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Apr 2 - Alongside Rothera

Date: Sunday 02nd April 2006
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT +3): 67°34' South 068°07' West. Alongside Biscoe Wharf, Rothera.
Next destination: Mare Harbour, East Falkland Islands.
ETA: Friday 7th April 2006 – dependent upon our departure Rothera.
Distance to go: 1080.2 nmiles.
Current weather: Cloudy, overcast, but clear. Snow storms earlier this morning.
Sea State: Slight Sea and Swell alongside the Biscoe Wharf, Rothera.
Wind : North’Noreasterly Force 5 or 6.
Barometric pressure: 966.9 mmHg
Air temperature: 2.1°C
Sea temperature: -0.4°C

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

For up to date position information click on this link to ‘sailwx/info’.


Click to Enlarge our Mighty Vessel Alongside Biscoe Wharf, Rothera.
Click to Enlarge our Mighty Vessel Alongside Biscoe Wharf, Rothera.

After the trials and tribulations of last week at sea, this week has been a total contrast. Apart from last Monday’s visit to uplift the Port Lockroy Personnel half way down the Peninsula, the RRS Ernest Shackleton has spent the rest of the week secured safely alongside the Wharf at our Research Station at Rothera. That does not mean that the ship didn’t move, because we were plagued for the best part by a mighty swell that kept the ship rolling at her berth, but it certainly wasn’t the vomit-inducing movement that we suffered on the way South across the Drake Passage.

We arrived at Lockroy on the Monday morning (27th). The plan was to launch the ship’s cargo tender, the Tula, to uplift the personnel and all the Summer Gash (*) that they had accumulated. However, that dash-ed swell combined with a stiff Nor’easterly wind meant that it was unsafe to do so. The profile of the Tula would make a perfect target for the wind to push against the rocky shoreline, and so the Captain opted to use the Fast Rescue Craft (FRC) as an alternative. It meant a few more runs backwards and forwards between the small island Base and the Ship on DP in the bay, but it was safely accomplished by 3.30pm.

Departing Lockroy with 3 newly-showered FID’s onboard (They have no built-in plumbing at Lockroy – see the Lockroy Website ), we rounded Adelaide Islands and tied up alongside the Rothera Base by Tuesday evening. Then began the work.

Click to Enlarge Cargo Images.
Click to Enlarge Cargo Images.

Click to Enlarge Cargo Images.
Click to Enlarge Cargo Images.

The Cargo areas pictured here are after the ship had already been working for about 2 days alongside, so you can imagine how much ‘clatch’ and containers need to be uplifted from the Base. But first we had to discharge those stores and containers that we had onboard for the Base. We arrived with full holds and we departed with full holds which in real terms means a great number of Crane Lifts.

The Crane was problematical for the best part. Not because it was breaking down (although the thick snow DID stop the windscreen wipers on the crane at one point), but because of the ever-present swell. Keeping the under-slung loads from swinging wildly was difficult. A word of praise must be aimed at our A/B’s who ably manage to load containers into the small target area of the holds without bashing everything in sight Try balancing a cup of tea without spilling the contents into the saucer … whilst balancing on a medicine ball ???

For one crewmember at least, there was an opportunity to escape the ‘industry’ going on at the Wharf.

The travelling sailor.

Hello all, a quick introduction into myself, my name is Martin and I’m one of the able seaman serving onboard the RRS Ernest Shackleton. (*)

When we arrived at RRS Rothera (**) on Tuesday 28 march, my plan was to go for a walk on Thursday, to stretch my legs and see some wildlife around the base and local area, but due to typical Antarctic weather, I had to postpone the expedition until Saturday.

(*) Royal Research Ship. (**) Royal Research Station.

Click on Image to Enlarge.  Martin’s day by the Seaside !
Click on Image to Enlarge. Martin’s day by the Seaside !

So it was a nice sunny and wind-less Saturday morning when I packed my day sack, with warm clothing, radio, camera and most importantly a flask of tea, and headed off the ship. The walk would take me around the north of the airfield and then around the east side of the island until I’d gone full circle to end up back on the ship moored at the Wharf of RRS Rothera.

Click to see the proposed A/B route.
Click to see the proposed A/B route.

It wasn’t long into the journey around the airfield that I encountered the first local wildlife, a South Polar Skua ( or affectionately known as a shite hawk) graced me with it’s presence, by dive-bombing me several times. I stopped to see if I was near it’s nest, which I wasn’t, but I think it didn’t like my hat. (see photo below).

The rest of the walk around the airfield was entertaining, with various sizes of Fur Seals and Weddell Seals, all sunbathing in the morning sun or having a sleep, snoring and scratching themselves. I came across one who was very obliging by letting me take it’s photograph, posing quite well. (I don’t know whether it wanted to appear in the next BAS Calendar or enter the next Miss World Competition. ? (See photos).

I left the seals to themselves and carried on my travels of the island, carefully retracing my old footsteps.

As I left the area of Rothera, and headed around the north end of the island, I stopped and had a look out into the bay where all different shapes and size of icebergs had collected. With the gentle movement of the sea swell, the bergs were colliding with others and running aground, and all that could be heard was the low rumbling and crack of bergs in the background.

As I came around a corner I was confronted by a Fur Seal, right in my path. ‘Right Martin’ I said, ‘it’s either me or the seal’.

I managed to find a route around him at a distance. (You should have seen the size of his teeth), but as I passed, it allowed me to take it’s photo for memorabilia purposes.

My walk carried on like that for quite some time. Hearing a growl, looking around and being surprised by a Fur Seal sunbathing behind a rock.

It was at this point that I fancied a rest, and a cup of tea. But as I ventured on around the next bend, and after the last 30 minutes of walking and dodging seals, Shock, Horror, there was a big group (well I’d say about 15 to 20) awaiting me. Again, some were sunbathing, others play-fighting, and about 5 metres up a slope to my left, was a sign informing of a restricted area. It had a nice raised base, and that was it. The best place for a cup of tea, a rest, and to plan my onward route around them, without hopefully going too far off the track, or going into some restricted area.

I must have spent a good 40 minutes watching these seals, playing, chasing each other, fighting, sunbathing, etc, and as I looked at my watch, I could not believe where the time had gone. It seemed such a nice, quiet and tranquil place to be, watching the seals, the bay with all the bergs, and letting my thoughts run to my loved-one back home, whilst all the time drinking my cup of tea. I was thinking ‘I wish I’d had more time to spend here’.

But time was ‘clocking on’, and I had to be back onboard ship by a deadline.

So I slowly planned my route, packed my bag, and off I set, looking very carefully for any further seals hiding behind the rocks.

As I passed the seals I noticed a small colony of Adelie Penguins, (see photos),

Click to see the Adelies.
Click to see the Adelies.

‘Ideal’, I thought,… ‘another photo opportunity’. So very slowly I approached the penguins, foot by foot, inch by inch and I managed to get up quite close. Of about 10 to 15 penguins, 5 were sleeping and the rest were pruning or just watching me. (probably thinking ‘here we go again, more tourists !’) Kneeling down, the photography carried on, and the penguins didn’t seem bothered about me at all, and again one or two of them were surely posing with wings out-stretched, or flapping, as if to say ‘this is the best picture of me’. Others were turning their heads for their ‘best side on’.

Click to see the ‘poser’ larger than life !
Click to see the ‘poser’ larger than life !

After watching them for a while longer, and just amazed at how calm and un-bothered they were by me, I had to move on again. Next stop, - the ridge over- looking the ship, the Rothera Base, and the whole bay.

Once there, the view was breath-taking. Over-looking the ship whilst it worked, there was Rothera base with it’s airfield that I visited at the beginning, and the bay with all the bergs. On the top of the ridge there is a bench seat, and a wooden cross. So placing my waterproofs on the bench I again took out my flask, poured myself a cup of tea, sat down and watched the area. All very calming indeed. The bergs, with their far off rumbles, the crashing of the waves below, the men and machinery working below me, the seals playing, barking and growling at each other, and the penguins coming and going on the shore. I thought ‘What a lovely place’, as I sat there for a good 30 to 40 minutes taking it all in. As I was taking pictures of most things, I then noticed a few plaques, half-covered with snow, on little stone piles, and another plaque on small circular mount. As I began to read them, I discovered they were memorials to the people who had lost their lives, while working in Antarctica. There was the memorial to the late Kirsty Brown, of Rothera.

It was then that a very chilling breeze picked up, so I decided ‘okay, it was time to head back to the ship’.

As I was walking down from the ridge, I thought how can such a beautiful place can be so cruel.

I hope too that future generations can experience the same things that I had experienced today.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Yours Martin.

And a loving ‘Hello’ to my Darling Carol.

Author : Martin the A/B.

The Safety Award…

It’s ‘Congratulations’ to Navs Mike Golding

Click to Enlarge the Presentation Image.
Click to Enlarge the Presentation Image.

this week as the Captain was able to present him with his long-overdue Safety Award courtesy of Stolt Offshore. During the 2005 North Sea Offshore Season, Mike made a Safety Observation from his vantage point on our ship. The Safety Item was seen on the outside of one of the Platforms and so was more-easily missed by potential observers on the rig. Mike was diligent and reported the sighting, earning himself the gratitude of the Stolt Safety Organization and a rather nice IPOD music player. Here we see Capt.Harper catching Michael during his watch on the Bridge and making the award presentation. The photo will appear in the Stolt publication also where Michael will again get his name in print !

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey Davey is being slightly ‘risqué’ with this week’s offering, but in truth should this be Wavey Mark’s Weekly Wit Spot ?

Do we dare to assume that this is not one from the stables of Wavey Davey, but more likely from Mark the Steward ???

Have you heard of the latest from the Pharmaceutical Companies ??

Viagra Eye Drops !

They do nothing whatsoever for your sex life, but they don’t have make you look ‘ard ???

Meanwhile Davey was standing on the Bridge and striking a rather unfortunate pose…

‘Hello Sailor…’

Click on David to see the Effeminate pose !!!
Click on David to see the Effeminate pose !!!

‘Why are you standing like that Wavey-Davey’ ? I enquired. ‘Don’t you know it looks effeminate ?’

Davey looked down and without missing a beat retorted …

‘Blimey’, he said, ‘someone’s nicked my roll of lino’ !!!

The Ice of Rothera

Once sitting safely along the Wharf at Rothera, you would think the Captain could rest easy but it is not the case with Antarctic Operations. Apart from over-seeing the Cargo operations that have taken place all week, Capt.John has been keeping a keen eye to the seaward side of the vessel too. We are not entirely ‘sitting pretty’ where we are located at the Southern end of the Rothera Point. There has been a mighty sea swell for the best part of the week. This causes the vessel to roll even though she is securely tied up to the wharf. Of course this gives a real challenge to the Crane Operators who are trying to get those large containers into the ‘moving target’ which is the Cargo Holds ! Moreover, with the swell has come the wind. Easterly winds have been the order of the day and that has brought a whole new headache – the Ice. The wind catches that part of the berg that is protruding from the water and like wind in the sails, sizeable chunks of Ice creep slowly towards the port side of the ship. It was Monday when one such monster sidled up to the Shackleton and threatened to push us off the berth. Encroaching first on the bow of the ship, it skirted down the Port Side (as seen below) and towards the rear. It never made contact with the ship, and once abreast of the Helideck at the aft end, we thought we were safe, but then the tide changed and the annoying visitor retraced it’s track back along the ship to the front once more.

Click on the Image to Enlarge The Iceberg.
Click on the Image to Enlarge The Iceberg.

With yet another turn of wind and tide the berg eventually slid past the port side once more and away to sea well to the rear of us. But meanwhile, Capt John is ever-diligent for the next customer to come a-calling.

I have not said too much about the Cargo Operations this week, but they really were the bulk of the ship’s endeavours this week. The boys are to be congratulated for being ‘out in it’ from early morning to early evening with only short breaks for lunch and ‘smoko’ (Tea-breaks). They were out there in the all weathers and all levels of light as the picture below can testify.

Click on Image to Enlarge.  Photo by Stevie Bremner.
Click on Image to Enlarge. Photo by Stevie Bremner.

Okay, so we don’t see too much evidence of the Boys On Deck at this moment in time but perhaps they have all disappeared off for a quick smoko ?

It only remains for us to complete the cargo operations here at Rothera and head back to the Falklands – which will mark the end of our 2005/2006 Antarctic Season.

Forthcoming Events: Complete the backloading of the Rothera waste and cargo, secure for sea and set sail for the Falkland Islands with all our troops onboard. Say ‘Goodbye’ to all the Base Wintering Personnel and get the out-going personnel back to the Falkland Islands in time for their onward flights home.

Contributions This Week : Thanks to A/B Martin Rowe and Wavey Davy for being our latest official Webpage Photographers, and for Martin’s ‘Life in the Day of a Nightwatchman !’.

Diary No.9 will hopefully be prepared on Sunday 9th April for publication on Monday 10th April.

Stevie B
Radio Officer.