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19 Dec - Christmas Preparations

Date: Sunday 19th December 2004
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT -3): 70�43�8 South, 019�59.5� West. On Passage.
Next destination: Halley Base
ETA: To Be Confirmed as 21st December 2004
Distance to go: 380.7 nmiles
Total distance sailed from UK : 10830.2 nmiles.

Current weather: Sunny and Bright. Blue skies.
Sea State: Calm. Scattered Ice Floes and occasional bergs.
Wind: SouthWesterly, Force 3.
Barometric pressure: 994.2 mmHg
Air temperature: +1.8�C
Sea temperature: -0.6�C

Click on Image to see the Satellite Image of Shackleton.


H A P P Y C H R I S T M A S , O N E A N D A L L !


Having left Bird Island the previous week, we have been constantly at sea all week with only one brief glimpse of landfall on our passage South. The landfall was actually the top island in the South Sandwich Chain, called Zavadovski. Zavadovski is notable as an active volcano that is inhabited only by a colony of Penguins which number in the thousands. Moreover, it is not the overwhelming stench of the penguins who stand around in their own guano that takes your breath away, but on the face of the volcano are deposits of sulphour that have been spewed out and equally add to the �aroma� of the place. The penguins obviously do not object to the smell, but then again, why should they. If you have ever stood near to a penguin colony, you would know exactly why they have no cause to complain! Phewww.

We actually passed by the island in the early hours of Saturday morning 11th Dec but last week�s offering was too packed to find time to mention it. Some of the more hardy of our FID�s were up at 0400hours to a). take in the spectacle and b). ensure a good place in the breakfast queue later that morning ! When I awoke and went via the Green Room at 0600 in the morning, there were FID�s who had already partaken of a DVD movie and were only awaiting victuals (before going back to bed ???).

From Zavadovski, the Shackleton then turned due East and headed from about 16 degs West latitude to 003 degs East. Initial reports showed that the annual �polynia� was opening up and Halley was quite accessible (Indeed we were aware that the Russian Kapitan Khlebnikov had already made a journey down past Halley this month), but just how far East we would have to go before we could turn South remained to be seen. Following the satellite images (above) very closely, we were able to see the concentrations of pack ice in the Weddell and also the open spaces of water around the coast of Grahamland and the Brunt Ice Shelf. Would Sir Ernest Shackleton have succeeded in his fated passage through the Weddell in 1914, if he had possessed this wondrous technology ? I personally believe he would ! These Dartcom� images take a lot of the �guesswork� out of deciding the passage South. For example, on the image shown last week (Diary No.3) we had the option of 2 possible routes into the Weddell. To enter the ice and go directly South or push further East and skirt the tongue of pack that we could clearly see on the images. It was simple mathematics. Going through the ice at a reduced speed of, say, 6 knots would take something in the order of 93 hours to reach open water once again. Equally, to avoid the ice and take the extra 900 mile journey to skirt around the ice maintaining an average 10 knots would take approximately � 93 hours ? Nothing in it ! Working the ice would require both main engines so the saving of fuel by taking the �shortcut� was no advantage. I believe the deciding factor was the forecast Easterly gales that would ensue and thus there was every possibility of the ice being compressed by the winds just about the time we were in the thick of it. Subsequently, the decision was made to skirt the ice and maintain our speed. With the winds arriving as predicted, it was a very good call to go for the latter decision. All this is possible due to the benefit of Satellite Images and Weather forecasting.

It was about 03 degrees east before we cleared the ice tongue and were able to head due South this year.


Wavey Davey has today proffered a joke especially for our Dundee readership. �Hello Dundee�.

While walking down the main street of Dundee, Wavey came across a chap pulling a piece of string behind him.

�What are you pulling that bit of string behind you for ?� enquired Davey.

�Well,�� said the man. �Have you ever tried Pushing it ???�

Weather this Week.

All week the barometer has been falling. After a clear and fine start, the weather has deteriorated throughout the week with forecast Easterly gales arriving at our location on Wednesday evening. By this time the vessel was �beam on� to the weather and consequently, the vessel was rocking and rolling all Wednesday night and Thursday. Waves up to 6 meters were breaking against the ship and spraying all over the superstructure. A scattering of snow covered the decks, and we have had a very seasonal feel to the ship this week. Icicles abound on the superstructure. On the ropes, on the windscreen wipers, on the Antenna�s and all the exterior fittings. An awesome and attractive covering which actually got thick enough to stop our wind-anemometer turning, atop of the Conning tower.

� and the forw�d mast ! See the ice-impregnated ropes !

Latterly, however, I am happy to report that from Thursday evening onwards the gales abated and conditions improved. Gone were the wobbly seas, and by Saturday, we were working light pack ice against a flat horizon ! What a difference today (Sunday) has brought in comparison. Today is a �dingle day� with blue skies and mirror-like sea with only the occasional patch of pack-ice to be seen in the 360 degrees unrestricted visibility.

� Dingle day. Dingle day. Dingle day today.

Oh what fun it is to sail through-the-ice to Halley bay.

Oh - Dingle day. Dingle day. Dingle dingle day.

Oh what fun it is to sail on Shackleton today.

And continuing in the festive vein, Friday saw the Shackleton Christmas Tree being decked, and the streamers being hung all around the Red Rooms. Mark �Bah Humbug� Jones refused to go into the hidden spaces to retrieve the decorations and therefore tasked the FID�s with the pleasant chore of finding all the necessaries to produce a truly festive look to the common rooms.

Click on the Tree to Enlarge

� and Miriam getting well into the swing of things.

Nice one Miriam.

Training Week on the Shackleton

by Miriam Iorwerth.

Ian, our General Assistant (GA) literally �showed us the ropes� this week. This was during a refresher course on rope techniques, abseiling, roping up, tying knots, putting up a tent and lighting the Optimus stoves. Putting up the tent was tricky enough for the seven of us on the aft deck- what would it be like in a howling blizzard?

Click on Image to Enlarge.

We enjoyed seeing Ian intricately put the old stove (not manufactured any more) together and imagined we were back in the first polar explorers age. It is such a robust piece of kit but does take a bit of skill to put it together properly and light it!

Finally, we enjoyed playing with ropes, tying beautiful knots and then attaching ourselves to a hanging rope with the aid of Jumars and other abseiling gear. At least we feel more confident about all this kit.

Despite good food on the RRS Ernest Shackleton, there are still those who subscribe to the �self-catering�style of living onboard.

Click on images to Enlarge.

�Okay, I�ve done �knit one�, I�ve done �pearl one�,� but tell me Charlie, how does this ever turn into a cardigan ???� Zoe gets roped into more training on the aft deck.


Finally for this week, we felt the need to have one final �blow out� before arriving at Halley whereupon the FID�s would disappear from the ship, and 24-hour shifts would ensue throughout the Halley relief. It was decided to have one of the infamous Shackleton Race Nights.

On Saturday evening, (18th) an invitation was extended to one and all to attend the Red Room Races in Top Hat and Tails and Classic Dresses for the ladies. Everyone was �under starter�s orders� for a 2000 hours start.

About 1930 hours the common rooms started filling with the greatest ensemble of costumes you could imagine. On a research vessel geared up for Antarctic survival, it was amazing to discover what people could cobble together to make a paddock full of costumes. Full tail coats, frocks, jockey outfits, commentators and even the odd arab sheik all arrived in time for the opening races.

click on the ensemble to enlarge.

Here we see a sample (from left to right), Mickey Rooney ? � the footballer ???, Nicola Robinson � cook, Zoe Flemming � beaker, Sir Tim Burton � GA, Tiago Silva � Iceberg-ologist ?, Jenny Corser � Dr, and Petra Schmitt � Dr. Apart from the footballer ??? there was a suitable arrangement of frocks, hats, tailcoats, and veterinarian in the thong. As the first white flag was raised, 6 horses ran around the course at a breakneck speed (not) for the first of eight races for the night.

1st over the line was �Charlie Brown� followed by �Hey,Hey,Hey� and �Sid Streaker�. �Don�t Stop� from the �Go Faster� stables,.. didn�t even make a running !

And so it was throughout the night. An exciting race, ably commentated on by myself to an accompliment of thundering hooves and wild gesticulations from Ben as chief jockey and horse mover !

The Jockeys. Ben and myself, to name but two�

Following the race there was the �collecting of winnings� and �laying-on of bets� which was overseen by �Onest Al� and �Narfarious Nathan�, the bookies for the night.

Between races, the Jockeys mingle with the �hoy-paloi�.

Click on the image to see Ben with Fair Frances Williams and her escort for the evening, Sir Simon Faithfull.

Back to the Races.

And what it is all about ! Click on the course to see the nags at the Starter�s Orders and thundering down the track !

The evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were there.

So apart from jolly japes and an absolutely entertaining evening, what was the upshot of the entire nonsense ?

Mick the Quinn is heading a drive for a massive charity donation this season. Having raised a few �shackles� with raffles and the cheese and wine party arranged last week, this evening was used to generate a few more funds for a worthy cause. Each of the 6 horses in the races were �bought� by �stable owners�. For a mere � 2 you could become a horse owner and name the nag. 1 of the 6 would cross the line first and claim a classic prize (Shackleton Baseball Cap and Bottle of Quality Wine) and the proceeds of the race would go to Charity. After 7 races (6 qualifiers, and a final �champions race�), a portion of �84 pounds was already going to charity, when there was an announcement for a �final race�. This was the Charity Dash and all of the 6 horses were auctioned off. �Not 50 Shackles, Not 100 Shackles, but who will start the bidding at 200 Shackles ???� came the cry from Stevie B the Auctioneer ! *

( * 10 Shackles = � 1.00 GBP ).

I am happy to relate that in a very exciting and heated auctioning session, all 6 of the horses were sold, and the generosity of the racers was unbelievable. From a 200 Shackle start, the gavel was hammered home at 250 Shackles, 700 Shackles, 500 Shackles and even at one point, an amazing 2200 Shackles !!!???

I would like to personally add a note of thanks to those of the evening�s organizers. For the whole evening, a massive � 1,033.00 was raised for Charity which will be added to other proceeds and donated to the Band Aid Charity at the end of the season. Well done, to one and all.

Ice crackin�

GA Tim Burton looks on as we start cracking our way through some ice at last.

It wasn�t until the weekend (18th/19th) that the Shackleton came across any real ice to crack through. Passing by the floes up North, the whole passage down the Weddell Sea was practically in �open water�. Only latterly did we come across a little ice to work through. (unlike our sistership, The James Clark Ross, this month). It was excellent news for the program where a timely arrival at Halley means getting a good start with the relief this season, but it was a bit of an �anti-climax� for those �Antarctic Virgins� who had anticipated battling through miles of pack ice like our namesake Sir Ernest Shackleton. So it was smiles around when we finally got to crunch through some suitably thick frosted icing today. The ice certainly hasn�t impeded our progress and we anticipate arrival at the Halley Creeks on Monday evening/Tuesday morning as scheduled.

Birthdays this week: I lied last week, as this week we have had absolutely no birthdays amongst the throng. I�m having �birthday cake withdrawal symptoms� !

Forthcoming Events: Arrive at Creek #2 near Halley Base and tie up. Once secure alongside the fast-ice, land the first of the Halley Personnel and start the cargo work on a 24-hour-a-day schedule until completed.

Contributors this week: Acknowledgements to Miriam to her introduction on Training days, and all the many budding photographers onboard.

Captain Graham Chapman and all the Crew and FID�s onboard this weekend wish everyone at home, family, friends and fans, all the very best wishes for Christmas Time and a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2005. Please spare a thought for us this year as we sit alongside the fast ice and work away the day with cargo operations and ship maintenance. MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL.

Diary 5 should be written on Sunday 2nd January and published on the Monday 03rd January 2005, Christmas Hols permitting.

Stevie B

Comms Officer.