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06 Feb - Still here!

Date: Sunday 06 February 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 54°04'9 South, 038°08.6' West. Off Bird Island
Next destination: Remaining in vicinity of Bird Island throughout
ETA: Working at Bird Island for the immediate future
Distance to go: 0 nm
Total Distance sailed from UK: 14797.3 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast with wind and rain or drizzle
Sea State: Slight sea, moderate swell. Riding comfortably slow steaming around Bird Island
Wind: SW, 25 kts
Barometric pressure:996.9 mmHg
Air temperature: 5.6°C
Sea temperature: 3.8°C

For the most up-to-date chart of the ships position, visit sailwx.info

Yes, we’re still here.

Since last time, the Shackleton has remained in the area of Bird Island, South Georgia working cargo and waiting on weather.  The remit for the vessel was to spend up to 3 weeks at Bird Island to input all the Base Rebuild cargo and ensure the Morrisons’ workers were adequately housed in the temporary housing before moving off to Halley.  Happily we have been blessed by the ‘Gods of Reasonable Weather’ and at the time of writing, managed to offload all cargo, stores and provisions in just 15 days altogether.  That is why, as of Sunday 06th, the Shackleton is now acting as a floating hotel to the Morrison’s crew who are waiting to finish constructing their temporary accommodation at Bird Island.  Once finished – which is anticipated to be mid-week, this week – they will move ashore and release the Shackleton to continue with the Antarctic program and head for Halley Base.

It was only Saturday 05th that the last of the Provisions were input to the Base.  Although we had effectively finished the previous Wednesday, shoreside had not the space or facilities to accept all the frozen and fresh provisions and so we held on to them until the weekend.  Once we had removed them to Rockhopper and Tula, our holds were completely empty (photos to follow next week) and there was no longer any reason to have two cargo tenders in the water.  So before the anticipated ‘blow’ of the weekend, Rockhopper was moored up in Jordan Cove, to be left for the next visit by the James Clark Ross, and ‘Tula’ was recovered to our decks and put to bed ! Here is a picture of Tula as she arrives by the vessel for the last time.

Tula Click on the Image to Enlarge.

This also marks the end of the free ‘sweepstake’ onboard.  The Capt and Purser Micky Quinn had arranged a free gift for anyone who could ‘guesstimate’ the total number of cargo-tender rotations and the number of days it would take to complete the cargo operations.  Dave ‘Spock’ Rees came closest to the number of rotations with his ‘130’ guess.  We actually managed it with only 109 runs of the tenders.  Mike ’Wolfman’ Golding was nearest to the time and date of completion when he stated 06th February 2005.  Unfortunately, the Captain could not be prevailed upon to make it 180 Cargo Tender Runs, finishing in another week’s time, merely to oblige me with a chance of coming close with my guesses !!!

Rockhopper at Bird Island Click to see Rockhopper left behind and the crowded beach at Bird Island in the descending fog


Wavey Davey‘s awful offering this week …

Did you hear about the two Eskimos who used to take a Kayak out on to the Lake to go fishing.  But one particular winter, it was so cold, they decided they needed to do something drastic to allow them to continue fishing for their dinners. One of them had the bright idea to make a small bonfire in the middle of their Kayak, to keep warm. They lit the fire and of course the boat caught fire and sank.

This proves the old adage that you cannot have your Kayak and Heat It !

Thank You Davey !

Having just over-wintered at Halley, the last couple of weeks here at Bird Island have been very strange for me. It’s a very small, green island covered with hills and valleys and everywhere you look there’s something living.  This is in stark contrast to the flat, white, desolate expanses of the Brunt Ice Shelf.

While the Shackleton has been at anchor just off the coast there have been quiet moments between cargo runs and we’ve all enjoyed standing out on deck watching the seas literally boil with fur seals, Southern Right Whales and birds of all sizes and shapes. From the enormous majesty of the albatrosses who soar and glide with ease in the most turbulent winds without the need for a ‘flap’, to the tiny diving petrels who swim through waves rather than over them and the Wilson’s petrels who flap so hard they’re little more than a blur most of the time.

Ben the dentist and myself have been lucky enough to get ashore a couple of times and spend some time on the island itself. It’s great to see some old friends who’ve been here since last year and to be able to help out with some of the science too. Science here is very different from that at Halley; further South it’s quite intangible, involving tiny concentrations of chemicals or radio waves, but here it always seems to involve living creatures so for me it’s been a novelty to say the least. We helped Zak, Chris and Sarah mark out new Wanderer (Albatross) nests and identify some of the seals from the Seal Study Beach amongst other things.

The island is notorious for it’s bad weather but we’ve been very lucky and have even had some blue skies on occasion. I’m sure it makes a nice change for the guys who live in the mist a lot of the time but for me even the mist is a novelty. Ben took great delight in taking pictures of me lying on a patch of grass face down with my arms outstretched, remembering how it smells and how lovely it feels when it tickles you!

Dr Frank Click to see Frank talking to the grass… that’s why they put him away !

The base and the ship Click to see a full beach with the Shackleton behind.

The new base currently consists of a beach FULL of big boxes, most of which have fur seal pups trying to get into them but the AWG guys are working long hours now, getting their temporary accommodation up, so that they can start on the base proper. I don’t think they’re really used to working with so many wild creatures (with teeth) at their building sites but they’re battling on and I’m only sorry that I won’t be here next year to see the finished product.

Author – Dr Frank


Having lost our resident artist Mr. Simon Faithfull at the last call Falkland Islands, our very own ‘Mark Le Trec Seven Bellies Da Vinci Jones’ has taken up the reins or ‘virtual paintbrush’ to keep us all amused with many offerings posted on the ‘gallery walls’ of the Shackleton.  Many a picture has fallen victim to Mark’s perverse sense of humour and paint-brushing talents.   Of the many, the one I particularly like, depicts the constant ‘comings and goings’ in Tula this week.  Moreover, as we land the building personnel on the shore, we also take their packed lunches, drinks and light refreshments.  This has given rise to the reputation that Tula is not so much a cargo tender as a mobile caf´┐Ż !  Judging from the amount of Mars Bars, Snickers, and Sandwich wrappers which make their way back to the garbage bins onboard, I shall decline to comment and leave you to determine the truth from the photo attached.

Click on the image....

Burger boat? Tula makes another sandwich run.

Every day at 0700am, the Morrison’s personnel eat a hearty breakfast onboard before taking their ‘packed lunches’ with them for a day’s work on the beach.  The next time they see the mess hall is at the end of the day when they return to the vessel at about 2000 hours and find a hot meal waiting for them before bedtime.  The food is a very big part of the operation and especial thanks must go to the Galley Staff who are cooking at all hours of the day to support the work that is going on in the holds, in the Cargo Tenders and on the shore.


With Tula back on the Shackleton deck and Rockhopper moored up in the Cove, we are using our Fast Rescue Craft daily to input the Morrison’s chaps into the beach each morning and then removing them again to the ship in the evening.  The FRC makes two or three runs each time and with the winds and the waves getting worse each day,  the launch and recovery operations need to be carefully monitored to see that working limits are not being reached.

Fast Rescue Craft Click to launch the FRC.

Fast Rescue Craft Taxi Driver Alan’Navs’Newman takes the helm.

Birthdays this Week : Taxi driver Alan kept the passing of his birthday very quiet this week – hence no cake was made.  However, he did admit to buying a round of drinks in the Red Room after watch that evening – as tradition dictates !

Forthcoming Events: Continue to wait at Bird Island Base to input the AWG/Morrisons Base Builders, and thereafter sail for KEP and Halley.

Contributors this week:  Thanks to Dr.Frank for his words from a small island and thanks to Ben for all his photographs. Plus anyone else who contributed with the photography this week.

Diary 11 should be written on Sunday 13th February and published on the Monday 14th February 2005.

Stevie B
Comms Officer.