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May 12 - End of the Antarctic Season

Date: Sunday 07th May 2006
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 51°14' North 001°39' East. Just before of the Dover Strait in the English Channel.
Next destination: Grimsby, England, UK.
ETA: PM of Tuesday 09th May 2006
Distance to go: 182.3 nmiles.

Current weather: Foggy.
Sea State: Calm Sea and no swell in the Channel.
Wind: North Nor’Westerly, Light Breeze.
Barometric pressure: 1015.6 mmHg
Air temperature: 11.1°C
Sea temperature: 9.0°C

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

See a view of the Shackleton’s Position with the James Clark Ross following several days behind.

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


…The last of the Antarctic Diaries for the 2005/2006 Season of course. Fear not. We will be back next week with the start of the North Sea Diaries as we go into the Summer Charter Season for the Reiber’s Client ‘Acergy’ (Previously known as ‘Stolt’ for whom we have worked before).

It was another week all at sea with the associated lack of adventures to report. However, two or three things broke the monotony of the long sea-voyage and gives us something to mention on the webpage this week. To begin with, two of the crew had Birthday’s this week, which were celebrated by a quiet drink in the Red Room. First was Jimbo Baker A/B on Tuesday. But bless him, all he got for his birthday was a toothache and a rather swollen cheek ? Faring a little better was Rob Mathieson 3rd Engineer on Friday. No toothache for Rob.

Then mid-week on the warm waters of the Atlantic outside of the Bay of Biscay, the watch-keepers spied something floating on the sea surface. At first look, the flotsam appeared to be white dots, like fallen cherry blossom petals scattered from a tree. Our resident Fish Nurse, Paul, was summoned to inspect them on the bridge and even with the binoculars, it was impossible to make out exactly what was floating by. They were all around the ship and as far as the eye could see, so some of the FID’s were sent to the main deck to ‘scoop’ up a sample or two in a bucket. The fishing trip was quite successful and two specimens of the ‘creatures’ were inspected below. Wavey Davey volunteered to do the research on the internet, and came out with the following report.

But of course, Wavey always gives preference to joke-telling first…

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Davey was telling everybody on the Bridge this week that he had heard another report of an aeroplane disaster.

Apparently a Cargo Plane from the Nissan Plant in Japan was delivering parts to a UK factory when it blew up in mid-air. The Cargo and Plane were scattered over an extensive area.

Eye witness reports spoke of it ‘Raining Datsun Cogs’ !

When out driving in the Country on his last leave, Davey happened upon a washed-out bit of road.

He enquired of the Farmer nearby, leaning on the fence and chewing a stalk of straw,…

‘Is this water very deep ?’.

‘Nay, not so deep’ he replied.

Davey drove through the puddle and was shocked when his vehicle disappeared under the surface of the water ?

Swimming back to the surface and coughing the water out of his lungs, he reproached the farmer…

‘I thought you said it wasn’t very deep ???’.

‘So Aye Thought’, said the Farmer. ‘It only comes halfway up the body of the ducks !!!’.

If you think THAT is bad, you should hear the ones he spouts on the Bridge that are usually un-publishable ?

Comedian Wavey Davey Dons The Guise of Marine Expert !

Velella Velella
By-the-Wind Sailors

Whilst on passage this last week,
a strange sight beheld the crew of the Ernest Shackleton,
a host of floating things.
What are those floating things so vast in number sailing bye,
the crew and ‘Fids’ did ask? We’ll try and catch a few in a bucket the gallant ‘Fids’ declared;
they did as well, two to be exact.
So camera out, a photo for to take and to the ‘web’
I went to find the answer to our quest,
what are those creatures sailing bye?

Figure 1 Velella velella.
Figure 1 Velella velella.

It turns out that these jellyfish-like creatures are part of the Phylum Cnidaria (nigh-dare-e-ah). They are commonly known as “sail jellyfish” or “By-the-wind Sailors”. And scientifically as Velella valella. (Velum, from the Latin for sail). They have blue-pigmented body tissues and can grow up to 10 cm in length. Other members of this Phylum include the Portuguese man-of-war (Physalia), true jellyfish, sea anemones and corals, representing over 10,000 species worldwide. All of these are invertebrates (animals without backbones).

Velella are thought to be colonial animals. Colonial cnidarians are made up of many individuals (or “zooids”) all attached to the same digestive cavity. Each individual is specialized for a specific task such as feeding, reproduction, prey capture or defence. Quite the collaborative effort!

Found in temperate and tropical seas around the world, Velella are open-ocean dwellers. Gas-filled cells enable them to float and attached to their upper surface is a sail-like flap that catches wind currents for locomotion. They exist in two forms, either left – or right – handed. The wind tends to distribute them into groups depending whether they are left – or right – handed and this may determine the direction in which they ‘sail’. Because they lack swimming ability, Velella are at the mercy of ocean currents and wind direction.

Velella feed on invertebrate eggs and plankton. They have a large central mouth on their underside, surrounded by reproductive stalks and tentacles. Stinging cells (or “nematocysts”) are embedded in their tentacles and are used for capturing prey and for defence against predators.

Although not dangerous to humans, some sources claim that touching Velella may cause mild skin irritations. Their predators include sunfish (Mola mola) and also small marine gastropod snails called violet snails (Janthina janthina). Violet snails actually eat the ‘sailors’ as they float along together.

Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

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Click on Image to Enlarge


This week also saw the ‘finishing touches’ being put to our workboat ‘Tula’ as she swaps her RNLI Lifeboat Colour scheme for that of the British Antarctic Survey Red and White. She now looks like a ‘mini-Shackleton’. The painting work has been the result of contributions from the FID’s and Crew but largely, FID-ess Kat Snell was oftentimes seen sitting astride Tula, covered in as much paint, and adding inches of thickness to her superstructure (that’s ‘Tula’s superstructure’, not Kat’s)… She has taken great pride in her efforts and now Tula even sports a Mermaid Motif on her hull.

Click to Enlarge Tula Image
Click to Enlarge Tula Image

Click to Enlarge Tula Image
Click to Enlarge Tula Image

Kat’s Mermaid ‘The Tula’ and the Artist herself at work…

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Click to Enlarge.

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Click to Enlarge.

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Click to Enlarge.

But first, here are some shots of our beloved Tula at work in her old colours. Firstly the blue hull can be visibly seen working at Signy with the Shackleton in the background. Next, the orange is startling and matches the Launchman’s leggings nicely. I included this shot as not only is Tula changing colours, but changing her boatman too. Jimbo Baker is leaving us this week for pastures new. We wish Jim every success in his future endeavours and I am sure he has plenty of memories and old photos of Tula to remind of his time with us onboard. Finally, there is a shot of the Tula alongside the James Clark Ross ‘Rockhopper’. The Rockhopper is already sporting the Red and White colour scheme to which Tula is now aspiring.

And lastly for this week, here is the finished product. Tula is offloaded in Grimsby (Tuesday 09th) and sporting her final colours. Apologies for the late arrival of your webpage this week, but we were awaiting the opportunity to get the full-frontal shot of the new Tula, which was difficult until it had departed it’s stowage on the main deck.


Forthcoming Events: Continue to Grimsby. Due to excellent progress and whilst awaiting the High Tides for the Grimsby Lock, we will take 24 hours at anchor at the Bull Anchorage off Cleethorpes, and then proceed alongside as planned on Tuesday afternoon. We will offload the Tula and the cargo, and then prepare for the North Sea FMEA trials on the following Monday.

( FMEA = Failure Mode and Effects Analysis ).

Contributions This Week: Wavey-Davey the Comedian and Wavey-Davey the Marine Biologist ?

Diary North Sea No.1 will hopefully be prepared on Sunday 14th May for publication on Monday 15th May.

Stevie B
Radio Officer.