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27 Feb - A busy two weeks

Date: Sunday 27 February 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 67°03'1 South, 031°22.2' West. Sailing North in the Weddell Sea
Next destination: King Edward Point Research Station, South Georgia
ETA: Thursday 03rd March 2005 : 07.00 L/time
Distance to go: 838.0 nmiles
Total Distance sailed from UK: 16925.0 nmiles

Current weather: Overcast, with light snow. Moderate visibility
Sea State: Moderate sea and swell
Wind: SE, 15 kts
Barometric pressure:979.4 mmHg
Air temperature: -0.3°C
Sea temperature: -0.6°C

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

DUE TO THE LATE ARRIVAL of the last webpage, I have decided to produce a bumper 2-week edition this week that brings us up-to-date with all the comings and goings of the mighty vessel over the last two weeks, and what a very fulfilled 2 weeks it has been…

C A S E NO 1035.53

'The facts Ma'am, only the facts'. Friday. 12.30pm. I had the suspect under surveillance since 9.00am and had seen nothing suspicious. The ship was sitting there. On station. Not moving. We had had a tip-off at the station that this morning would be the morning, but was our source reliable.? There were people. Lots of people. These were Base personnel from the Halley base and they were hanging around the creeks. Still nothing suspicious. I checked my walkie-talkie. Still turned on. All was well. Then something. A Whistle. The Ship moved and I could see people giving tearful farewells. This was the moment I had waited for. I swung into action. Using my Nikon 500mm long-range zoom lens I shot off a couple of photographs. Evidence. I needed evidence. If this ever came to court I would need evidence. Those people staying behind as the ship sailed were looking at a 1 to 2 year stretch. This proves that crime does not pay.

Halley winterers Halley winterers

Above:Images will self-destruct in 5 seconds! Click images to enlarge them.

Then the fireworks started. It was like the 4th of July. My gun. I reached for my Walther PPK automatic pistol. Then I realised I didn't have one. Hell. What a time to find out that I didn't have a gun. I faded back into the shadows. It's like that when you're a Private Dick. Improvise. You have to improvise. Like I'm doing with this story-line.

Friday 12.35pm We got clean away. The fireworks on the shore had not hit anybody and we’d got away without incident. The Weather. Cool. It was bright. It was clear. Nothing out of the ordinary. The wind was light and the light was good. This case was a piece of cake. Call in at King Edward Point on the way home. Then call in at Bird Island too. Pay the ransom. Collect the hostages. And beat it out of there before the Cops were any the wiser. Oh yes, I had this case in the bag, if only I could rely on continued good weather and smooth sailing ?

Sunday 27th February. 7.30am. I was right. The weather had been good. I was nearly spotted by a couple of whales cruising by in the latter hours of yesterday afternoon, but I managed to evade them and I was safe. They were a couple of 'slippery fish' those whales. You don't mess with them, if you know what I mean. And now I was late. I had a rendezvous to keep with the South Georgia Base and you know how those Georgians are. You could not be late for the Georgians. I would need to launch the fast-getaway boat and high-tail it for the base. I would need backup. There would be Humber rigid inflatables guarding my 'six' and before you could say 'Jimmy Cagney' I should be ashore at Cumberland Bay . This will be South Georgia Government territory…. I have comprehensive files on this place. Just check out the dossier on this place from previous cases !…

In Plain English …

The Shackleton has been busy. Since leaving Bird Island all those long days ago, the Shackleton sailed to King Edward Point, closing a chapter on the start of the Bird Island Rebuild Project. The order of the day at KEP was to load some items that we had left behind prior to the Bird Island phase of our journey, and to drop off two James Clark Ross characters, Mark Blaby and Derek Jenkins ! These two chaps had ably helped us at Bird Island with their Rockhopper cargo tender, and now that was done, it was time to say ‘goodbye’ to them. And a very big Thank You too !

But it was also time to take advantage of a day and half alongside at the Cumberland Bay wharf to get ashore and take some well-earned R & R after the hectic days preceding.

Shackleton All-stars Vs South Georgia United

Why a football match?

Grytviken, the oldest of the whaling stations was founded by Captain Carl Anton Larson on 16 November in 1904. Whaling was big business at the time as oil was the primary product that was used in margarine, cooking fats, glycerine, soaps, cosmetics and candles. The whaling station thrived and by all accounts was extremely well placed. During the early years the whaling ships didn’t even have to leave Cumberland bay to satisfy their immense furnaces and slake the company’s thirst for wealth and profits.

In these early days the inhabitants of Grytviken were a hardy folk and had a great love for the ocean and island they had come to regard as home. But as the sun set over Cumberland bay and the flencing knives were finally exchanged for mugs of warm beer there was many a wistful tale told of the days in the old country. Grown men would shed a quiet tear to their memories of home towns and loved ones. One sombre evening a bright young whaler, observing the melancholy surrounding him, hit upon an idea. “ I will build them a football pitch ” he declared. “ So that on Saturdays all that come to Cumberland bay will play football and remember their homes.” That very night he stole out into the night with nothing but a candle and a pickaxe and began his quest to build for South Georgia a full sized football pitch…..*

In 1965 overproduction of whale oil and worldwide depression caused the whaling station to cease operation but the football pitch remains and to honour that brave man who built a football pitch alone and by candlelight we (the crew of Ernest Shackleton) challenged the present keepers of the island (the KEP base members) to a game of football on the ancient pitch and that is where our story really begins…….

Match Day

The teams awoke to the sound of a howling 30 knot wind whistling down from Hodges mountain. Undeterred they begun their morning preparations for the afternoon’s big fixture. Each man has his own technique of keeping the body in tune, the nerves at bay and the mind focused. Michael Golding and Bins represent the thinking side of the team and spent the morning playing computer football.

"It's an opportunity to play out the day’s tactical decisions to all possible conclusions, leaving you prepared for anything" said Michael.

"It's class on the big screen" said Binns.

* His name was Vic, known to his friends as “Grit Vic” thanks to the grit that always covered his hands and face after his nightly toil on the station football pitch. His surname (Noskfithrskula) was unpronounceable to most and was simplified to N, hence the name Grit vik n , by which name the station is commonly known today.

I was left in charge of the important job of locating a football from the base. I quickly located a ball but it did seem awfully light for the ferocious wind. I thought I would give it a quick test with a small kick into wind, this turned out to be a mistake. Caught by the swirling wind it was picked up, dumped into the bay and was last seen on a course for Cape Town. Happily we found a better ball and headed for the pitch in high spirits.

The players

The players

Above: The Players. Click the image to enlarge it.

Left to right (Shackleton All Stars in Dark colours SG United in White)
Back row: Big Mike Jones, Michael Golding, Ben, Rich, Martin, Andy
Front row: Bins, Antonio, Hef, Mark, Nick, Will.

The Match

The match

Above: The Match. Click the image to enlarge it.

The match was definitely a game of two halves. Shackleton’s first half was down wind which had a big part to play in the run of the game. For the down wind team a useful tactic was the lofty lob towards goal allowing one of the forwards to glance the flying ball deftly into the goal. Bins and Michael made a phenomenal forward combination. Fed by their ever-present midfield Ben and Hef they notched up goal after goal. Obviously the hours of tactics discussion was paying off. What Ben and Hef lacked in ability they made up for in tenacity. Each chased, harried and kicked like men possessed forcing the tiring SG squad into schoolboy errors and basic mistakes. The mighty forwards were quick to capitalise and sent the all-stars into an early lead.

The match

Above: Ben spots an opening ! Click the image to enlarge it.

At half time the All-stars were well ahead but feared they may not have done enough to secure the game. The second half would be tough, the opposition had recruited a new and dangerous striker (Will) and the All-stars were now facing the howling, merciless wind. Fortunately the stars had not yet played their best hand. Enter Mike “the wall” Jones. Even the wind seemed to turn from a howl to a whisper as the mightly Jones stepped onto the field. The SG players visibly cowered in front of the mighty Jones as he danced effortlessly up the field, daringly tackled the SG strikers and pounded the ball deep into the other half. The All-stars maintained their lead against all odds!

Inspired by his teammates Antonio Gatti (AKA the Italian Stallion) could stay out of the action no longer. Handing over the goal keeping duties to the dentist he started to make dramatic flurries into the opposition’s half, releasing the ball with perfect timing to be headed down into the net by the all-star forwards.

It was a true all-star performance which ended in a 12 goal to 7 victory. What a day for the Shackleton.

Shackleton All Stars

Above: The Shackleton All Stars enjoy a well-earned beer after their historic victory. Click the image to enlareg it.

Author Ben ‘Pele Maradona Beckham’ Molyneux.


It is late in the voyage, and as we all prepare for our well-earned leave, we are all a little tired – just like Wavey Davey’s jokes this week !

A Man walked through the streets of Cambridge wearing only a broadsheet newspaper. When asked, he said he ‘like to dress with the Times’…

Did you know ‘Ghoulash’ is the word for a cremated ghost, and that ‘Dogma’ is the mother of puppies ?

‘Cloak’ is the mating call made by Chinese frogs ??

After our short time at King Edward Point, we were on schedule when we departed on Tuesday 15th, so with a starboard lifeboat requiring a test in the water, and in search of the more remote destinations of South Georgia, the Shackleton sailed a short distance South to Ocean Harbour and pulled into the secluded bay. This is a favoured destination for the King Edward Point personnel when they get their opportunity for field trips, and no wonder. It has a small refuge hut, a whole lot of wildlife, a deserted grounded ship, and the prettiest of views – especially on a beautiful, sunny day. Tuesday 15th was such a day.

Ocean Harbour The Bayard

Above: Ocean Harbour (L) and The Bayard (R). Click the images to enlarge them.

Climbing up a waterfall, the panoramic view was amazing and is by no means ‘done justice’ with this photo shot. But you can clearly see the small bay, the Shackleton at anchor, and the Bayard grounded on the right side. Seen closer too, the Bayard is an old 3-masted barque from 1911 (built 1864), which is now crewed entirely by the birdlife of South Georgia. For a full history of this remarkable hulk, check out the website at http://sailing-ships.oktett.net/703.html

It was a great chance for the crew to stretch their legs once more, and get ‘up close and personal’ with the wildlife. Being careful not to disturb these wonderful creatures, many of the ‘models’ were obliging with the odd photograph. Unfortunately there were so many taken, that the couple below are a very poor sample of a wealth of fantastic shots that were taken that afternoon.

Seal Seal pup

Above: Bliss is ‘a good scratch’, and an inquisitive pup ! Click the images to enlarge them.

The day was just so beautiful that following the launching of the starboard lifeboat and an emergency muster drill, the Captain decided to stay in the bay and maximise on the excellent surrounds, good weather, and sheltered harbour. So from noon till 1600 hours, Ocean Harbour came alive with crew and FID’s enjoying a further afternoon of relaxation, before the onward passage to Halley.

Going ashore Mike and penguin

Transfers to shore were by Humber Inflatable boats, and don’t be fooled by the ‘optical illusion’. The ‘Giant Penguin’ isn’t bigger than photographer Mike Golding.

It was mixed feeling when we finally left. It was a fantastic day in an equally fantastic place, but it was equally good to be finally underway for Halley and our last call there for the season.


What was special about this visit south to 75° South, was the absence of Ice… ‘in Antarctica ??’

Not the big shelf of Ice which Halley happily sits upon, but the thinner expanse of Sea Ice which lies at the bottom of the Creeks and to which we can usually tie up. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any. All that lovely ice that had served us well in December had totally disappeared making the Creeks impossible to ‘work’. Nowhere to tie up the ship, nowhere for the Sno CATS to drive onto, nowhere to lower and raise the cargo. After much discussion and investigation – including flights over by the twin otter aircraft Bravo Charlie, - it was settled that a relief at N9 should be attempted. N9 is an indentation into the shelf but at the more remote 50 kilometres distant from the base. The creeks mean a 1 hour journey by Sno CAT to arrive at the ship’s side, but to N9 the personnel had to drive for over 4 hours each way. That is why the ‘landlubbers’ arrived en mass in a convoy when we finally reached the Brunt Ice Shelf on Monday 21st. The journey south had been pretty unexceptional apart from rough seas and the ever-present seasickness onboard !

Convoy Ice edge

Above: The convoy of vehicles (L) and the ship against the ice edge (R). Click the images to enlarge them.

The ‘First Wave’ included some 13 vehicles with sledges and the first 25 Halley Pax that were to be leaving with us back to the Falklands. Arriving at about 1300 hours these guys had been ‘ploughing snow’ since 0700 in the morning. For most it was the very last time they would see Halley base after spending a few weeks, a few months or even 2 years in residency there.

Ice edge N9. The icy inlet allowing the vessel to get ‘sort of’ close to for loading/off-loading ! Click the image to enlarg it.

Although N9 was the best available spot for effecting transfer of passengers, provisions, ice cores and cargo, it was far from ideal. The photo above shows how the shelf edge is far from straight and the pale blue ‘ice foot’ that sticks out sub-surface, can clearly be seen. The Captain and deck officers did a sterling job thrusting to keep the vessel alongside (but not touching) during the whole relief operation. Over the next 5 days, the transport came and went from the base to the ship, and the Twin Otter BC was used to good effect to fly the ice-cores to the ship before they melted en route, and conversely, transported provisions from the ship to the base before they had a chance to freeze in the –15degree temperatures that were occurring during the daytime – and that without any wind.

On day 3, we completed embarking all of the 45 passengers with the exception of a final 6. But more transfers were in store as an impromptu rendezvous was arranged with another visitor to this part of the Weddell Sea.

Thursday 24th February.

RRS James Clark Ross RRS James Clark Ross and the Shackleton

Above: Click to see Double. Two red ships for the price of one !

On Thursday, RRS James Clark Ross passed by with the explicit purpose of uplifting 5 passengers from a very packed RRS Ernest Shackleton. These ‘lucky’ personnel were due into the Falkland Islands for a plane early next month and the schedule has ‘JCR’ arriving back at Stanley a few days before the ‘ES’. Therefore Captain Elliot was kind enough to offer these chaps (and chapess) a berth onboard for their remaining trip out of Antarctica. I think this was a ‘first’ as the two vessels have never met this far south before. A chance meeting in Signy was all that I can remember outside of the ports of Stanley, Montevideo or Immingham and it is always a pleasure to see the two mighty vessels in close proximity. For the crew on the little transfer boat, it was a perfect opportunity for more snaps, and for the webeditor, an excellent opportunity to get some cool shots of the two vessels side by side in the Ice.

By Friday 25th, the last of those passengers had been collected from the base (this time by an opportunistic visit to Creek 7) and it was ‘goodbye’ to the over-winterers who will not see the BAS Ships again until Christmas 2005. For those sailing north it was the usual bitter-sweet parting from the place that had been their home, but compenstated with the promise of getting back to their family and friends in the Northern Hemisphere. We departed the Brunt Ice shelf in excellent weather with calm seas and blue skies and the fireworks mentioned at the start of this week’s pages.

Sunday 27th February.

And that concludes the case of 'the escaping FIDS'. As the files are closed I reached for the Jack Daniels and closed the blinds to isolate me in my smoky office and contemplate the events of the last weeks. 14 days, 45 Plus Fids, 3 bases, 2 ships, an Antarctic Ice Shelf and South Georgia to come yet again. Not a bad week's work for down-and-out gumshoe trying to make an honest buck. You get good weeks in this business, and you get bad. As I poured another Bourbon on the Rocks and eased back into my creaking office chair, I thought, 'this has been a good week' !


Forthcoming Events: Arrive at King Edward Point and work cargo and collect Base Personnel heading for the Falklands. Then it is round to Bird Island (again) to see what waste they have generated that we can take away. Finally head for the Falklands, for Stanley, and for Crew Relief !

Contributors this week: Thanks to Ben for the Sports round-up. Thanks to all the photographers – too numerous to mention individually, and Capt Graham Chapman for some really memorable days. I’d like to apologise for the lack of specific details this week, but the ‘basic facts ma’am’ already fill too many pages !

A ‘smaller’ diary 13 should be written on Sunday 05th March and published on the Monday 06th March 2005.

Stevie B
Comms Officer.