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07 Nov - The Tropical Atlantic

Date: Sunday 06th November 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT+1): 16°36' North 023°15' West. Between the Islands of the Cape Verde’s
Next destination: Montevideo, Uruguay.
ETA: Monday 21st November 2005
Distance to go: 3704 nmiles.
Total distance sailed this week: 1793 nmiles

Distance sailed from UK : 2353 nmiles since Portsmouth.

Current weather: Cloudy, Hazy, but fine.
Sea state: Moderate, vessel rolling steadily.
Wind: 07 knots at 020°
Barometric pressure: 1013.6 mmHg
Air temperature: 27.8°C
Sea temperature: 26°C

Shackleton's Position Click to see view of the Shackleton in today’s position.

For up to date position information and to find our Sistership, the RRS James Clark Ross, click on this link to ‘sailwx/info’.


‘Currently’, in fact, we are all enjoying the lull in the bouncing and rolling of the Shackleton that we experienced last week. This week has seen the head-on seas back around to the North East and whilst we are still gently rolling around, the ‘flopper stoppers’ are doing their job well, and everyone onboard is up, and about, and feeling good. The advent of sunshine and fair days has done much to bring out the good spirits as much as the calmer seas.

Passing by the Canaries on Thursday 03rd afforded us some sights of islands in the hazy distance but with binoculars on the bridge, you could make out the townships along the coast and even the airport on Isla de las Palma. I was able to tune in the ‘tower frequency’ and hear the aircraft taking off long before they flew into view and then climbed way above our heads, Europe-bound.

We passed close enough for the ship’s mobile phone fraternity to get a service-signal on their mobile phones, however with the advent of our Vsat system, there is no longer the mad-dash to make phone-calls and send SMS messages before the ship sails past the coverage area. It is simpler these days just to pick up the Vsat phone and get our connection at any time using our BT Chargecards.

Ironically, the day after we cruised past the islands, we lost our satellite system. Work done back at Cambridge meant that all services to the ships and bases were temporarily ‘down’ whilst maintenance work was ongoing in the UK. So apologies to those families back home who didn’t get their weekend phone calls this week, but fear not, we shall all be back on line by the time this diary is published ! I think the greatest inconvenience for the crew was the lack of Football results on Saturday, or the Sunday morning electronic news papers !

And today – Sunday – we pass by yet another set of islands – the Cape Verde’s. I think the next fall of land that the ship will see should be the coastline of Brazil as we steam ever South

More About The Islands From Michael.

The history of these islands is well documented in books and on the internet, but were also very well described on the initial voyage of the RRS Ernest Shackleton, by ETO Mike Gloistein for the web diary. With his indulgence, I copy his words for you to read this week – Thank you Michael !

The Islas Canarias are contained between the parallels of 27°30'N and 29°30'N and the meridians of 13°25'W and 18°10'W, consist of seven major islands and several smaller ones and are separated from the African continent by a clear channel between the SE extremity of Islas de Fuerteventura and Cabo Yubi, about 54 miles to the ESE. The total area of the islands is 8612 sq km. The surface of the islands is chiefly formed of lofty dome-shaped heights, long slightly articulated ridges and deep volcanic cauldrons. Bleak, level, pumice covered tracts alternate with green hilly spaces and broad troughs covered with artificial terraces. The whole is surrounded by lava slopes and intersected by steep ravines which form the characteristic feature of the islands. There are no permanent streams. The geological features of the islands prove that they once formed part of the African continent.

The Cape Verde Islands lie some 385 miles to the west of Africa and consist of ten islands and five islets which are divided into two groups, being the Barlavento (Windward) and Sotavento (Leeward). When the islands were discovered in 1460 by Diogo Gomes they were uninhabited, with the first settlers arriving two years later in 1462. Towards the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century they were colonised by the Portuguese, by means of slaves brought across from Africa, and were administered from Portugal from 1587. Nowadays the population comprises Europeans, Africans and Mulattoes and the islands became the independent Republic of Cape Verde on 5th July 1975. The climate of the islands is healthy, except for the rainy period of August to October. It seems there are complaints of dysentery and remittent fever. There is reported to be a good deal of tuberculosis, and malaria is also common. Leprosy is common on the Ilha de Santo Antâo. Some of the islands also suffer from droughts that can last as long as three to four years. The main industry on the islands is agriculture, with fruit such as bananas and oranges being grown. Other products grown include coffee, sisal, tobacco, cane sugar and sweet potatoes. Mineral resources include salt, limestone, kalin and pozzolana (a volcanic rock used in cement production). Fishing is also a major industry which has been developed over the years. Many of the explorers of the southern oceans stopped at the Cape Verde Islands to take on wood and water.

By Michael Gloistein


Hello all, allow me to introduce myself, my name’s Mat and I’m heading down to Rothera aboard the Shackleton to start working as a ‘vehicle mech’ for the upcoming winter. I thought I’d give this diary writing lark a go this week to give Steve a break and to give you a FID’s-eye view of life on ship! I’m doing it this week as last week I couldn’t even stand, never mind construct sentences!

The prospect of travelling from the UK down to the Antarctic has been an eagerly anticipated one to say the least. It seems an age since applying to work for BAS. Having got the job, I started in the workshops at Cambridge in June along with 3 other vehicle and generator mechanics and heard lots of great stories about the journey south aboard the Shackleton. No surprise then that when the chance arose, I volunteered (yes volunteered!!) to join the ship. Much excitement the night before we where due to depart from Portland, a few beers with the family and up early for the drive down to join the ship. It was fantastic to finally arrive, family in tow and move all my gear aboard. The crew were great, we got shown around and met up with the other guys sailing down.

< Click on all images to enlarge >

The Shackleton moored at Portland. The Shackleton moored at Portland.

After a couple of hours, the ship was loaded, ‘farewells’ were said and we were ready to depart. The ship pulled away from the dockside and 5 Fids stood looking out – the brave Antarctic adventurers - off on the trip of a lifetime! ‘Brave’… my backside! We sailed out into the open sea and I managed about 5 minutes before rushing to my cabin to lie down. Now I’m not one to exaggerate but I’m sure that the waves where 50 feet high, or that’s what it felt like from my bunk.! It was like being on astronaut training, at the top of each wave you feel almost weightless as you lift off your bed, the ship then hurtles down and you get buried deep into the mattress again. This lasted constantly for the first 3 days! I found I was great at lying down, I could handle anything lying down, but getting up was the problem! As I’m sure that you are aware, we are known as FIDS onboard ship, I can’t help thinking that FIBS (frequently in bed sick) would be far more appropriate! Luckily, Mike the purser came to the rescue with magic pills that we all took and by day 4 we were starting to emerge from our cabins. Everyone kept saying that we would look back on the bad weather in a few weeks and it wouldn’t seem so bad, yeah right!

Angry seas! Angry seas!

We have now been onboard a week and all 5 of us FIBS have now fully developed our sea legs. I’m pretty sure the crew have stopped laughing at us now and I haven’t heard any of them say they are going to make like a FIB (lie down and do nothing) for a few days so I think we are starting to fit in! Life onboard the Shackleton is very comfortable, one thing that stands out is the quality of the food. I have decided to take a photograph of certain areas of my body as I am sure that if I continue to eat the way I am at the moment, it’s not going to be long before I can’t see them! (I’m talking about my feet)

Lunch! Lunch!

Over the last few days we have passed Madeira and motored between the Canary Islands. We are getting beautiful blue skies, calm seas and it’s really starting to heat up. The sunsets and sunrises are spectacular at sea, it’s a very humbling experience when you can look 360 degrees and see nothing but water, it makes you realise how small you are. It also makes you realise how thirsty you are so I’m going to sign off now and grab a beer. Thanks for reading this and hopefully one of the others will write next week, as we swiftly head for the Equator and the “crossing the line” ceremony. I’m really excited about the prospect of kissing a kipper and having my head shaved!

Beautiful sunsets. Beautiful sunsets!

Author : Matt Richardson

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey has been to see the ‘Doc’ this week.

‘When I stand up quickly, I see Donald Duck and Pluto’ reports Davey.
‘When I bend down suddenly I get to see Micky Mouse and Bambi’ he said.
‘Hmm,…’ contemplates the Doc.. ‘and how long have you been having these Disney Spells ???’

Wavey Davey can be seen performing at the Bridge Front from 4 till 8 most days and occasional matinees !

Archaeology Spot.

This week featuring the long extinct species ‘Radious Officsaurius’.

Artists Impression of the Long Extinct Species… Click on Picture to see Artists Impression of the Long Extinct Species…
Here we see the Radious Officsaurius scavenging in the undergrowth for repairs .

Long ago, herds of ‘Radious Officsaurius’ (or ‘Sparkies’ for short), would be seen migrating to and fro’ across the oceans of the ancient world. They were a migratory species and yet would hunt alone – favouring the solitary lifestyle to that of other pack hunters…

Many a mating call could be heard across the void of lonesome oceans as they would go in search of a mate (2nd mate ? 3rd mate ???) and oftentimes there would be a distant reply. ‘Diddlydah dit dah’ would be the plaintive cry !

However, that was a bygone era. Forced out of existence by modernization, deforestation (?) and automation, the ‘Radious Officsaurius’ is a long forgotten relic of days gone by and in years to come will only be seen in display items of Maritime Museums and in the pages of history books ! They were even driven from the majestic plains of the Website by the more adaptive and ever-increasing species of ‘Matthewus Mechanikus’.

Failing to adapt to the ever-changing world environment, the ‘Radious Officsaurius’, like the Dinosaurs before him, was defeated by their reluctance to seek out new foraging grounds and dwelling places. As far as we know, their demise had nothing whatsoever to do with a massive meteorite striking the Earth ???

Author : Prof Lotta Twaddle.


November 05th. A date in the minds of all UK citizens is the day when bonfires are built and a ‘Guy Fawkes’ is constructed for burning on the top of the fire as a representation of the days when Guido Fawkes tried with the Gunpowder Plot conspirators to blow up the Houses Of Parliament.

Whilst letting off fireworks from the platform of an ocean-going vessel is not a particularly good idea – especially red-coloured fireworks – we did get to enter into the spirit of the day with a BBQ on the Saturday evening. And a very good BBQ it was too.

Apart from being a multiple birthday celebration for Chalie Chalk (Bosun)(06th Nov), Dr Vicky (01st Nov) and Mike Golding (2nd Off)(03rd Nov), we had all the trappings of a British Bonfire night back home. There were baked potatoes, BBQ sausages, a multitude of other foodstuffs, drinks and we even had our very own Guy on the top of the Bonfire.

Here we see Micky Brown (A/b) being Burnt at the Steak… ( or is it the Chicken,… or the Lamb chops ??? ). Click on the Image to Enlarge.
Here we see Micky Brown (A/b) being Burnt at the Steak… ( or is it the Chicken,… or the Lamb chops ??? ).

Once the Risk Assessment was completed, the BBQ Flame Grill lashed down on the main deck, the Hi-Fi and speakers placed around the decks, and the food prepared, the BBQ started after work on the Saturday and went pleasantly into the evening with warm temperatures and a cooling breeze, moonlight, starlight and cool tunes. It was the first BBQ of the trip and even the first of all time for Cadet Alex Spooner who enjoyed the experience to the full.

More from the Shackleton Grill next week.

Forthcoming Events: Continue Full Away On Passage for Montevideo, and continue a program of painting and maintenance out on the sunny decks.

Contributors this week: Thanks to Mike Gloistein for an excerpt from his 1999 Diary, and Matt Richardson for his first impressions of the Shackleton. Your photographers this week were Andy Warner, Matt Richardson, and your’s truly. Acknowledgements to Sailwx Info for the use of the position information graphic.

Diary No.6 will hopefully be written on Sunday 13th for publication on Monday 14th November.

Stevie B
Radio Officer