Our site is using cookies to record anonymous visitor statistics and enhance your user experience. OK |  Find out more

Skip navigation

09 Jan - Signy and strong winds

Date: Sunday 09 January 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-3): 53°04'1 South 056°48.7' West. On passage
Next destination: Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands
ETA: Sunday evening 09 January 2005
Distance to go: 92.8 nm
Total Distance sailed from UK: 13853.8 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast, windy and scattered rain showers
Sea State: Rough sea, large swell. Pitching heavily in large waves
Wind: W, 46 kts gusting 60 kts at times
Barometric pressure:986.4 mmHg
Air temperature: 8.7°C
Sea temperature: 8.0°C

Satellite image of the position of the Shackleton Click on Image to see the Satellite Image of Shackleton.


That’s where we were last Sunday (02nd) and that’s where you find us THIS Sunday.  At Sea.

On passage Halley to Signy, we rounded the pack ice at 14 degs East and since made good progress to Signy.  It was reasonably uneventful apart from some fantastic bergs to be seen on route, the occasional sightings of Whales and plenty of birds (primarily Albatross) flying around the vessel.   Dr.Frank has left express instructions for the bridge to give him a call at any sighting of Whales and he would run up to the bridge to look. However, true to form, every instance of Frank being told ‘Whales off the Starboard Bow’, resulted in the Whales disappearing from sight the minute he entered the bridge !  ‘Honest Frank, there were Whales breaking surface just off the bow of the ship’ ???  I am sure Frank thinks we’ve been ‘having him on’.  ‘Twas ever thus with Whale-watching. I am sure they have in-built radar to sense when interested parties are about. 

An out of focus whale Click to see a very out of focus shot of a whale nearby, - just to prove to Frank that we were in earnest !

We were lucky with the weather for the best part of the journey to Signy.  Fog was the greatest drawback, but it still afforded us lots of views of some impressive bergs that were sailing North with us.  Some of the larger sized bergs were kilometers in length (or was that ‘width’ ? ).  Our radar could map the cliff-like expanse of ice as we passed it by, but gives no indication of how ‘deep’ the berg goes.  That is where the aerial views of the Satellite imagery are useful for measuring the size of large bergs, but unfortunately there always seemed to be a ceiling of thick cloud above, which would obscure any satellite passes ! These things cannot see ‘through’ cloud cover !  So although our mega-berg was perhaps 5km’s long, perhaps it was 60km’s ‘wide’ ???

So it was that we arrived at Signy Base at the South Orkneys by 1530 local time on Wednesday 05th January. Not too much time and daylight left to start operations in earnest that afternoon, but the Tula was launched and managed 3 runs to the base and back before the end of business that evening.  We also brought back the Base personnel for a bit of a dinner party, which is always heartily welcomed by the Base members.  The last ‘taxi’ back to base in the evening, was the Fast Rescue Craft (FRC) which delivered a happy company of Signy-ites back home and after ‘goodnights’ were passed, it was early to bed to start the refueling bright and early the next morning.  Weather forecasts from our forecaster in Rothera were predicting a bit of a blow the following day, so we wanted to take every advantage of getting the refueling done this call. As it was, the Gods were kind to us, and the predicted blow did not happen until late in the day, allowing us to work all day Thursday in relatively calm conditions in Borge Bay. How different was the bay compared to our earlier call in December when we couldn’t even reach the Jetty for ice.?  Now the ice had completely disappeared and the refueling operation went very well indeed.

Borge Bay, Signy Click to see a relatively Ice-free Borge Bay.

We even had time to take Tula around to Rethval Point to pick up an old skidoo for disposal in the Falklands. How much goes for scrap will depend upon how ingenious our engineers can be for spares !

Fuel flubber onboard Tula And Jim commands his Tula-load of ‘Flubber’

During the course of the day, we uplifted 2 inflatable boats from Signy, and delivered about 60 m³ of fuel for the Base, which would be enough to last the base through a whole season. Our method of refueling is to pump the fuel into ‘flubbers’ in the Tula cargo tender, and transport it to the shore where it is pumped directly into the Base’s large storage tanks. By 1800 hours, all the work was finished and once again the Base personnel were invited to join us onboard for a bite of dinner.  With some of the Base members out and about doing their science around the Island, we were able to offer to ‘cook’ the food that night and save the guys the ‘washing up’ on base !

Once more, ‘goodbyes’ ensued and the vessel left Borge Bay in increasingly poor weather on Thursday evening having completed all the work and uplifted the 5 Summer scientists who were now looking forward to their return to the Falklands and onward to Europe. Dirk and Davide, Merlijn and Mauro, and Stef have all been busy on Signy since we input them there at the start of December. Incidentally, 2 of them are Dutch and 2 are Italians, so the British Antarctic Survey is truly an International concern !  When we return to Stanley this week, we will also drop off our Portuguese supernummary, Tiago, who has been with us for the last 2 months studying icebergs onboard the Shackleton. He certainly wasn’t disappointed as we departed Signy and headed for the Falklands, because we encountered a really impressive field of icebergs of all shapes and sizes that had the Captain doing a slalom to pick his way out of our anchorage and back out to open water.


Wavey Davey was up for medical training ‘last’ year. On his last leave he attended a medical course.  The lecturer at the front of the class said :

‘Today we will be talking all about the heart, the lungs and the liver’.

‘Oh no’,.. said Davey, embarrassing himself. ‘ I can’t stand organ recitals !!’


It was pick up your satchel and don’t forget an apple for teacher this week on the Shackleton.  Resident artist, Simon, was passing on his wealth of knowledge on computer use to an enthusiastic class of computer users and laptop-owners !  The lesson for the day, was ‘Webpage Editing’ !!  (wish I had attended – Ed) !!!

Using the ship’s computer projector in the Green room, Simon projected the examples onto the screen for all to emulate with their own machines and he soon had them editing html code along with the best of them.

Computer school Click on the Classroom to view the Lesson.

All the FID’s showed up for their induction into the webpage world and were soon off on their own compiling various samples of webpages.  Some even went on to produce their own site for the World Wide Web !  Further information to follow !

Computer school Click on the Image. Ben just hasn’t got the hang of the ‘computer finger’ yet.  After many hours practice, he finally manages to make contact with the keys on his laptop, and before long, he is tapping away along with the rest !!! :o)

Following the success of the Webpage school, Simon was prompted to attempt another one and the following day, before the weather turned really unworkable, day two of the Computer School saw more advanced features of a photoshop program being explored in the Green room. Everybody was very enthusiastic about Simon’s classes and admitted that they learnt a lot.  Well done Simon on a class well done.

The remainder of the week involved the passage from Signy back to Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands, across the Drake Passage. True to fashion, the Drake Passage gave us some pretty miserable weather to mark our crossing. Those forecast winds for Signy were late in arriving, but they arrived nonetheless, and overnight Friday and Saturday morning we were feeling the force of the strong Northerly winds that started to whip up the seas ahead.  Lots of white horses and great troughs meant that we had 2 uncomfortable nights as the ship began her infamous ‘pitching’ up and down. It was the usual case of disturbed sleep patterns, items falling all over the cabin floors and the FID’s disappearing to the sanctity of the their beds ! Although the head winds reduced our speed through the water, we were still able to maintain our arrival time to Mare Harbour for Sunday evening, where the shelter of the land will hopefully afford the crew a good night’s sleep before the business of cargo operations the next day.

Forthcoming Events: Arrive at Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands to unload waste and cargo from the Bases and then travel around to Port Stanley to commence loading the Bird Island Base rebuild cargo.

Contributors this week:  Due to computer school and the arrival of mal-de-mer onboard, nobody was around to contribute to this weeks webpage.

Diary 7 should be written on Sunday 16th January and published on the Monday 17th January 2005.

Stevie B
Comms Officer.