some younger than me which I found sad, as well as that of Shackleton, and an Argentinean soldier who was killed in the conflict in the early 80’s. As I arrived, so did about 100 tourists from the cruise ship that was in the cove, so I hand to join the orderly queue to take my picture of the explorer’s grave!

Ships in the bay! Click on the Image to See 3 Ships.

The old whaler, the modern Shackleton, and the newest of Antarctic Cruise ships, the Explorer II !.

Author : Miriam Iorwerth.

And latterly, after all these jollies in King Edward Point, the Ernest Shackleton finished work and maintenance at the research station and embarked everybody for another trip along the Northeastern South Georgia Coastline.

This time it was KEP back to Bird Island where our task was to drop off Vicky Auld (Base Commander).

We departed Cumberland Bay with some great memories, at 0700 hours on Wednesday (8th) and headed to Bird Island via the Whaling stations as described above.  We finished the day of boat training and shoreside excursions by 1700 hours in the most miserable of weather.  During the day the snow and sleet increased in intensity to reduce visibility and exclude the Sun on the day’s proceedings.  But the FID’s nevertheless enjoyed the sights that day provided.

Steaming overnight, we arrived very early on Thursday morning and input Vicky into Jordan Cove.  Time and weather for only the briefest of visits this day. The weather precluded landing people for sociable visits, and so only a quick run ashore for the mast inspection team was permissible, to complete a job of work. Once all were recovered, we were finally underway for Halley by 1600 hours.  Since Thursday evening we have continued South and Easterly towards the Weddell Sea with a view of finding our best choice of path through this year’s ice to reach our destination at the Blunt Ice Shelf by Christmas.

Pimms Party


This Saturday’s party theme was Pimms/ Wimbledon. Surprisingly no appropriate tennis wear had been issued by BAS. Therefore the fabrication of elaborate tennis dresses could be followed all day, several towels underwent cosmetic surgery to become sweatbands, skirts were shortened and tennis racquets made. Beautiful female tennis players, who had just left centre court as well as stylish recreational players, attended the party. Pimms was served with cucumber and even strawberries were available (okay, no strawberries, but raspberries are close enough considering that we are in the Antarctic).

The evening’s entertainment was a game of charades (smokers-lounge, versus the non-smoking lounge), which was won by the non-smoking lounge, which proved again that smoking is bad for you !!!.

Simon Click to Enlarge.

Stylish fan (Simon Faithfull). (This was my own personal favourite costume of the evening.  ‘Classy’ – says the Editor).

Antonio Click to Enlarge.

Chief Officer (Antonio Gatti) during charades, trying to figure out the numbers of words in the title, which is not as easy as one would think…

Author: Dr. Petra.  Game, Set, and Match.

Birthdays this week:  Birthday Cakes Galore were abundant this week.  The first was for our very own Capt Graham Chapman. ‘Happy Birthday Captain’.  But our catering department didn’t stop there.  Cake production went into overdrive with birthdays for Steve Clive, Steve Colwell, Kevin Larkin, Alan Sherwood (who probably made his own cake !!), and we have more cakes in the offing for NEXT week too !

Forthcoming Events: Press onward for Halley and see what ice we encounter along the way.

Contributors this week:  Acknowledgements to Simon for sharing his work with us. Also to the scribes of the week - Nathan, Petra, Miriam, and a whole bunch of ‘would-be-Lord-Litchfields’ for all the photographes I purloined of the communal network drive. Thanks for some good stuff this week, chaps.

Diary 4 should be written on Sunday 19th and published on the Monday 20th, operations permitting.

Stevie B
Comms Officer.