Our site is using cookies to record anonymous visitor statistics and enhance your user experience. OK |  Find out more

Skip navigation

14 Dec - On to KEP

Date: Sunday the 11th December 2005

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-3):  54°.01 South’, 38°03 west.

Next destination: Halley

ETA: 24th December           

Distance to go:  N/A

Total distance sailed from UK : N/A

Current weather: Few clouds - Fine and clear
Wind: South Westerly force 5
Sea State: Moderate
Barometric pressure: 996.2
Air temperature:  +5°C
Sea temperature: +0.9°C

Click on www.sailwx.info for our latest position


Update for the Ernest Shackleton.

The Ernest shackleton departed Signy on the 5th December and headed for King Edward Point located on the Island of South Georgia. After a reasonable passage across the Scotia Sea we arrived at K.E.P. early in the morning on Thursday 8th December. As soon as we arrived and the vessel was all fast along side , cargo operations swung in to action unloading stores for the base and various building materials for Morrissons who are currently working on some maintenance work at the base and a large clean up operation at the nearby Grytviken abandoned whaling station which is almost complete now most of the unsafe buildings have been demolished and all the asbestos removed and disposed of safely. As soon as the cargo was discharged it was time for a walk for most people aboard the ship as it will be probably the last chance to stretch our legs until we arrive at Halley on Christmas Eve so most people donned boots and warm clothing and ventured out for a couple of hours.

Andy Campbell & Neil Sullivan A/Bs during cargo work
Andy Campbell & Neil Sullivan A/Bs during cargo work

The Ernest shackleton alongside KEP
The Ernest shackleton alongside KEP

King Edward Point and the nearby abandoned whaling station is among the favorite places to visit for crew and fids who travel to the Antarctic on a regular basis as the base is always hospitable and always lay on a BBQ in the evening, open to anyone who wants a social gathering with the base members are always well attended.

In the afternoon most people headed for Grytviken walking around the shore line admiring the wildlife which is in abundance this time of year

King Penguin.
King Penguin.

Elephant Seals
Elephant Seals

King Penguins with the Shackleton in the background.
King Penguins with the Shackleton in the background.

A visit to the Whaling Museum is always a must en route around the bay where we always receive a warm welcome from Tim & Pauline Carr who over many years have built up the displays and collected the artifacts that make the Museum such a unique and interesting place, So after a cup of tea and a couple of homemade biscuits provided by Pauline we always spend some time looking around to see what new displays have appeared since our last visit.

Tim Carr & Captain John Marshall outside the Museum
Tim Carr & Captain John Marshall outside the Museum

One of the many displays inside.
One of the many displays inside.

A little way behind the Museum is the Grytviken church and then just around the bay is the whalers cemetery which is where Sir Ernest Shackleton was laid to rest.

Grivicken Church
Grivicken Church

Purser Dave Bailey next to Ernest Shackletons Grave.
Purser Dave Bailey next to Ernest Shackletons Grave.

Meanwhile near to the Museum was the Yacht Golden Fleece owned by Sally Poncett which has been chartered by BAS to assist Tony Martin on his project to do a survey of Petrels and Seals on South Georgia over the next few weeks, When we asked Tony (who is a well known character within BAS) what will you be doing he promptly marched off and produced the following article for the web page.

Why we're here - the BAS DISCOVERY 2010 survey of petrels and seals on South Georgia 2005/06.

South Georgia sits in the centre of a highly productive and biologically rich area of ocean, and is home to one of the greatest wildlife concentrations in the world. The diversity and density of marine predators here has been a magnet for human industry ever since the island was discovered by Captain Cook in the late eighteenth century. First, sealers came to exploit the rich coats of fur seals and blubber of elephant seals, then whalers made their appearance and virtually exterminated the vast populations of baleen whales in the first half of the twentieth century. Next came fishermen for finfish and krill. Finally, within the past 20 years, the tourist industry has begun to make money from the non-consumptive exploitation of the island's wildlife.

All of these industries have had an impact on their target animals (even tourists appear to be negatively impacting albatross numbers in certain areas) and some, such as long-line fishing in relation to albatrosses and petrels, have had huge impacts on non-target species. In an effort to avoid mistakes of the past, managers now seek to anticipate problems by understanding the ecology of the affected habitats, and being able to predict the likely impact of human activities. Such understanding comes largely from scientific research, and that, of course, is where BAS comes in.

With this remarkable and long history of human interest in South Georgia, you'd think that much was known about the numbers of animals here. And you'd be wrong. Although BAS has a deserved world-class reputation for its work on Bird island, just off the northern tip of South Georgia, in fact remarkably little is known about the scale of animal populations elsewhere. This is a major impediment to knowing how both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems work, and filling this gap in knowledge is one of the key objectives for the FOODWEBS project of BAS' core biology programme called DISCOVERY 2010.

During Q4, BAS will be working on a wide range of organisms from plankton to fish to birds to whales on and around South Georgia. During the 05/06 and 06/07 seasons, we will be working in collaboration with the Government of South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands to census seabirds and seals from the yacht 'Golden Fleece'. This little vessel voyages to South Georgia every season, and is an ideal platform with which to visit every nook and cranny of the island's complex coastline. We will be concentrating on the three largest petrel species - northern and southern giant petrels, and the white-chinned petrel. The latter makes life difficult for us by nesting underground in burrows, often with the entrance concealed by a pool of peaty water. The scale of the task is such that we cannot expect to count each burrow (there could literally be millions of them!), but will derive an estimate based on the number of colonies, their size, burrow density and the proportion of burrows that contain an active nest. Nesting white-chins challenge an intruder with a harsh call, so we can identify an occupied burrow by playing a call at the burrow entrance and listening for a reply. The biologist's cunning doesn't stop there - we also have a device called a burrow-scope which allows us to look deep underground and see what's hiding at the end of the tunnel using an infra-red camera on the end of a long stalk.

Giant petrels nest above ground, thank goodness, and the birds are large enough to be easily seen and counted. Seals are also large, but they congregate in such densities, and are so fierce during the breeding season, that they cannot be counted from land in most places. During the Golden Fleece charter we will concentrate on mapping the spread of the breeding population (they are recovering fast from exploitation) and in counting them wherever they occur in small colonies. We intend to count seals elsewhere by asking the Royal Navy to photograph them from helicopters and then 'counting the dots' back in Cambridge.

A highlight of the trip this year is that we are due to be joined by Ellen Macarthur, or Dame Ellen as the Queen knows her. Ellen has a passion for albatrosses and petrels, and asked to come along so she can see and work with the birds at close quarters and help conserve them by providing publicity to the 'Save the Albatross Campaign'. Last night Ellen attended the 'BBC Sports Personality of the Year', and she is immediately due to make the journey to meet up with us. The contrast between the glitz and crowds of the award evening, and trudging the vast, snow-swept and uninhabited coastal plains of South Georgia a week later could hardly be greater!

Tony Martin.


The Ernest Shackleton departed King Edward Point on Friday the 9th December passing the Fisheries Patrol Vessel Sigma on the way out of the bay and we headed off to Hound Bay to insert a field party who will be studying the Penguin Colony in the area, By the evening the ship was well on the way to Bird Island for a resupply and send a maintenance team ashore.The ship arrived just offshore to Bird Island but the weather and sea was not favorable to work with the small boats so we sat off until Sunday morning waiting for the wind and waves to calm down to make it workable for cargo and pax transfers. At the time of writing the ship has been busy all day working cargo and transporting the maintenance team back and forth from ship to base. All work should be complete by early evening and the Ernest Shackleton will depart and head for the Weddel Sea and on to Halley base where we should arrive around Christmas Eve time depending on how much ice is in our way en route.

The view from the beach at hound Bay
The view from the beach at hound Bay

Chris Littlehales (Bosun) & A/Bs Tim Patterson & Neil Sullivan on the crane launching the RIB
Chris Littlehales (Bosun) & A/Bs Tim Patterson & Neil Sullivan on the crane launching the RIB

Passing the sigma on the way out from K.E.P.
Passing the sigma on the way out from K.E.P.

Last but not least the view of Bird Island Base from the ship and our Falkland Islands philatelic bureau man Hugh Marsden who will be visiting all the bases renewing and stamping first day covers,

That's about all from the Ernest Shackleton for this week, Forthcoming events include the long trip into the Ice and on to Halley Base.

Thanks to Tony Martin for his article,and all the people who provided the photos including Ray Davis, Javed Ansari, Alex Gough.

All is well here on the ship and a big hello to all our friends and family back home.

Dave Bailey.