Our site is using cookies to record anonymous visitor statistics and enhance your user experience. OK |  Find out more

Skip navigation

Jan 21 - Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Date: Sunday 21st January 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 54°01.0 South, 038°03.3 West, - Off Bird Island. South Georgia.
Next destination: King Edward Point (KEP), Cumberland Bay, South Georgia.
ETA: 0600 hours 22nd January 2007.
Distance to go: 77.9 nmiles.
Distance Since Montevideo. : 13321.1 nmiles. Plus lots for our Ice Navigation this Season.

Current weather: Cloudy and Overcast, but Fine and Clear.
Sea State: Moderate Seas and Large Swell.
Wind : Sou'Westerly, 10 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 991.5 Hpa
Air temperature: +2.9°C
Sea temperature: +1.9°C

Click to Enlarge.

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

Owing to the back-log of Web Diaries waiting to be published in Cambridge, the Last Week's Diary has been Cobbled Together with this week's entry to make a Double-Issue and give Cambridge the time to catch up following the Christmas Holidays.

We did it. We did it. We completed the N9 Relief at the Brunt Ice Shelf, and managed to turn the 'pointed end' to the North and make our way back out of the Weddell Sea by Monday 8th January. It took only a week to complete the relief which is remarkable considering the distances involved in an N9 relief.

The RRS Ernest Shackleton was then about 7 days behind the published schedule and the Captain was anxious to make up for lost time. In our favour, the accumulation of Pack Ice that delayed our entry into the Weddell, had greatly dispersed and therefore our journey to the North was punctuated with only brief periods of working Ice.

The 60nmiles distance from the Brunt Ice Shelf up to Stancomb Wills, which had presented such a difficulty on the Southern-bound direction, was covered in largely open water at the speed of about 11 knots and completed within the first day of steaming. What a difference.

Once clear of the sporadic Pack Ice, the Shackleton made very good time up to Signy in the South Orkneys. There we were slated to picked up an additional two passengers, but there was no spare time for hanging around and visitations and within the hour, the ship was back on passage for Stanley, Falkland Islands.

It was a week of 'get there, get it done, move on' all the way back to the Falklands. The only thing that was remarkable about the passage was that the weather blew up and the waves started to build. Luckily it was all from the South and with a passage taking us to the North West, we were largely blown along our track and it was not too uncomfortable at all.

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey Davey comes out with some golden oldies this week.

Three men were standing on the top of a tall skyscraper in New York when one hypothesises that it should be possible to leap from the top and as a body approaches the ground, air pressure would form a protective cushion which would effectively break his fall.

The second of the two men challenges the first ' I don't believe it. It would never work '.

The first assures the second it is truly possible and prove the fact, leaps directly over the edge to what looks like certain death.

Unbelievably, the man falls at ever-increasing speed until only a few feet from the pavement when the air seemed to form a protective cushion and far from letting him down, seemed to trampoline him back up into the air. He came safely to a halt on his feet at the pavement and ascends the skyscraper in the elevator to triumph at his accomplishment to his fellows.

'That's amazing', said the second man, 'I'm going to try it...' he said as he hurled himself off the skyscraper.

As the man fell at ever-increasing speed until he was only a few feet from the pavement, he realised that he was not being cushioned and he was not slowing down and microseconds later became so much mess on the sidewalk. The man died instantly.

Up on the top of the skyscraper the two remaining men are looking down below when the third man remarked ...

' You really are a horrible person, for a superhero, Superman ! '

Wavey tried burying a belated pig under his apple tree this year.

He was hoping to get a bumper crop of Bacon Apples !!!


As we progressed North towards Stanley, the RRS James Clark Ross was coming in the opposite direction on an equally tight itinerary. They had just crew-changed in Montevideo and were heading at best speed for Rothera down the Antarctic Peninsula, so their brief call into Stanley was very brief indeed. They had time enough only to drop off some boxes of cargo and fresh provisions collected in Uruguay, before they continued on their way. We missed each other by only a whisker and we pulled alongside FIPASS on the Monday 15th January. They had passed through the previous evening.

It is a shame that the ship's itineraries do not allow more time to meet up and see our sistership from time to time, bearing in mind that in future years, the Shackleton will be operating in the East of the Atlantic whilst the James Clark Ross will continue the work in the West. Our only possibility of a meeting will be back in the UK during our various mobilizations / demobilizations in the future.

But back to Stanley and the task in hand was to off-load the Base Waste and empty fuel containers that we had taken out of Halley. Just to remind you that every stick, every piece of litter, and every bit of waste has to be extracted out of Antarctica by International Agreement. The logistics of getting all the cargo into Antarctica is not the end of the story. Everything eventually has to be extracted and returned to the Falklands or back to the UK when the ships return there each year.

Work alongside in Stanley was a bit of a miserable affair. The bad weather that dogged us all the way up from Signy continued throughout the time alongside and the poor guys out on the decks, in the holds and on the quaysides were washed with a constant drizzle of rain, when it wasn't pouring down or even - on occasion - dropping hailstones ! And remember this is Summer down here !

Now is it just me, or does nobody else remember the plot of the 1980's movie 'Flash Gordon' ? In that movie, Ming the Merciless was toying with the world's weather systems in an effort to destroy the planet ... out of Boredom. Can nobody else join with me and NASA Scientist Dr Hans Zarkov in realising that he's at it again ?? How many snowballs need to fall on Stanley in Summer before everybody wakes up and sees what is really going on ? ' Global Warming ' indeed !


Postman Pat Part Five: -

After Postman Pat’s close encounters of the unmentionable kind with the alien bandits, Pat decides to take a rest in Norfolk at the Shrine Of Our Lady Of Walsingham where he can regain his strength for his next great adventure.

But there was no escaping from the ‘day job’

But after work comes rest so Pat goes off for a pint and a piece of cake.


And a night out with the ‘Girls’ (lucky Pat).

Will pat recover from all this excitement?


For nearly 7 years, I have been attempting to get a 'Round Robin' trip on the FIGAS (Falkland Islands General Aviation Service) service around the Islands of the Falklands. Since the Island infrastructure is very scant, to say the least, the best way to reach the far-flung settlements around the Islands is by aeroplane. There are daily scheduled flights from Stanley Airport calling at all the grass strips, gravel airfields and even Mount Pleasant Airport as the populous gets distributed around the havens, hamlets, homesteads and holiday spots.

Click On All Images To Enlarge.

The means to get around the Falklands.

It was not actually myself that booked the Round Robin flight this call in Stanley, but the adventurous 3rd Officer Ralph. As mentioned I had tried on many occasions to get the right-hand seat next to the pilot, but failed due either to onboard duties in port or because the flights were too full or otherwise cancelled due to weather. Therefore I had not intended to make application myself on such a short stay in Stanley. But as it transpired, Ralph could not get free from his duties at the quayside due to the amount of cargo work involved in our call, and the Captain was able to spare me. How lucky for me, but I did feel for Ralph who would not be able to enjoy a flight this call.

It is not the first time that the Round Robin has been reported in these pages. 2nd Officer Robin Kilroy managed the flight back in January 2001 and reported it in the webpages of that time. As he said, it was the best way to spend £42.00 in the Falkland Islands. Here I am reporting 6 years later and the Round Robin STILL costs only £42.00 ! It looks like inflation is slow to find it's way to the Falklands !

And so it was at 10.30am on a very blustery and dull Tuesday morning 16th January that I got 'on my bike' (literally) and made my way the 2 miles from FIPASS to the local Stanley Airport.

The Stanley Equivalent to the Heathrow M25 !

I checked in at the Airport terminal building which is small but homely, and awaited the return of my aircraft from an earlier flight around the locality. My check-in was 11.00am but at 11.30am I was still sitting there and awaiting it's arrival. The overall impression is that the schedules of FIGAS are very laid-back and unhurried. When the plane finally arrived, I saw the pilot busying about in the terminal building and in no apparent hurry to depart at the expected 11.15am that I had booked ?

My 'Taxi' Awaits on a grisly and damp day.

It was about Midday that I was finally escorted with the one other passenger to the plane waiting on the ramp. We jumped in and were given a quick 'brief' by the young pilot who came out onto the tarmac, and with an ' Okay ? ' he jumped in, we buckled up, and we were off. Very little ceremony involved in this flight departure.

A word about the twin engine 'Islander' aeroplanes is that they can carry up to 9 passengers and are surprisingly spacious inside. The view from the front 3 rows of seats is very good and with only 1 crew-member onboard, it allows a lucky participant to 'ride shotgun' up front with the Pilot. This is where the 'Round Robin' passengers get to fly.

Click to see a bearded Stevie B in the Islander, and enjoying the view.

As a Private Pilot, I was largely onboard for the aeroplane flight and to watch the knobs, dials, and instruments that always give me a delight to see. But as we departed Stanley on a very overcast day, my delight was transferred to the fact that these planes seem to fly everywhere at a height of only 500 feet or so. I had thought we would be up in the clouds for the best part of the day and only pop down to do the landings in the far off places, but no. Apparently, the majority of flying in the FIGAS service is 'puddle jumping' and therefore we had a view of the ground at all times - even with the cloud as low as it was this morning. The further South and West we flew on our first leg of the journey, the lighter and brighter it became and by the time we were on the West Falkland Islands, there was even sunshine and blue patches to greet us. It cheered the day no end, but I was content just to be flying once again.

Click to see the Round Robin (courtesy again of Sailwx/info).

Our proposed route was Sealion Island, on to Fox Bay, then to Carcass Island and back to Port Howard. Finally a return to Port Stanley would complete the round flight and see me back at the 'capital' by 1500 hours. The first airfield was not a disappointment. I had anticipated a small, indistinct strip of grass in the middle of nowhere and Sealion Island is so small as to qualify as 'the middle of nowhere'.

Sealion Island International Airport, Terminal, and Strip !

As you can see from the photograph taken on arrival, the landing strip runs passed the 'terminal buildings' but just beyond that is the sea once again. This typifies the type of airstrips that the Service flies in to and out of on a daily basis. The pilot navigated us to finals and touched down on the gravel strip with little ceremony and no bounce. We touched down at approximately 120 knots indicated airspeed and came to a complete stop in such a short distance that I was well-impressed.

Once strapped into the front seat and wearing the 2nd set of headphones, I could hold a great conversation with the Pilot who automatically asked 'and where are you from ?'. I only had to mention ' The RRS Ernest Shackleton... ' and the pilot, surprised, commented ' then perhaps you know the chap onboard that I am emailing about golfing at the Stanley Golf Club ? '

'You wouldn't happen to be Troyd ?' I asked. ' You wouldn't happen to be Steve ? ' he replied ??? What a small world it is in the Falklands !

The rest of the flight was swiftly passed away in mutual conversation about golfing, flying and living in the Falklands and many mutual acquaintances were discovered as we chatted. It really is a small world.

A fellow FIGAS Islander already on 'the Ramp' at Sealion Island.

At Sealion Island, despite it's size, there was already an Islander embarking and disembarking passengers. We pulled up behind our neighbour and with 5 minutes, we had loaded 3 passengers, baggage and boxes and Troyd had used his 'Whizz wheel' to calculate weights and balances before starting up the engines once more for the next leg. And so it was at each destination. With little ceremony and remarkable efficiency, the stops at each field was completed in minutes and we were airbourne again directly.

Finals for Runway 27 at Stanley (SFAL) and the end of an enjoyable flight.

With about 25 minutes between each stop, and 5 minutes on each remote strip, it worked out that I was back on 'Finals' to Stanley in 2-1/2 hours so despite leaving later than anticipated, I was back in goodly time to find my bike and get back to work.

After waiting 7 years for the experience, I was certainly not disappointed. I could wax lyrical about airspeeds, approaches and go-arounds, but suffice it to say, it was an excellent flight, plenty to see and good company on route. I would heartily recommend it to any fellow crewmates or visitors to the Islands and hopefully, ' next time, Ralph, next time'.

Stevie B

Finally for this week, the vessel completed the discharge of Base waste and loaded the holds up once again with more barrels of AVTUR for Halley. Two more layers of drums were packed into the lower hold and secured for sea, again all under a wash of summer showers and storms. Once we were all loaded, and mindful of the days that we needed to gain to get back on schedule, the Captain ordered us back to sea. It was only a very brief 3 days stay in the Falklands, but we took enough fuel for the Base and sufficient for ship to make another journey down to the deep South. Our itinerary now calls for visits to Bird Island, King Edward Point and Halley stopping off for science along the way. We have about 3 weeks of scientific work in the Weddell Sea to conduct this year, and I am sure the Scientists will rise to the occasion with a full explanation as it happens.

Setting sail from Stanley was not very promising unfortunately. The weather still continued in it's miserable way and we steamed directly into a Southerly swell that kept the Shackleton moving like a pendulum in a Grandfather clock. Once we are victim to the motion of the ocean, for those who failed to feel seasick, there is the ever-present lethargy that comes with the constant tiring motion. Even the simplest of tasks became a chore. Once again it's hat's off to the Galley Team who amaze me by continually producing first class food in any weather. How they keep the soup in the saucepans must be a matter for a future exposé in the columns of these pages.

The Home Improvement Spot.

The next 'Home Improvement' idea for the Ernest Shackleton is based around the 'back garden'.

On the Shackleton, I am afraid we tend to let the Helideck get cluttered during the course of the season and invariably it gets relegated to being a Car Park on many occasions. I am sure this vast expanse of area on the vessel could be better used to heighten the 'Shackleton Experience'. How about a Gazebo or 'Pimms Tent', a nice border of flowers, or rockery, or a simple water feature ???

Before and After.

Click on the Images to enlarge the possibilities !

The two 'Gardeners' in attendance are thought to be Martin and Wavey Davey. One minute they are removing the traces of rust from the Helideck and the next minute they are trimming the verges ! If you look carefully, you can detect that Wavey Davey needs to pay more attention to his mowing as the grass is in definite need of attention. We shall be having a word with Dewi, the Chief Officer, to see what can be arranged in the form of white picket fencing in the near future ???

Forthcoming Events: Complete the work at Bird Island where we are collecting all the Base Waste we missed on our first call in December, and to allow our onboard Dentist to inflict a little 'dentistry' and 'dental floss' on unsuspecting Base Members. Once complete, we continue our program around to King Edward Point on the East Coast of South Georgia and hopefully find some nice weather.

Contributions This Week : Thanks to the Shackleton Gardeners. And thanks to Capt Troyd and FIGAS for the opportunity of a flight.

Diary No.9 will be prepared on Sunday 28th January 2007 for publication on Monday 29th January.

Stevie B
Radio Officer