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20 Nov - Almost at Montevideo

Date: Sunday 20th November 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT+1): 35°00' South 056°09' West. 4.5nmiles to Montevideo Pilot Station
Next destination: Montevideo, Uruguay.
ETA:1400 local time Sunday 20th November 2005
Distance to go: 10.6 nmiles.
Total distance sailed this week: 1785 nmiles.

Distance sailed from UK : 6046 nmiles since Portsmouth.

Current weather: Sunny, Bright and Clear.
Sea state: Calm. In the River Plate.
Barometric pressure: 1013.1 mmHg
Air temperature: 25.4°C
Sea temperature: 16.5°C

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

For up to date position information: ‘sailwx/info’.


As the RRS Ernest Shackleton steams slowly up the River Plate, the sun is shining, the river is calm and preparations for tomorrow’s handover period is in full swing. Last minute items are being dealt with, handover notes are being printed out, and logbooks and documents are being signed for a final time this voyage.

Likewise the web-diary writer still has last-minute items to attend to, so begging your forgiveness, I will hand you over to one of last week’s ‘victims’ (or is that Vicky-tims ?) and Dr.Mottram’s report on the crossing of the line.


I have been press-ganged into writing my recollections of our solemn ceremony last weekend. I will admit to a certain level of trepidation amongst us fids leading up to the equator, built up mostly by the crew’s horror stories of blood and ritual humiliation. After the event though, I can cheerfully say that all of us who took part had enormous fun, and whilst it has not yet changed my life, it will be a good story for the grandchildren.

My day started with a challenge – to make up Rob the 3rd engineer as Queen Nefatiti. I had expected to lend him my make-up bag and let him get on with it. He was appalled at this suggestion and insisted that not only would he not know what to do with the stuff, he had no intention of ever knowing or trying. So Kirsty and I rallied to the call, only taking one or two photos. We felt, in view of our coming trauma, that it was only right and proper to use hard-wearing nail polish and waterproof mascara, knowing we had no way of removing them and that they would likely persist for days or even weeks. Fluttering eyelashes are all the rage in the engine room, aren’t they?

Click to see the Queen being made. Click to see the Queen being made.

Next, and more importantly, it was time to hide. I was feeling more than a little nervous about being found, so persuaded another fid, Mat, to hide with me under the bulldozer on the helideck. It was actually very pleasant, a nice shady spot with a cool breeze, and we spent an hour relaxing peacefully before hearing the tramp of heavy boots. We heard them find Andy hiding in the paddling pool (an old liferaft), and knew it was only a matter of time. Sure enough, five minutes later, our game was up. It was then that my tactics began to pay off; Mat seemed to get hit with the supposedly padded truncheons an awful lot more than I did.

We were escorted down to the poop deck, magically transformed into King Neptune’s court, and sat on suspiciously wet plastic chairs to await the appearance of the final victims, Bob and Martin. In order to pass the time, we were fire-hosed with bracing seawater, and covered in gloop. The gloop was foul. Unutterably foul. It looked and smelt (and tasted) like vomit, and the first ladleful that went over my head made me heave. The fire-hose became almost pleasant after that. Bob finally emerged from his hiding place and tried to create a diversion by faking a fit whilst chewing an alka seltzer. The overall effect was quite impressive, but only resulted in a very dubious looking doctor trying to give him some “medicine”. If only my patients recovered as quickly. Our only other effort at mutiny was for Mat to grab the fire-hose and turn it on the royal party, which resulted in definite police brutality, and we have witnesses!

wetcourt Click to Enlarge.

Finally the remaining victim was found, under a tarpaulin in the bosun’s store, and the court was in session. One by one, we knelt before the royal party, kissed the fish (several times) and heard our charges.

Maritincourt Click to Enlarge.

My alleged crimes were numerous: crossing the line without permission, doing rain-dances to avoid painting duty, taking blood from the crew before even knowing their names, and most seriously, covering the deck in food and allowing the cadets to take the blame. At this I knew I was doomed, and had no choice but to plead guilty. After our first barbeque, the week before, I had helped to tidy up. Not being at all sea-worthy, it did not occur to me to check the wind direction before throwing the leftover salad overboard. It flew straight back in my face and then blew all over the deck, so I pretended ignorance and went to bed. The next morning Alex and Paul, our cadets, were roundly dragged from their beds by our chief officer and made to clean up the decks after their food-fight. I feel better, having made my confession.

Vicky kiss Click to Enlarge.

After being force-fed a syringeful of “medicine” and having yet more gloop poured over me, it was time for a final hosing off, and I had endured it all. Once we had all been done, there only the question of getting cleaned up, and then it was barbeque time once again. It took me 40 minutes in the shower to get clean, and I actually had to brush my hair under the water to get the lumps out. Let me assure you, even after all of this, faint hints of eau de vomit persist. But all in all, it was a very entertaining day, and I now have the certificate to prove it.

Author Doctor Vicky Mottram.

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey says he’s been to the Doctors once again ?!!!
(He’s a sickly child you know)

Davey was told that there was medication available for his ailment (joke-telling ?).
Davey was given tablets and told to take one pill every month for the rest of his life …
… he was only given 4 !!!

Meanwhile, David has been reading the paper and was struck by the news article that appeared in the local section.
Apparently the local SWAT team had been called in to deal with a Terrorist Alert at the local zoo.
The operation was successful and they killed 3 Gorillas and freed 5 Ostriches ?

Thank you Davey, have a good leave and without listening to your jokes every day – we certainly SHALL !

Farewell for now.

As the Graham Chapman crew hand over the reins of power to the John Marshall crew, it is hoped that the FID’s and other crew will be able to continue the tradition of a weekly webpage. This particular crew will be away until we rejoin in Stanley next March and are once again ready to tackle the task of Battling the Planned Maintenance, and Navigating the Oceans of Paperwork that is the nautical life onboard the RRS Ernest Shackleton these days.

Until next time, the Officers and Crew wish you all a good Winter, a pleasant Christmas and Prosperous New Year.

See you in 2006.

Forthcoming Events: Crew change alongside in Montevideo. Embark 28 more FID-candidates for GASH* . Depart Montevideo on Wednesday 23rd and head for Stanley, Falkland Islands where the ship will take Bunkers, collect the remainder of the Halley-bound passengers and tranship Cargo for the RRS James Clark Ross.

*GASH = Affectionate name for the Domestic Chores awarded to visiting supernummaries onboard. A chance for each and every one of them to become acquainted with mob, vacuum cleaner, bucket and duster.

Contributors this week: Thanks to Dr.Vicky for her précis of King Neptune’s Court.

Diary No.8 will be left for the opposite team to write as and when operations permit..

Stevie B
Radio Officer