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02 Jan - New Year

Date: Sunday 02 January 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-3): 58°35'5 South 018°08.9'West. On passage
Next destination: Signy station, Signy Island, South Orkney Islands
ETA: Wednesday 05 January 2005
Distance to go: 852.5 nm
Total Distance sailed from UK: 12368.4 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast, fine and clear
Sea State: Slight sea, low swell. Scattered ice floes and occasional large icebergs
Wind: S, 16 kts
Barometric pressure:992.2 mmHg
Air temperature: -0.4°C
Sea temperature: -0.7°C


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

I have highlighted the bright yellow presence of pack ice to the south of the green line.  It is the pack ice that has made it impossible for the ship to take the direct line from Halley to Signy.  Going as far East as 14 degs East and north to 60 degs North allowed us to skirt around the majority of the pack ice and make good speed to our next destination.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!!


WHAT A BIZARRE START TO THE NEW YEAR.

Okay, so we finished the base relief at Halley and we pulled away and cracked through a minimum amount of ice and sailed North, but all that aside, the highlight of the week(s) must be the New Year’s Eve celebrations held on the Ernest Shackleton to mark the departure of 2004 and the advent of 2005 !.  Weird ?   I should say so.  With only a minimum of additional passengers onboard numbering 6, they were not to be outdone by the crowd of FID’s that had joined us on the Halley-bound journey and seemed to have pulled-out all the stops with their ‘themed pub crawl evening’ that ensued on Friday the 31st December 2004.

With nothing particular planned, it was one of those ‘impromptu’ affairs that sort of materialized over lunch on the very day of the event.  Ben the Dentist in conference with Jenny the Doctor, Simon the Artist and Tiago the Ever-present, Dr. Frank d’Halley, and Paul ‘Coz’ all concocted the concept of an evening starting at 2000 hours that evening. The timing wasn’t entirely the best, since at 2000 hours, Halley were calling on the Hf Radio to wish us Pre-New Year’s Greetings, and Europe were popping the Champagne Corks to celebrate N.Years. 1 hour later, and Big Ben was chiming in the N.Year over the BBC World Service and Bird Island were popping the Champagne Corks !!!.  It wasn’t for another two hours that the ship’s complement were popping the corks (or ladling the punch actually) to herald the passing of 2004. But I am getting ahead of myself,… let’s get back to lunchtime that day and the birth of an idea.

Over the afternoon, the FID’s were busy with their own special arrangements and by tea-time, the posters had been posted all over the corridors in an open invitation to the FID’s Pub Crawl, starting at the Red Room.

Time Place Bar Proprietor
2000 Red Room Ye Olde Shack Tiago
2100 Yellow Room FranksaysRelax Dr. Frank
2130 Surgery Plastic Surgery Dr. Jenny
2200 Dry Lab Junkyard Mad Dog Paul Coz
2230 Paintlocker Hawaiian Bar Faithful Simon
2300 Green Room Odyssey 3000 Ben the Dentist
0000 Monkey Island Ringing out the Old and Ringing in the New


The point of the evening was not, as first appears, an intention to get totally blitzed throughout the course of the evening, but to attend each venue in turn where there was to be jolly japes and games arranged to pass away the hours enjoyably until the ‘bells’ at midnight.

First up was Tiago’s Piratical Bar, the Ye Olde Shack. Sporting the very finest Eyepatch, Crutch and Peg Leg, our Portuguese Pirate treated us all to drinks and an abundance of confectionary.  Whether Quality Street quite goes with beer or wine is debateable, but they certainly went down well.   This is no reflection on the talents of the galley crew who had produced a stonking good meal for everybody only a couple of hours earlier !! Afterall, it is the season of good will to all waistlines, and last minute excesses before the New Years Resolutions !!!

Following the Red Room, we moved to Frank’s offering in the Yellow Room.  Prompted by the fact that the venue is in the midst of the watchkeeper’s crew quarters, we were all mindful that a minimum of noise or disturbance could occur at the ‘FrankiesaysRelax Room’.  And so it was that Frank came up with the theme of ‘Peace’ and ‘Quiet’. In the very best Oriental fashion, the room simply oozed ‘Feng Shui’ with draping banners and ambient music !  Well Done Frank. Or should I say ‘Yoku Flank-San’ as he made a flamboyant entrance sporting a Rice Paddy hat and oriental Fu-Man-Chu moustache !  As a ‘Confucius’ character, Flank had come armed to the party with a book of wise Oriental Sayings.  Velly Good. Everyone in the room gave him a number from 1 to 100 and Flank read out the sage words of the proverb found on that page !  ‘I wish you a long life, and may no-one ever make you eat Brussels sprouts’*..Ahhh So !

( * from One Hundred Wishes by Rohan Candappa, published by Randomhouse )

Simon awaits his Fortune Cookie Click on the Image to Enlarge the Relaxation !  Simon awaits his Fortune Cookie !

Following this, we made a silent withdrawal to the next venue, the hospital, where Dr.Jenny had something special planned for us.  It was time for us all to take our vaccinations ! Upon entering the ‘Plastic Surgery’, draped in plastic and medical supplies, we were introduced to the ‘nonsense-of-the-night’ which was to give each other shots ???  Of course this is not to be tried at home and must only be attempted with close medical supervision !  (But we were not at home and with 2 medical and 1 dental person in the fold, I think we were safe !!). :o)

The surgery The surgery

Click image above to see the Surgery and the mayhem to follow!

The object (so I understood it) was to make 3 teams of equal numbers and have a relay race. Donning surgical rubber gloves, the ‘surgeon’ would then administer a shot (of some coffee-based concoction) in the mouth of the patient next to him/her.  Then came the tricky bit.  Take off the gloves, pass them along the line and wait for the next surgeon to don the gloves before giving a shot to the next patient along. By the end of the race, the rubber gloves had been reduced to just so many shreds of rubber spaghetti and most of the coffee-liquor had gone down the shirts rather than in the mouths !! But everybody agreed it was total nonsense, and totally ‘good fun’.  Well done Jenny for an operation excellently executed !

Moving right along, we went to the Junkyard Mad Dog saloon where Paul Coz had arranged a more ‘rough-and-ready’ roadhouse complete with dog-chewed sign and spittoon buckets on the floor and dice games.  ‘Snake Eyes’ was the game, and throwing the ‘lowest score’ was not for the weak-kneed or limp-wristed.  The nibbles in this venue amounted to all things peppery and spicy and a cool drink of beer was an absolute ‘must’ after chewing on a chunky chilli ! A strange combination, but it captured the mood of the place precisely.  All too soon, the games had to cease and our attention turned to the next venue on the list.

I must add at this point that although there was a very good showing for the theme ‘pubs’, there were the steadfast few on the bridge who were navigating us through the icefields of the Weddell and the unlucky few who were asleep to get rested enough for their next shift (co-incidentally starting at midnight !).

By 2230 hours, many a person had ‘sloped off’ to make the ‘Happy New Years’ telephone calls home to the UK but for us in the Weddell Sea it was still daylight. So whether Simons ‘sundowners’ at the Hawaiian Bar on the back deck would be met with a sun-down remained to be seen. However, there were no dampers on spirits as we all arrived to be greeted by a Bar Dress Code at the palm leaf-festooned Hawaiian Venue.  Using the simplest of materials, our resident Artist Simon, had fashioned all manner of Palm Leaves, paper chains of Palm Trees and even the odd ‘Hula-girl’ thrown in for good measure. But that was not all.  The dress code for the evening was a rough fashioned ‘grass skirt’ – just the thing for the Hula-Hula dancing competition that was to ensue. !!!

Hula hulaDr frank shows Tiago how to ‘shack that thing’ ( … or should that be ‘Shake that thing’ ?? Aloha ).

At each bar, the proprietor was kind enough to provide the ensemble with a themed cocktail. At the Hawaiian bar it was a Gin and Tonic Cocktail with plenty of citrus for that totally tropical feeling. Okay, so we didn’t quite get the sundown that was required, (as we still enjoyed 24-hours daylight at these Southerly latitudes) but an obliging ‘twilight’ made the whole arrangement scenic and serene !  The background music was a bit ‘boppy’ unfortunately, but with a bit of aforethought, I am sure we could have dug up some Hawaiian music for the occasion. So much for last-minute arrangements. Still it was a great venue and cold ???…  Not a bit of it. Those grass skirts were warmer than they look !!?

However, we were getting a little ahead of ourselves.  Some of the less hardy decided it was time to go back to the Junkyard Mad Dog Saloon to thaw through a little before the scheduled start of the next venue – Ben’s Odyssey 3000.

Arriving in the Green room, which has turned into our resident cinema and is oftentimes in darkness, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was movie-time once again. No bright lights. No cocktail waitresses or Jukebox blaring ?  Instead there was a motionless figure in ghostly white silhouetted against a projector beam running some futuristic movie.

Robotic BenClick to Enlarge the Robotic Ben.

(Apologies for the photography. The Flash had to be used to capture the picture, but unfortunately totally obliterated the ‘disco feel’ to the Odyssey Bar).

Robotic BenClick to Enlarge a picture without flash!

As the bar filled up, the robotic figure of Ben came to life and a futuristic host gesticulated to us to come in, sit down, and be welcome.  A show of futuristic moon-walking and dancing followed while the ensemble assembled and settled down for the introduction to the entertainment of the Odyssey 3000 bar.  Firstly, the cocktails on offer from Ben’s bar was a totally blue concoction (not unpleasant) served in big bubble glasses. (I was later told the ‘blue’ colour was achieved by regular food colouring – and not some unknown dental mouthwash ???). 

The entertainment of the moment was ‘Bop It’ ??  (Don’t ask ??).

But since you asked (and you did, didn’t you ?), it was a device that Ben had brought from home and is a bit of a party game.  The device has 5 controls on it.  One central button with ‘Bop It’ written bold across the middle. The 4 extremities in different colours were ‘PULL IT’, ‘SPIN IT’, ‘FLICK IT’, and ‘TWIST IT’.  Throughout the ‘game’ a synthesized voice (that wasn’t Ben) instructed you to ‘Bop It, Spin It, Bop It, Bop It, Pull It, Spin It, Flick It… etc etc etc’.  With 2 contestants on each end of the apparatus, the start button announced the start of the bout and each had to follow the instructions at speed or fail !!

I failed !! Miserably.

Why my brain insisted on ‘Flicking It’ when I should have ‘Bopped It’ I really cannot say, but suffice it to say I wasn’t alone in my incompetence !

Bopit ‘Bop It’ to Enlarge Ben giving Instruction on how to ‘Stuff It !!???’…

How 4 hours passed by so quickly (Bop It) I cannot say (Twist It), but all too soon, the evening was coming to a close (Hit It), and we all assembled upon the Monkey Island, (Throw the stupid thing overboard ??), in goodly time for the Midnight countdown. A celebration punch was brought aloft and those who were not on duty or otherwise engaged assembled in front of the ship’s bell for the traditional ringing out and ringing in of the New Year.

This year, the oldest member of the crew to ‘ring out’ the old year was Charlie Chalk, our Bosun. The youngest member, Rob, the 3rd Engineer had to be in bed early (I think he must have promised his mum ???), but Mike the 3rd Officer was next in line and he had just finished his duty on watch in the wheelhouse.  So it was Mike joined us to ‘ring in’ the New Year. Armed with a radio to listen to the BBC World Service chimes, the count-down was shouted out and ringing of bells, cheers of ‘Happy New Year’ and a raucous chorus of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ ensued. HAPPY NEW YEAR one and all.

New Year
New Year New Year

Click the images above to Ring the Bells with Charlie and Mike and to see in the New Year.

We even had a midnight sunrise to herald the arrival of 2005.

What a memorable New Year’s Eve it was for us this year ? Remember that we would usually be working alongside the Ice shelf of Halley and wouldn’t normally get to enjoy the festivities until well into the first week of January.  Therefore it was all the better for having been possible at all.

Then it was time for bed for most people and since New Year’s, we have plodded steadily Northward and Westward towards our next call. 

Meanwhile, last year – ‘was it so long ago?’ – we arrived and had a Base relief at Halley Base on the Brunt Ice Shelf !


Halley and Back

Due to the holidays, it is 2 weeks since we last updated the events of the Shackleton. We had just about arrived at the Creeks of Halley on the Brunt Ice Shelf, and since the Sunday report, nothing happened to impede our timely arrival early on Tuesday 21st December. This is the usual time for a Halley arrival, unless ice conditions delay or prevent arrival before Christmas. But not so this year. The lack of ice allowed us to make excellent progress to Halley and on Tuesday morning, we arrived at the sea ice off Creek 2 and were greeted by the sight of base personnel who had come down to ‘test the ice’.

Walkers on sea ice Click on the Walkers to Enlarge the Sea Ice.

Pat, the Base Commander and 3 of his Halley-chaps came down on skidoos from the Base 15km away to welcome us and guide us into our make-shift port.  The Creeks are ‘ramps’ that descend from the lofty ‘shelf ice’ and down onto the flat ‘sea ice’ that forms a platform at the bottom. This years sea ice only extended to about 1km and was ‘2nd year sea ice’, that is ice that remained there from the previous year.  However, for another 1km out to sea, there extended some thinner and weaker ‘1st year sea ice’ which would not be thick enough to allow offloading operations.  So it was the ship had to ‘work’ the ice first in order to push through the weaker stuff and get alongside the thicker.  This was the ‘ice cube crackin’ that the FID’s onboard had waited for in anticipation.  For the morning of the 21st, the vessel was continually pushed forward to cut swathes in the ice and then reverse out to push forward again. Slow, steady work, but meter by meter and hour by hour, the ship carved it’s way into the thicker stuff nearer to the ice cliffs.

Alongside the iceClick to see the final resting place alongside the thick sea ice.

Although we arrived in cloudy, overcast and dull conditions, we were blessed with really good weather alongside during the relief and this particular shot was taken on December 25th, Christmas Day.

Once alongside, we had pre-relief meetings, invited Base members down for meals and ‘hello’s’ and to collect the cherished mail and fresh provisions that we had brought with us. However by Wednesday, the ship was in full swing with shifts working around the clock to effect the whole relief in just 6 days.  This year was a little exceptional in that we had only about 400 barrels of fuel to offload instead of the usual 2 holds full.  By bulk-refuelling the time was really reduced and although we were working right through December 25th like any other day, we were able to ‘down tools’ and hold our very own ‘Christmas Dinner’ by Monday 27th. This is where the crew were able to finish work by lunchtime and dress up nicely to enjoy a bumper Christmas dinner complete with crackers, silly hats, even sillier jokes and fantastic food !

Speaking of silly jokes …


WAVEY-DAVEY’S WEEKLY WIT SPOT !

With Christmas, came the Christmas Crackers ! We suspect the jokes within were all written by Wavey Davey and submitted about 30 years ago ? Finally they have emerged, and I think it is only fair to share the agony of them with you …

A gentleman walks into a bar …  And it didn’t half hurt ??? :o)

‘Mum, mum, can I have a Puppy for Christmas ?’ ‘No, you can’t.  You’ll have Turkey like the rest of us’!

‘What is sweet and sticky and swings from tree to tree in the Jungle ? ‘ ‘Marzipan’ !

My old favourite … ‘How Did Darth Vader know what he was getting for Xmas from Luke Skywalker ?’  ‘He felt his Presence’ !!

And finally, ‘Two snowmen talking together and one says to the other,.. ‘Do you smell Carrots ???’.


RELIEF CONTINUED…

It is difficult to describe in the space of just a paragraph or two what exactly happens in the Halley relief, even though we have attempted to document it every year.  But there are always some aspects that get overlooked and you cannot do it justice on the webpage.  The cracking through the ice to form a makeshift harbour for our stay. The offloading of all the cargo and vehicles from the helideck.  The backloading of cargo and waste dragged down to the ship from the base in convoys of Snowcats.  The ‘Halley Board Game’ (See the article in Diary 14, Dec 2002). And Ben the Dentist hard at it in the Surgery as a drove of Halley Winter FID’s arrive on the vessel for Dental checks and treatment.  The making of make-shift furniture on the sea-ice to a)keep warm between working sledges and b)have somewhere to rest on your laurels between sledges ?

The CouchClick to see the the Couch.

But apart from turning the labours to furniture production, there were sledges enough to be loaded and unloaded as the work progressed 24 hours a day.

The Work The Work

Above: View from the Crane and View from the Ice.


Apart from furniture, other things got made on the ice.  But more of that later.

But just now, and in an effort to score high marks from the readership on the ‘Awwwww’ scale,.. here are a few nice pictures of the native wildlife that we see around the ship as we work.

The Natives The Natives
The Natives The Natives

Click the images above to see the penguins and the Abominable Snowmen ?

And finally, let us finish the page as we started it – with a Celebration.

Having finished all the work in record time, Micky the Quinn and his Galley team Ray, Rab and Mark produced a wonderful Christmas Dinner for us to enjoy on Monday 27th.  Luckily, we had some of the Base Members down on the vessel for Dentistry and Post Office, so we had no shortage of willing (or unwilling ?) volunteers to serve the meal to us all.  So many thanks to Frank, and Vanessa, and Ben and Mark and everybody else who made the dinner so memorable. I have often been asked what do we do for Christmas Dinner, and I can confirm that the bill of fayre is exactly that which you would find at home in any good class home kitchen that is catering for 30-odd people ???

Xmas Menu Click on the Menu to Enlarge.

And finally, there were some very happy faces at the prospect of having finished the base relief, and getting started on the next leg of the itinerary.

Xmas
Xmas Xmas

Alan with the Capt behind (top), Mike and Steve (left) and Antonio chats with Mick Rooney from the Base (right).


Birthdays this week: Jesus Christ Himself ! In good company with him this week was Ch. Officer Antonio on the 23rd.

Forthcoming Events: Arrive at Signy Base and pass ashore the fuel which we were unable to send ashore last call in December. Once finished with Signy, depart for Stanley and Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands to load cargo for Bird Island.

Contributors this week:  Acknowledgements to all those who were active with their cameras over Christmas.

Diary 6 should be written on Sunday 07th January and published on the Monday 08th January 2005.


Stevie B
Comms Officer