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Jan 07 - Halley Bay

Date: Sunday 7th January 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 75°13.5 South, 025°31.1 West, - At the Halley Base Ice Shelf N9.
Next destination: Signy Base, South Orkney Islands.
ETA: Possibly 13th January, Dependant upon our departure from N9 Tomorrow, January 8th.
Distance to go:1400.0 nmiles.
Distance Since Montevideo. : 11187.4 nmiles.
Plus all the miles not accounted for as we zig and zag through the Pack Ice.

Current weather:Clear Blue Skies, Light, and Clear.
Sea State: Calm alongside N9.
Wind : Easterly, 15 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 990.0 Hpa
Air temperature: -0.9°C
Sea temperature: -1.8°C

Click to Enlarge.

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

The RRS Ernest Shackleton hasbeen alongside the N9 Creek at the Brunt Ice Shelf near to the Halley Base. 'Near' is a relative term. It may not seem so near to those Sno-Cat drivers who have to drive a sledge-pulling machine for up to 3 hours over the wide open wastes of the Ice Shelf. Ideally, we would like to have tied up to the Creeks nearer to Halley in the South where the round trip to Base would be 2 hours, but instead, the Creek N9 relief calls for an 6 hour round trip, more or less.

But despite the distances and the time involved in the relief operation, we are nevertheless looking at a final day here alongside today, before a hopeful departure tomorrow lunchtime. Apart from the vehicles and the cargo that we have brought for Halley this season, there has been a good number of heavy loads which will go towards making the Halley VI test rigs. They will be holding evaluations of the heavy load-handling capabilities of the new vehicles this season by hauling these 'heavy loads' up and down various 'prepared' snow surfaces. Then, of course, we always deposit a vast number of drums of Avtur Fuel to provide for the Base, the Aeroplanes and the Vehicles this Summer. 1400 in total this call.

Click on Image to Enlarge.

The 'Challenger' vehicle leaves it's 'garage' on the Shackleton for it's new home in Antarctica.

And put directly to work ...

Here the 'Challenger' is hooked up to a plough at the ship's side, and as it drags the 'cargo' away, it starts the ongoing 'grooming operation' which maintains the surface of the snow after repeated transits of heavy vehicles.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself. After the last two megga-issues, I failed to report on some of the smaller, but equally important 'happenings' on the Shackleton in the recent weeks.

Wavey Davey's Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey Daveyhasn't come up with a joke this week ... or at least not one that I can publish. They have all revolved around vertically challenged persons, or persons of another ethnic origin... ' Have you heard the one about the Irishman who... '

And in an effort not to give offence, we have gone back through the annals to dig out some old Wavey Davey Jokes. But you'll notice no difference at all - because Davey's jokes are ALL OLD !

Wavey was sent to the infirmary this week. The Doctor sent him there to recover after he ate one of the Daffodil Bulbs we have onboard for the Yellow Room flower tubs. He thought it was an onion. But fear not, he is in a stable state and the Doctor assures us he will be out later this spring.

He tells me that the Italians are thinking of installing a Clock on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But why would they want to do a thing like that ? Apparently they think it's pointless to have the inclination if you haven't got the time ???

And just in time for 2007... Davey heard that criminals had broken into the Headquarters of the British Antarctic Survey and made off with the complete stash of BAS 2007 Calenders for this year. The good news is that the calenders have been recovered, the Criminals have been apprehended, and they have all been given 12 months !

More original Davey next week ...


It was not reported on time this year, but that does not mean that we didn't have our usual meeting of Carol Singers on the Focs'le this year. It's a special mention to Tamsin 'Met Chick' Gray who compiled the Carol Sheets this year, and did a sterling job on them too. With Carol Sheets in hand and warm 'mulled wine and mince pies' on order, the congregation convened on the Focs'le one chilly Saturday evening. It was a raucous affair and even your very own Choir Master Stevie B couldn't command any finesse in the volume and dynamics of the pieces sung. However as a praise of the Christmas season and a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas in particular, it was a very good affair. The mulled wine was warm (briefly) and the mince pies were very addictive and the event was very well attended by all the FID's and a few crew.

Click to see only a part of the Choir.

Some of the chosen items were traditional carols, but there was a smattering of more contemporary items. We split the choir into two for 'A Fairytale of New York' but whether it was the 'Sluts' or the 'Punks' that sang the loudest, is anybody's guess. But somehow we managed to navigate our way through the various changes in styles and tempos that are prevalent in that particular song.

As enthusiasm and voices were winding down near the end, we slowed it down with the traditional 'Silent Night, Holy Night'. But because we have Herr Thomas Spiess onboard, and he has been kind enough to coach 'yours truly' on elementary German language, I made a special request to sing the last offering ... in GERMAN.

Surprisingly, the throng were full of enthusiasms for the idea, ... if only they had the lyrics ?

That's when Herr Thomas came to the fore with a sheet of words all duly written out in full. For those who had any elementary German at school, it was a crash course in revision, and for those who had no idea at all, it was a hurried look over the shoulder of Thomas to attempt to follow the text.

'The Germans' 'Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht'.

It was a wonderful end to the Carol Sing with the 'Germans' leading the way on the first verse, the English taking up the second, and then a rousing chorus with all present finishing off together.

Danke Herr Thomas.

But the RRS Ernest Shackleton, was not all about celebrating over Christmas. The day to day nautical business and running of the ship continued throughout. More Planned Maintenance, more spares and repairs, and more Drills.

Click to see the Starboard Lifeboat accompaniment.

Here we see a picture of the usual Boat drill and those in attendance suitably bundled up against the cold and ready for the eventuality of an abandonment by lifeboat. But one criteria that the ship must meet is to launch the lifeboats at least once every 3 months.

We had already launched the boats in Mare Harbour last month, but since our future itinerary looks to be busy, this was the perfect opportunity to test the boats once again and meet our legal requirement for the rest of the trip. And so after a week of constant 'working the Ice' for the Shackleton, we got the chance to lower the boats into relatively clear water and let the smaller craft 'have a go'.

The Boat is Launched.

And cracking Ice... albeit very thin stuff ?

'Capt Ralph' got to take the helm and run the boats around in a pool of clear water, but he had to take care not to get any of that icy stuff caught up in his propellers. The boats were both duly retrieved and put back into their davits for the next drill and hopefully never to be used in anger.

Stop press!

Hold the Web!

News Flash!

We interrupt the not so adventurous Adventures of Postman Pat to bring you a fascinating find, - a find that will astound and astonish the scientific world. Read on…

Whilst Postman Pat was driving his 'Challenger' ice vehicle across the frozen wastes of Antarctica he made a startling discovery, there walking across the ice was a… POLAR BEAR.

Click to enlarge Pat at the Helm... Wheel ?? Joystick ????

Poor Pat nearly fainted with fright but quickly whipped out his rusty camera to take a picture before the creature disappeared before his very eyes. Had Pat had too much Christmas cheer?

See the pictures below for the proof of polar bears at the South Pole!

Pat and the Polar Bear !


Not only Postman Pat, but this week alongside Creek N9, your very own roving reporter got the opportunity to jump in the cab with Driver and Projects Manager, Martin Bell, for a quick 'rove' across the wilds of Antarctica. Here is a précis of the interview.

Click on all Images to Enlarge.

The 'Challenger' and the 'Shack'.

This year, the British Antarctic Survey are trialing two new types of vehicles modified for work in the Antarctic. They have been drafted in specifically for the Halley VI rebuild project, and Martin has been instrumental in getting them 'on the books'.

He was first introduced to the 'Challenger' when he visited the US Station McMurdo to appraise them in Antarctic surroundings.

The Americans use these vehicles as workhorses for their long trips over the ice to the South Pole Station, so they have a good track record of work down South. Just in conversation with Martin, you could tell that these babies are his pride and joy. I published this picture above because it is a particular favourite of his. Actually, he was kind enough to let me view his camera full of digital pictures and lo, and behold, everyone was of a vehicle. A Challenger, another Challenger, a Challenger alongside the ship, a John Deer Truck on the Drum line, a John Deer pulling sledges, a Sno-cat grooming snow...

'Where are the pictures of the Penguins ?', I asked...

' I don't do Penguins ' replied Martin. I suspect Martin has a bit of a one-track (or two tracks and a snow shovel) mind !!!

A Green 'John Deer'.

Is it just me, or does the John Deer just look like a regular tractor with VERY FLAT TYRES ???

The Challenger.

In the short time we were alongside Creek N9, we saw these impressive vehicles starting to work and they were impressive indeed. A Sno-cat which is the mainstay of the BAS operations down South, can pull 2 sledges of cargo, but at times you could see these 'locomotives' in yellow heading a train of up to 5 sledges behind. Martin had some great shots of these Antarctic 'trains' going to and fro across the drum line on route to Halley. Unofficially, I can comment that without the pulling power of the Challengers, the same job done by the Sno-cats alone would have taken at least 2 days more and we would be nowhere near our proposed departure tomorrow. In short, the Challengers are already proving their worth. But as mentioned previously, they are here to evaluate what mass they can haul across the ground and in particular, the new 'modular' units that will comprise Halley VI. I will not go into great detail, because that is for Halley Base to report on their website and I would not like to steal their thunder, but Martin confided that they will start with a 50 Ton pull and slowly work up to the haul of a proposed 150 Ton, across compact snow, lightly groomed snow and virgin snow. The intention is to keep going up and up in mass until the vehicles can perform no more. Good Luck to Mr Challenger and Mr John Deer in their forthcoming trials.

A view from the Cab on a transit of the Drum Line. Click on the Image to see the Rules of the Road !

My final question to Martin was more general in context, but as we were bimbling on up the Drum line at a cracking 18km/hour, with nothing to be seen in any direction other than ice and snow, I posed the question :

'What happens if we see another vehicle coming the other way ?'.

A reasonable request if you think about it ? Which side of the 'road' do you drive on when you have got a motorway the width of Antarctica ?

Do we still drive like the British on the left-hand-side ? Or being 'on the continent', do we drive on the right-hand-side like the Continentals ???

Who 'gives way, to whom ?'.

'It depends', said Martin. 'Usually the bigger vehicle has the right of way ! You just don't get in the way if he's bigger than you' !

'What happens if you are in Challenger 1 and you are confronted by an approaching Challenger 2 ???'

( No Answer ... ).

One thing is for certain... traffic jams are not a problem in Antarctica.

Many thanks to Martin Bell for the interview.. and the lift !

Addendum : Wavey Davey saw the above Photograph of the John Deer and mentioned ..

'' First of all they invented Square Wheels. Then they invented Triangular Wheels. One day they got it right and invented the Round Wheel !! ''

Thank you Davey...

'PIMP MY SHIP' - The Home Improvement Spot.

Following on from the Christmas Issue of the Webpage, we have more 'Home Improvement' ideas for the Ernest Shackleton.

As mentioned two issues ago, the Ernest Shackleton is a marvellous vessel, but in it's design and construction, there are some aspects that were installed that could definitely lend themselves to improvement. I intend to highlight a few of the shortcomings with suggestions of how to improve on the situation and hopefully, we may be approached by the 'Changing Rooms' Team ???

To introduce our next project, I must mention that the Ernest Shackleton is the only ship I have ever seen with a 'loft'. Very handy for storing old boxes and the Christmas Tree !!! Actually it is our access up to the Conning tower and also Sparkie Steve's stack of spare parts for the equipment in his domain. And how do we get up to the loft ? Easy. A loft ladder.

Click to lower the Loft Ladder.

Now the only problem with lowering our loft ladder, is that it gets in the way ! It is a very serviceable set of stairs, but once they are lowered and locked into place, you cannot gain access to the sink for washing the cups, to the fridge in the cupboards for the milk, or to access the Kettle for those all-important mugs of Tea ??? Now how can we possibly improve on the situation. Enter the 'Ground Force Team' (where are they when you need them ?).

With a little application of imagination, I am sure we can clear a little more deck space for the installation of a much more aesthetically pleasing spiral staircase. What do you think ?

Click to ascend the new Spiral Staircase.

Next week, more improvement suggestions.

Forthcoming Events:Complete the 2006/2007 Halley Relief and depart for Signy with best speed to try to gain back those days lost on our Itinerary due to the Pack Ice.

Contributions This Week : Thanks to Wavey Davey as always, and to Martin Bell of Halley for his excellent photographs of the vehicles..

Diary No.8 will be prepared on Sunday 14th January 2007 for publication on or around 15th January.

Stevie B

Radio Officer.