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16 Jan - Back in Stanley

Date: Sunday 16 January 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-3): Alongside FIPASS, Stanley, Falkland Islands
Next destination: Mare Harbour, East Cover, Falkland Islands
ETA: Monday morning 17 January 2005
Distance to go: 48.1 nm
Total Distance sailed from UK: 13994.7 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast, windy and scattered rain showers
Sea State: Calm alongside, but very rough in the Harbour
Wind: N, Force 6
Barometric pressure:980.5 mmHg
Air temperature: 11.4°C
Sea temperature: 10.7°C


Map of Falkland Islands Click on Image to see the Position of Shackleton.

There is now a link to a ship’s position chart called sailwx which is derived from our meteorological observations each day. For the most up-to-date position of the ship click on the link below, by kind permission of sailwx.info.

sailwx.info


Arriving in The Falkland Islands last Sunday evening, we have spent the whole week in these fair Isles just emptying the ship of all the waste and cargo taken from the Bases, and then re-filling the holds with all the good stuff required for the Bird Island Rebuild at South Georgia. It was a very fulfilled week of work with no let-up in the work or the weather for that matter ! Whilst the majority of the Falkland Islands were enjoying blue skies, the extremities of a low pressure system to the south, kept a thick curtain of cloud over Stanley and the extreme West Falklands for the best part of the week. This brought grey skies, chilly days and an abundance of rain (even hailstones at time). Remember this is ‘Summer’ here in the Falklands !

The week got off to an ominous start when we arrived on Sunday evening to find no berth available for us. One of the HMS vessels occupied the Jetty and a Falklands supply vessel was waiting to go alongside too. Sunday night was spent on the buoy awaiting the departure of the warship in the morning.

Monday saw the jetty vacated and we were able to go alongside with the supply vessel the ‘Eddystone’. After a slow start, we managed to discharge some of the wastes from Halley before the Port Operations required us to vacate the Jetty again for yet another MoD ship. Along with the resident Saint Brandon and the Indomitable support vessels, our quiet little East Cove was beginning to resemble something akin to a busy Portsmouth Harbour ??? With no further prospects of work at Mare Harbour, the Ernest Shackleton set sail at 1800 hours for the 48 nmile journey around to Port Stanley. (see the portion of the nautical chart above).

We arrived early enough to tie up to the FIPASS floating facility and still have time for some FID’s and crew to get ashore for an hour. Too late to commence operations at 2200 hours, the work was planned for a very early start on Tuesday morning. From Tuesday until completion of cargo operations on Sunday lunchtime, all the Officers and Crew were working hard 12 hours a day and oftentimes in the most inclement of weathers to fill the holds. The problem was that there was such an amount of cargo for the Bird Island rebuild that it had to be carefully loaded in order to ensure it would all fit in. Congratulations to Ch. Officer Antonio for managing to load everything with barely room to spare. But on Sunday lunch, the holds were closed for the last time alongside and would not be opened again until our arrival in Jordan Cove at Bird Island.

Cargo in the hold Cargo in the hold Cargo in the hold

Above: (L-R) The holds being filled, viewed from above; the holds as seen from below and full to the Gunwhales ! Click the images to enlarge them.

Not a lot of room remains atop of the various cargos that grew in the hold. Even Bosun Charlie – who is not a tall guy – cannot possibly stand upright under the eves after every available space was filled. Bosun’s Mate Chris ‘Chicago’ can be seen securing things in the background.


WAVEY-DAVEY’S WEEKLY WIT SPOT !

Whilst in the Falklands, Wavey Davey was asked ‘is there a policeman anywhere around here’ ?

‘No’ said Davey.

‘Right’ said the enquirer,.. ‘ Hand over your money – this is a stick up !’.

Going back to his cabin that night, he fell into a fitful sleep. He had a dream where he thought he had eaten a 20lbs marshmallow.

When he woke up – his pillow was missing ???


NOT ALL WORK FOR EVERYONE

Not everyone was destined to work down the holds. For our FID’s onboard, there was the ever-present Gangway Duty to be done. The gangway whilst in port has to be manned 24 hours a day as Security has become established as a matter of prime importance on vessels around the world. The FID’s are excellent candidates for this duty allowing the Deck and Engine personnel to continue with their work unheeded. The duties at the gangway are not odious, but require a Security Watch to take a 2 hour-stint at the top of the gangway. This can be pleasant enough in good weather and with a good book in hand, but during the cold and blowy weather we have experienced, it was not a task to be envied. However, the FID’s managed a rota amongst themselves that allowed the gangway to be covered AND give sufficient time off for other pursuits ashore.


SAILING

For a small fee, Dr Jenny, Dr Frank and Ben the Dentist all arranged an afternoon of sailing in Stanley Harbour. Locals oftentimes offer assistance in arranging golf, or scuba diving, or fishing or land-rover tours, or in this case sailing. It is welcomed additional revenue for the islanders and essential outlets for ourselves when we do get the opportunity to go shoreside and explore the various avenues of amusement. Leaving after lunch with the required number of Lifejackets and warm clothing, the medical fraternity managed to go out into the Harbour, past the moored-up Shackleton, and tack right down the length of the harbour to the town and back. When they arrived back on the vessel, Frank, Ben and Jenny all had rugged complexions, runny noses, and big beaming grins that announced the afternoon was a complete success despite the wind, the showers and the chill.

Sail Boat Sail Boat

Above: Click to see the little red yacht against a sky of clouds.


FLYING

But some of the medical fraternity again managed to get shoreside and fly over across to Saunders Island for a good couple of days fun. Dr Jenny gives us a pr�cis of what occurred.

A medical diary

We are finally at FI, having come through a nightmare storm after departing from Signy. I lay in my bunk for three days as the best position to be in not just from a seasickness point of view but also from a logistical, ‘avoiding being thrown from wall to wall’, point of view.

And lying there it was like somebody was alternately trying to detach my limbs from my body with a neck stretch, a hip stretch, and a second later trying to telescope my limbs back into my body- from ostrich to tortoise every few seconds...for THREE days!

My sense of humour failed- it was no longer fun and I longed for dry ground. Stanley was a ‘kiss the ground’ affair.

Stanley and the FI....there are a few things that I had forgotten about civilisation (having been down south for an uninterrupted 15 months)- if you can call this place ‘civilization’ ?.  It was great to see big wide flat areas that were green and the numerous lights at night across the water, but it was the little things that struck most - the drainage ditches on the sides of roads (I had forgotten those) filled with clovers, the smell of flowers - gorse in somebody’s garden, and streetsigns- so many signposts everywhere.

We went to Mare Harbour initially, however in the coming days they were going to be doing military exercises and the ship was apparently in danger of being torpedoed! So after a few hours alongside we departed for FIPASS next to Stanley town.

Frank Swinton and I went to visit the hospital in Stanley and to chat to the local GP’s. One of the doctors invited us to go sailing on his yacht for an afternoon.

Frank, Ben and myself went on a stormy day, foreboding clouds ahead of us and a grey sky. (see above).

We sailed on the jib only. The highlight of the trip was the Commerston dolphins that came dancing through the water around the yacht, playing in the bow wave and trying their very best to splash us. They would come up next to us as we sat at the front of the boat- so close that the spay as they snorted out hit us and an outstretched hand could touch them, and then all of a sudden they would dive down and jump out of the water next to us hitting their tails against the water surface as they landed to create the most marvellous splash. They were with us for at least 20 minutes.

I was amazed at their colours- I was told they were black and white dolphins but didn’t expect them to be markedly black on their backs and pure white on their fronts- striped like they had recently escaped from jail.

The FIDS trip to Saunders Island

13 Jan - we left for Saunders island, an island off the coast of the Falklands and apparently rich with wildlife. Having been so far South and seen so much I was dubious of the islanders and other travellers who spoke with awe of this place. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

A taxi came to pick Ben and myself up from the Shackleton - moored alongside the harbour near Stanley. The flight was at 8am and we were dropped at the airport at 07h50- we were the first to arrive.

A 07h58 the check-in girl arrived. She had hair that flew about her face and arms that flew about her ears.

‘Do you need our tickets?’ I asked.

‘No,’ was the reply.

Stanley from the air

Click on the Birds-eye view of the Capital, Stanley FI.

We were weighed, our baggage was weighed, and then both us and baggage, packaged into the plane- an Islander B2NB.

An hours flight and we were there, at Saunders Island. The islanders met us at the airstrip.

‘Put your bags in there, and get in,’ one of the younger ones pointed to the back of a landrover. After the bags were in, Ben started jumping in the back too.

‘No don’t you get in there- you sit in the passenger seats.’

We did as we were told and sat in the landrover, waited about 15 minutes before a solid looking Falkland Islander arrived.

‘I am taking you to your accommodation.’

And off we went. In the short ride along a dirt track I found out that his name was Dave and that he owned the island. The island has a population of 8; his family and his sister’s family.

We were shown to Stone House, our accommodation for the next two nights. The place was habitable- that is if you are not overly fussy about where you sleep. The rooms that were in use;- if looked at from a distance had a vaguely shabby appearance- if looked at too closely the beetles making their rounds between the carpet and the skirting boards, the layered filth on upper shelves and the black dust of cupboards that had been used to store unwanted items such as dried paint brushes, burnt out candles, and flat batteries could all be seen.

On the dinning room table was a magazine- the kind that comes free as a weekend newspaper supplement, and its date read, ‘ 11 January 1995.’

The rooms that were not in use as accommodation in the house, were used as a store for general rubbish- I found one dark room stacked full of old carpets, mattresses- and the odd mouldy pillow. The wallpaper was peeling from the walls and beneath it was layered newspaper. The dates on the newspaper articles varied from 1925- 1928. The most prominent piece was an article offering a miracle diet that cured haemorrhoids.

Here we were re-acquainted with our colleague Tiago Silva, from the ship. Tiago had flown out to Saunders a day or two earlier.

After putting our bags down we asked if we could buy a few things from the store they have on the island. It is self-catering accommodation and although we had brought most of our food with us- including a 2kg Christmas cake that was given us by the Mick the Purser on the Shackleton - we had no bread, eggs or milk.

The store was a stone shed near the family’s main house. We asked for a dozen eggs, some milk and bread.

The bread is homemade, the eggs were given us in a bucket and were fresh enough to be still stained by chicken excrement. The milk- Dave disappeared to fetch that. He returned five minutes later with a yellow plastic bucket in hand and a sheep trailing behind him trying to drink the contents of the bucket. That was our milk.

The bread?

Above: The loaf of Bread ?

He handed us the warm bucket, and the sheep having been unsuccessful, wandered into the shop and started eating from an open packet of dog biscuits. Right then a cat appeared and began to eat from the same packet of dog biscuits as the sheep.

This was the first cat that I had seen in 15 months. I felt its warm fur against my fingers, its soft nose that it pressed into my palm.

‘That cats been with us for years,’ said Dave.

‘What is its name?’ I asked as I stroked it.

‘Ain’t got no name.’ Was the reply. ‘ Its got a kitten outside in the grass, kitten ain’t got no name neither.’

We took our bucket of milk, bucket of eggs and bread back to the stone house of the accommodation and made a cup of tea.

Tiago, Ben and I had a dinner of scrambled eggs, followed by pancakes and washed down with copious red wine. During the day we finished half the Christmas cake- 1kg of Christmas cake- a hefty amount.

Cake Eaters

Above: Click to see Two hefty Christmas-cake eaters !

I was surprised at just how good the eggs were, and so yellow. So much better that anything battery farmed.

14th January 2005

Tiago departed back to Stanley, while Ben and I went for a day-long ramble around the island to a place called The Neck and to see colonies of black-browed albatross, rock-hopper penguins, blue-eyed shag, Magellanic penguins, Gentoo penguins and King penguins.

It took us 6 hours to hike along the rugged coastline- sometimes climbing around cliffs and then descending again. It was the best wildlife walk I have ever done. The scenery was magnificent- emerald green water lined by strands of kelp, rocky cliffs, tussock covered stacks, and green hills. In this setting, large colonies of black-browed albatross nested on clay built nests that looked like they had been turned on a potter’s wheel. In some of the nests were creatures that looked like they were from an animated Disney dinosaur film- grey monsters with skittle necks, plenty of fluff and white rimmed eyes. These surreal creatures are the chicks.

Black-browed albatross Albatross chick

Above: The Black-browed Albatross and the Disney Creature ? Click to enlarge.

We were told that they clack their beaks with alarm as you get close and if you get too close they vomit over you. Sure enough we heard the gobble-gobble sound of the beak clacking- even if we were some distance away from them. As for the vomiting, Ben stumbled unexpectedly over a chick when the path wound around a corner, and the little devil projectile vomited a horrible orange substance over Ben’s leg and shoe. I didn’t laugh. (much).

Not only were there colonies of albatross chicks, but rockhopper penguins and chicks, blue eyed shag and chicks, Gentoo penguins and chicks, King penguins and chicks and Magellanic penguins and chicks. And to complete it we saw at least 10 whales out at sea.

I don’t know if the photos do the place justice.

Rockhoppers Colony

Above: Click to enlarge the Rockhoppers and the colonies.

15th January 2005

We had to get back to the ship as it was soon to be leaving. The flight was provisionally booked for 11am. We were listening to the weather forecast on the Falkland Islands radio as we wanted to be sure that there was no bad weather ahead that may delay our flight.

‘Todays weather- I have to warn you that if you don’t like hearing bad news then switch off your radio..’ (we couldn’t believe it)

‘ the weather is going to be gale force winds and stronger …’

Later in the morning I looked out the window and decided that even if the flight was going ahead I wouldn’t want to be on it - it was blowing so strongly.

However, amazingly the flight was still on. The plane took off and landed perpendicularly to the runway - at the very last minute - about 10cm above the ground it would straighten out. We had had a two-hour, extremely bumpy, flight back. The windspeed when we landed was 50 knots.

Apologies that we cannot show the wealth of photographs that were taken on our trip, but with limited space, we can only offer this small sample.

Authoress : Dr Jenny


Forthcoming Events: Transit around to Mare Harbour, once more, to bunker fuel and then away to KEP, Bird Island and the discharge of all this week’s cargo.

Contributors this week: Many thanks indeed to Dr Jenny for the great pr�cis of Saunder’s Island, and to Ben for all the funny faces.

Diary 8 should be written on Sunday 23rd January and published on the Monday 24th January 2005.


Stevie B
Comms Officer.