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Cleaning Up Bird Island

Date: Sunday the 29th January 2006
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-3): 5356.4 South, 3712.4 West.
Next destination: Cooper Bay, South Georgia
ETA: Monday 30th January 2006
Distance to go: 78 Miles
Total distance sailed from UK : N/A/
Current weather: Overcast with light rain
Wind: NE x N force 4
Sea State: Moderate Swell
Barometric pressure: 979.6
Air temperature: +3.6C
Sea temperature: +2.5C

Click on www.sailwx.info for our latest position


This week the Ernest Shackleton has been in the Bird Island area just off South Georgia continuing with the removal of the demolished building for disposal. Of which we started the clearance last Sunday with the cargo tender Tula ferrying debris back to the ship from 7am until 7pm each day so the ships holds have been steadily filling up during the course of the week, But unfortunately the weather turned on Thursday and it was too dangerous for the Cargo Tender and the small boats to work safely so the ship was forced to move away from the immediate area and wait a few miles out in more open water so the ship was bouncing around in bad weather for the best part of three days.

Ernest Shackleton just offshore at Bird Island.
Ernest Shackleton just offshore at Bird Island.

By Wednesday a real impression could be seen on the beach as the rubbish was slowly removed and the area will be soon left to the seals again which will quickly take over the area where the bundles of debris has been stored.

British Antarctic Surveys new Bird Island Research Base
British Antarctic Surveys new Bird Island Research Base

Demolition debris ready for removal at Bird Island.
Demolition debris ready for removal at Bird Island.

The project has been overseen by Rod Downie who has written the following passage to explain what we will be doing over the next couple of weeks alongside the Bird Island clearance..

Removal of BAS field huts and reindeer exclosures on South Georgia

Nine small abandoned field huts, or hut remains, of FIDS/ BAS origin are located on South Georgia. Most date from the 1970s. During January- February 2006, the BAS plans to demolish and remove six of these huts. They are mostly located along the length of the northern shore of South Georgia, from Bird Island to Moltke Harbour, with one on the southern shore, at Schlieper Bay. The clean-up team will be based onboard the RRS Ernest Shackleton. BAS will also inspect three dilapidated huts which are located further inland, in the Cumberland Bay region, to plan their removal.
In addition, six reindeer exclosure fences, up to eleven exclosure cages, and other redundant BAS scientific equipment, will be removed by the demolition team, as part of BAS's commitment to the environmental protection of South Georgia.. The exclusion sites were established in 1973-74 as part of a study into the effect of reindeer grazing on the island's vegetation. In their current dilapidated condition, the huts and exclosures pose a risk to the island's fauna.
A further eight operational BAS huts, which are in sound condition, are located within travelling distance of Grytviken (between St Andrews Bay and Maiviken). Following an environmental survey in February 2006, and the removal of any asbestos or other hazardous substances, the BAS plans to transfer the ownership of these huts to GSGSSI.

Rod Downie

Cargo tender Tula along side the Ernest Shackleton, Onboard is 'Cadet' Simon Evans,' Launchman' Neil Sullivan , & 'Motorman' Andy Rutter.
Cargo tender Tula along side the Ernest Shackleton, Onboard is 'Cadet' Simon Evans,' Launchman' Neil Sullivan , & 'Motorman' Andy Rutter.

Loading the JCB into Tula for transportation to the beach to assist with the rubbish removal.
Loading the JCB into Tula for transportation to the beach to assist with the rubbish removal.

Loading the lower hold with the 'Bosun' Chris Littlehales and 'A/Bs' Tim Patterson & Andy Campbell waiting for the next load to be stowed.
Loading the lower hold with the 'Bosun' Chris Littlehales and 'A/Bs' Tim Patterson & Andy Campbell waiting for the next load to be stowed.

Fur Seal on Bird Island with the Shackleton and Tula in the background
Fur Seal on Bird Island with the Shackleton and Tula in the background

Blackbrowed Albatross and Chicks are in abundance at Bird Island.
Blackbrowed Albatross and Chicks are in abundance at Bird Island.

Giant Petrel and Chick are also residents
Giant Petrel and Chick are also residents

Sheathbills ( commonly referred to as the 'dust men' of the Antarctic) scavenging on the rubbish.
Sheathbills ( commonly referred to as the 'dust men' of the Antarctic) scavenging on the rubbish.

On Tuesday with Tula running smoothly ferrying the rubbish back to the ship an opportunity presented itself as it was favorable weather to take the small RIB's around to Johnson Beach which is about 1.5 miles around the coast from Bird Island Base, to remove a disused bird hide, so a small team of eight was dispatched armed with a chain saw ,sledge hammers and large sacks for the rubbish and headed for Johnson Beach. The reception committee on arrival were not very friendly as there were quite a number of Fur Seals aggressively defending their pups so for the first few minutes we were chased from pillar to post until they got used to us invading their beach, There was also a small Gentoo Penguin colony resident numbering a couple of hundred watched us with interest.

Fur Seals on Johnson Beach
Fur Seals on Johnson Beach

Gentoo Penguins on Johnson Beach
Gentoo Penguins on Johnson Beach

The chain saw made short work of the old bird hide and after 12 large sacks were filled the beach was clear after a couple of hours or so.


Curious Fur Seal Pup
Curious Fur Seal Pup

'Chief Officer' Alan Newman ready to launch one of the Rib's (Teal) loaded up with rubbish
'Chief Officer' Alan Newman ready to launch one of the Rib's (Teal) loaded up with rubbish

In the evenings the ship goes a few miles out to more open water at the end of the working day and usually returns early in the mornings to carry on with the rubbish removal. Tula the cargo tender is left tied up alongside Bird Island base jetty with 'Cadet' Paul Curran staying on the base overnight to keep an eye on it. But on Wednesday the weather took a turn for the worse and by morning when we are usually heading back in to Bird Sound again it was blowing a force 7/8 Gale which made it impossible to return so for the best part of the next three days we were bouncing around in heavy seas, On Saturday it was decided to head around the other side of South Georgia and into the Bay of Isles to see if conditions were good enough to try and remove the few remains of a hut on Paul Beach. On arrival the conditions were just good enough to send a small party over to Paul Beach to see what remains of the hut and within a couple of hours the debris was removed and back on the ship for later disposal. The party was greeted on the beach by a large King Penguin Colony numbering in the thousands.

Remains of the old hut at Paul Beach, Bay of Isles.
Remains of the old hut at Paul Beach, Bay of Isles.

Bay of Isles King Penguins.
Bay of Isles King Penguins.

More King Penguins on Paul Beach.
More King Penguins on Paul Beach.

This morning it was decided that it was still too dangerous to use the small boats in the vicinity of Bird Island base as there was a large swell breaking over nearby rocks so at the time of writing the ship is now en route to the far South of the Island to pick up a BAS field party from Cooper Bay, where we should arrive early Monday morning.

Forthcoming events include arrival Cooper Bay to pick up a BAS field party and more rubbish removal from Bird Island (Weather dependent )

That's about all the news from a busy week aboard the Ernest Shackleton so all that remains as usual is a big hello to all our friends and family back home.

Dave Bailey.