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Dec 17 - A busy week

Date: Sunday 17th December 2006
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 58°00.2 South, 006°58.7 West, - En Route to Halley Base
Next destination:  Halley Base, Brunt Ice Shelf.
ETA: Unknown.  Dependent upon Ice Conditions on the Journey South.
Distance to go: 1330.0 nmiles.
Distance Since Montevideo. :  9849.4 nmiles.
Current weather: Overcast Skies, Light Snow and Foggy.
Sea State: Rough Seas with Moderate Swell with many Bergy Bits and Growlers.
Wind :  Westerly, 26 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 977.3 mmHg
Air temperature:   -0.6°C
Sea temperature:  -1.2°C

Up to date position information is available courtesy of ‘sailwx/info’ taken from our Metrological Observations..


The RRS Ernest Shackleton has been busy.  We completed our transition from Signy over to Bird Island and worked cargo and gave some technical assistance to the permanent staff there before proceeding around to our other Base at King Edward Point.  A brief visit was spent alongside in the most glorious (despite windy) weather, and then we departed for Halley Base and are presently still on passage at the time of writing.  We are hopeful of arriving alongside the Sea Ice at Halley before Christmas, but it remains to be seen how thick the Pack Ice will be along the way.  

Onboard the vessel, our FID's have embarked upon a course of lectures and instructions to prepare them for a Summer Season down on the Antarctic Ice. Relief Operations, Communications, Survival Techniques, First Aid, and Vehicle Familiarization to name but a few are the topics on offer.  Looking at the schedule on the Red Room Notice Board, it looks busier than my 6th Form College schedule --- although it would be difficult to be any LESS busy than myself at 6th Form !!!  This really is a College at Sea for the FID's this week, so how they then find time to do a program of science, launching XBT's (Expendable BathyThermographs), AND having Cheese and Wine Evenings and latterly a Horse Racing Meet, it's hard to imagine.  They are very full days on the Shackleton, but owing to the sizeable contributions to the webpage this week, I shall keep my narration to a minimum and let someone else do the reporting.

Here's what we have been doing on the RRS Ernest Shackleton this week,... in detail.


Introducing ...RALPH'S JOURNAL

First Impressions of Grytviken

Text and Photos by Ralph Stevens, 3rd Mate RSS Ernest Shackleton.

Grytviken was the name given to a whaling community established at the turn of the century in King Edward Cove, South Georgia.  It was abandoned in the 1964.

 Click on Image to Enlarge the Station.

To the bottom left in the picture lies an old Hydroelectric plant.  Further up this hill a dam provides water at sufficient pressure to drive turbines.  At the moment works are in process to activate a new hydroelectric plant for South Georgia utilising the old dam.  The nearby new “portacabin” style blocks are accommodation for the workers involved in this.  The vessel just right of centre is the 'Petrel.'  The tanks were used to store whale oil and other products of the whaling process.

The strong winds that run off the adjacent mountains have proved a challenge for some of the buildings.  Rust and asbestos removal operations have also taken their toll on the site.  The sluice house by the dam was blown clear away.

Click to Enlarge the Sluice House ... or what is left of it.

All this adds to the character of the station.  Whilst none of us are keen on Whaling, it is however, nice to see such an interesting place preserved.  The day of our visit was extremely sunny.  On one of the few remaining patches of snow, we were surprised to find a group of King Penguins retreating with the snow.

  King Penguins Retreating with the Snow

The station’s church is in immaculate condition.  Visitors are invited to ring the church bells and visit the library at the back of the church.  Although, most of the books are in Norwegian.  It’s interesting to hear the wooden church creak with the wind.

The Church’s Stunning Location

It has been a long tradition onboard the RSS Ernest Shackleton to visit Shackleton’s grave and have a beer with the great man.  Perhaps it’s one of those little known seafaring traditions.

Shackleton’s Grave

A look around the station provides a glimpse into a past, which we will never see again.  Some of the implements used in the process of dismembering the whales look positively gruesome.  10 foot long steam powered saws show the size of creature they were designed for.  The grab designed to pull Whales up the Flensing Plan (a wooden slipway used for this purpose) by that tail is over a ton in weight.

  A Restored Steam Saw

There are three whaling ships that remain are a ghostly reminder of a once thriving town.  The graves here show that people did not just come here to work, but actually considered it home, they lived and died here.  One vessel, the Petrel, stands guard over the edge of the town, her harpoon loaded.  A menacing view to look up at.

Whale Catcher “Petrel”   Her Loaded Harpoon

The wildlife has to a degree reclaimed the whaling station.  There is a multitude of Fur and Elephant seals.  The latter being my favourite.  The Elephant Seals were hunted for many years by sealers from this port, but have now taken over.  While we keep our distance, they appear to be of very good temperaments and enjoy nothing more than lying on the shore.  They have a somewhat distinctive sound.

Fur Seals are somewhat different. They have the temperament of a Jack Russell with an inferiority complex.  They try to bite anyone passing into their territory and make a very husky bark.  They can be very dangerous and should not be approached.  Needless to say, I did not spend time photographing them but kept a close eye on their movements as I passed by.  It can be quite a scary experience for those who are unaccustomed, you must be aware of where they are and where you are walking at all times.  Their presence is often announced by a loud disgruntled snort as you approach.  Their mouths contain a lot of infection-causing bacteria and anyone who is bitten needs to receive antibiotics as soon as possible.

  A Female Elephant Seal Relaxes in the Sun

During our visit we were moored alongside at King Edward Point.  Later in the day we were joined by the cruise vessel the Clipper Adventurer who anchored in the Cove.

  The Clipper Adventurer is to the left of the Shackleton.  

An Elephant Seal and some King Penguins sunbathe in the foreground.

There were quite a few King Penguins in the area during our visit.  I also stumbled upon some Gentoo Penguins too, when I was over the far side of the cove.  As you can see below they make excellent photographic models.

A Gentoo Penguin Shadowed by two of his larger cousins, the King Penguins


Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey Davey once bought his Girlfriend a fur jacket.  It was a beautiful jacket made up of the skins of a hundred golden-haired hamsters.

He then took her one day to the fair and had problems when it took hours to get her off the Ferris Wheel (Big Wheel).

And more topically,... have you ever wondered why they stick an Angel upon the top of a Christmas Tree ?

Well, one year Santa decided that people should celebrate Christmas with a Pine tree and despatched his army of Elves and Angels throughout the world delivering a tree to every household.  Off they went, and only one little angel returned back to the Pole still dragging a Christmas Tree behind her.

'Dear Santa, I haven't been able to find anywhere to put my Christmas Tree', she said.  'What should I do with it ? '

...And that is why there is always an Angel on the top of your Christmas Tree !

Meanwhile, Davey's Postman Pat spot continues, and he assures me there is some point to the story that is unveiling before your eyes..


The continuing adventures of PP.

by Wavey Davey

Postman Pat Part Three.

Poor Postman Pat tried to escape the kidnappers on a tractor but he did not get far because he did not have the key. He was re-kidnapped by the kidnappers and taken back to the high ‘Handy’ mountains.

 Click on All Images to Enlarge PPat.

Whilst being re-kidnapped by the kidnappers a band of Scottish kidnappers kidnapped him and took him to Scotland for a day out.

Pat was soon re-captured and taken in a knapsack back the ‘Handy’ hills of Wales.

But on the way he escaped again, only to land in a crocodile infested pool.

Where a furious crocodile takes him.

Is pat for the crocodile chop?

See the next not-so-exciting chapter in the not-so-exciting adventures of the one and only Postman Pat...

To be continued..


A night at the RRS Shackleton Races....

The weather wasn’t looking favourable with the wind gusting force 10 on the starboard aft, but never the less as the gates opened for race night, owners and gamblers alike flooded in. The horses were impatient on the starting line as bets were rapidly placed with bookmaker Terry Baker. At 10 shackles to the GB Pound the exchange rate was good for the FIDS who had been conned into parting with their hard-earned cash by the ever-persistent Mick Quinn. Track conditions were firm and favourable for all horses, even if the grass did look a rather bizarre colour.

  Click to See the Starting Line-Up 

EDITOR'S NOTE : Antarctic Grass is Blue.  This is because it is so cold down South !!!

The royal box was filled by the Queen who had unfortunately forgot to take her curlers out before leaving the palace, she was accompanied by the famous dread-locked sumo wrestler – Gaz. Other dignitaries included Sheikh Myhand and the ever dapper owner of The Glue Factory Stables. A German football supporter and a dodgy guy in a Mac somehow made it past security.

  Her Majesty Keeps up good International Relations with the Japanese Contingent !

A clean bill of health was given to the horses by the resident vet ( myself ), and the first race kicked off.

The Vet, Kathy, the Wheel, and Stevie B the Jockey !

Mickie The Quinn was Selling Stakes. And then the wheel spun, so competently by Kathy Hayes, commencing the racing. 

The commentator- Stevie B roared as the horses left the start line, a few coming a cropper on the first water jump, others been kidnapped mid-race, and one came into difficulty when a suffragette threw herself onto the track.  Some called it 'a fix' when a horse owned by the bookie and the queen won the first race, especially when the bookie was seen slipping what looked like more than his winnings into his back pocket.

Race 2 – the Personal Account Handicap, again brought controversy with jockeys been disqualified for failing breathalyser tests, and a few getting boxed-in at the rails. The race was won convincingly by Avevaaccount Firstnational Bankheeren Grachtbranch, owned by the Steward’s stables – Open All Hours.

Race 3 was won by Tubi-grip, who now seems to have recovered from a recent lame spell, and owners ‘The Two Cripples’ hope their fortunes have changed.

The night continued with much excitement and tension. Odds changed frequently and bets got larger. The penultimate race saw Sausages and Sastrugi gallop convincingly into the lead, taking the finish line with ease. The owners of the Glue Factory celebrated by cracking straight into the champagne.

The final race saw new owners and new horses for the N9 Relief Auction Plate. Bidding was high, and the auction tense as big spenders gambled all their winnings to purchase the six thoroughbreds up for grabs. The closest race of the day saw good early starts from the Captain’s Filly and Ding-dang-doo, but Whatever You Want took over the lead giving the first victory of the day for stable owners, Rab, Chris and Chicago.

As most should know gambling is a bad habit, and many went away with empty pockets to the bookmaker. After a recent lucky spell with raffle tickets, the Captain entrusted his fortune to yours truly. I mean who would trust a doctor, (sorry vet )!  I foolishly gambled away all his hard-earned cash.

A great night was had by all, and thanks to all the race organisers for their hard work. The bookie was persuaded to part with his Shackles and a very respectable £364.40 was raised to go towards many charity events raising money for a local hospice in Scotland, the Sailors Society and the RNLI. 

Well done all!

Authoress - Charlotte 'Rachel' Routh ! 


Forthcoming Events: Continue our progress, on through the Pack Ice, and to the Brunt Ice Shelf.

Contributions This Week : Thanks to Ralph's Grytviken and Charlotte's Race Night reports, and Wavey Davey for his Postman Pat.

Diary No.5 will be prepared on Sunday 24th December for publication after Christmas.

In anticipation of the 24th December, Stevie B would like to wish Mrs Stevie B a 'Very Happy Birthday'.  Yes, Klementina is a Christmas Baby.


Stevie B
Radio Officer