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Jan 28 - Halley

Date: Sunday 28th January 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 62°37.5 South, 043°14.9 West, - Working off the South Orkneys.
Next destination: Halley Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica..
ETA: 18th February 2007.
Distance to go: 1363.4 nmiles.
Distance Since Montevideo: 14415.0 nmiles. Plus lots for our Ice Navigation this Season and more for Moorings and Buoys.

Current weather: Blue Skies, Few Clouds, Fine and Clear.
Sea State: Calm Seas.
Wind: Light Airs.
Barometric pressure: 999.2 Hpa
Air temperature: +1.1°C
Sea temperature: +0.3°C

Latest position
Latest position

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

The RRS Ernest Shackleton embarks on a program of science this week. But first, we revisit 'RALPH's JOURNAL' to see what he has been up to in these past weeks...

Ralph’s Journal

New Year on the Shelf

Photos and text by Ralph Stevens, 3rd Officer, RRS Ernest Shackleton

Following our battle through the ice surrounding the Brunt Ice Shelf, we finally arrived at our destination, the shelf ice off Halley Research Station. We arrived on New Year’s Day and the Captain decided to go to the place known as N9. This is actually an area where the ice shelf is only a couple of meters above the sea level.

The Shackleton alongside at N9
The Shackleton alongside at N9

The other places we can moor are known as the Creeks. Creeks are areas of the ice shelf that have split due to pressure within the shelf. The Creeks then fill with snow and ice. As long as the ice remains fast, and is in a suitable condition, the vessel can moor there.

Mooring alongside ice is a little different from normal port operations. Firstly the Captain will use the bow of the ship to scrape away the weaker ice and flatten the edge. The vessel is then held alongside using the bow and stern thrusters. We then land a mooring party using what we call a “Wor Geordie”. This is a rope basket which can transfer 4 people onto the ice. It is left out at all times during the relief in case of a breakout (when the ice next to the vessel breaks up).

The 'Wor Geordie' in use
The 'Wor Geordie' in use

Since there are no bollards ashore, we have to make a mooring point on the ice. A hole is drilled in the ice using a large two-stroke drill and 4x4 wooden stakes are driven in. The hole is then packed with snow and the stakes hammered into place.

Drilling the ice ready for the stakes
Drilling the ice ready for the stakes

After this we can run the mooring lines. Since they are so long (about 250m) we often use the Ski-doos to help us drag the lines.

Dragging the lines to the mooring points
Dragging the lines to the mooring points

Once moored up we discharge the cargo to sledges to be pulled to the Base by Sno-Cats. Equally, the Base Waste and return cargo are sent from the Base for us to load.

Securing a cargo of Ski-doos
Securing a cargo of Ski-doos

During our stay at N9, some of us had the opportunity to visit a Wind Scoop. This is an area of ice that has been carved out by the wind to form what looks like a frozen wave. Myself and the Chief Mate, Dewi, were guided by “Toddy”, who is an expert in mountaineering and field craft. We went to the site using the “Santa Sledge”.

The Santa Sledge
The Santa Sledge

Upon arrival we were amazed to see a series of four scoops. Each one was bigger than the last.

Myself at the entrance to the final wind scoop
Myself at the entrance to the final wind scoop

Toddy checked out the scoop to see that everything was safe. He was then followed by Dewi. As you can see in the photo below the walls of the scoop are solid ice which has a surface similar to that of a golf ball, with indentations the size of a fist.

Dewi descending into the Wind Scoop
Dewi descending into the Wind Scoop

One of the most amazing things are the colours in the scoop. When the light hits the ice in the correct way, you can see the most amazing neon blues.

Some of the interesting colours thrown from the ice
Some of the interesting colours thrown from the ice

The snow and ice at the top of the scoop was blown into some beautiful forms. The photo below shows how the snow/ice has formed into smooth, undulating patterns.

Some of the interesting forms to be seen within the scoop
Some of the interesting forms to be seen within the scoop

Once we were inside the scoop we found an area of ice at the bottom. Apparently, there was liquid water below this ice. The scoop was acting as a trap for the light and raising the temperatures inside.

A view from inside the scoop
A view from inside the scoop

The scoop itself was about 60m long. Myself and Toddy can be seen outside the other end of the scoop in the photo below.

Ralph & Toddy at the other end of the scoop
Ralph & Toddy at the other end of the scoop

Once we were out again, we made our way to the top of the scoop ridge. The photo below gives a good idea of the scale of the ridge.

Dewi & Toddy make their way to the top of the ridge
Dewi & Toddy make their way to the top of the ridge

Next time I’ll be writing about science work in the Weddell Sea.

Thanks Ralph.


Last week we were off Bird Island at the Northern end of South Georgia, and the relief operation went well. The South-westerly seas that had made the journey across from the Falklands uncomfortable, had promised to stop operations, but when we arrived, there was a lull. Although it was still too rough to successfully launch the Tula, we nevertheless used the Fast Rescue Boat to good effect and several transits later, we had all the Base Waste and Dental patients onboard and seen to. Dentist Borjor, was embarked in the Falklands and his remit is to attend to each and every Base Member from Bird Island to Halley and give them a clean bill of Dental Health, so he was extremely busy at Bird Island, and again the following day around at King Edward Point. We will hear more of Borjor later in the voyage.

We completed the Bird Island call in the one day and proceeded overnight around the North Eastern coastline of South Georgia. At 06.00 the following morning, we were cruising to the entrance of Cumberland Bay and the King Edward Point Base was on the VHF radio. However, we were beaten into the Bay by a cruise vessel, the 'Explorer', who was carrying Passengers to the Grytviken Whaling Station for the day. It is always a pleasure to see other vessels in the area, and as we moored up against the purpose-built jetty of KEP, the Explorer went to anchor in the middle of the bay.

Cargo operations commenced. Yes, that is what this is all about. I am often asked what the RRS Ernest Shackleton actually DOES, and there seems to be something of a disappointment when they learn that we are a logistics ship and that we take important supplies down to the Bases. How else are the Bases to be kept stocked full of Chocolate Biscuits ?

There was quite an amount of cargo work to be done alongside. Apart from offloading the small amount for the Base and taking all their waste into our Holds, we also had an amount of shuffling around to do as the scientists, Povl, Keith, Phil, and Martin prepared for their forthcoming science cruise, ES031. I have still not managed to get the boys to write anything about their workscope yet, but they are 'hotting up' to a very busy time on the Shackleton, so we'll trouble them for some words later in the trip.

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey Davey like the rest of us after 2 months at sea, is looking 'shaggy' and in need of a Hairdresser !
I said as much to him the other day and he told me that, living in Germany, I should also go and see his friend.
'Who's that ?', I asked.
'Herr Kutt' he replied.

Once, David applied to a Building Site for the job of a Handy Man.
'Okay', said the Site Foreman, 'what can you do ?. Are you a Brickie, or a Carpenter ?'
'No', said Davey.
'Are you a Plumber or Electrician then ? '
'No' said Davey.
'Are you a Painter and Decorator perhaps ?' asked the Foreman
'No' said Davey.
'Er.. Exactly WHAT can you do ?' he enquired.
'I don't know ?' said Davey.
'Then, what made you apply for the job ? What makes you think you're a Handy Man. ?'
'Well,...' said Davey ' I only live around the corner !!! '

Another time, Davey saw a pal of his on the building site and he was hammering nails into a wall.
But he kept looking at the nails and throwing half of them away.
'What are you doing throwing half those nails away ?' enquired Davey.
'Oh, they are faulty !' He said. 'The head of the nail is at the wrong end... '
'You Fool', said Davey.
'Those nails are for the other side of the wall !!! '

Novices Guide to Antarctica. (revisited).

It is only fitting that with new scientists onboard, we revisit the opinions of another scientist who made an observation about her time on the RRS Ernest Shackleton. I make no apology for re-running this item, as anything good is worth repeating. These are the scientific observations according to the gospel of Doc Jo Arendt :-

+ Everyone, over an area of about 10,000 square miles, knows everyone else.
+ Most of them have survived against incredible odds and are Polar heroes.
+ The Falkland Islands are variegated shades of khaki-which means that the military buildings look just right.
+ A lot of the Southern Hemisphere seems to be UK territory.
+ Everything more or less is known by its initials: MPA, FID, FRC, KEP, RBLT, XBT, A23 etc etc. Unless you find out rapidly what all this gobbledegook means you won't know where you are or what you are doing. It is particularly dangerous to confuse XBTs with RBLTs.
+ Ice breaking is extremely enjoyable.
+ The ship's food is so good it is possible to put on two stone between The Falklands and Halley whilst working out every day.
+ People get off ships in flying baskets. Yes, really. This is not a joke.
+ Halley (75°S) in late December is warmer than most of the UK. And much more fun.
+ The sky is a slightly different colour from the rest of the world (no pollution?).
+ The sea is an incredible blue-green-black amongst the ice.
+ Icebergs can be identified as coming from a specific ice shelf, rather like fine wine. More from the body than the bouquet however.
+ With practice it is possible to drink cups of tea standing upright, without holding on to the ship, in hurricane force winds, without spilling a drop.
+ You get very attached to ships which have carried you safely through monstrous seas.
+ Fur seals are not soft cuddly little beasts. They are aggressive, dangerous and always hiding behind tussock grass ready to get you.
+ Elephant seals know nothing about rights of way. They also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
+ South Georgia is one of the most stunning places in the world.
+ Wrecked and rusting whaling stations are beautiful and haunting places.
+ Moulting penguins clearly need some Prozac.
+ Icebergs, Albatrosses, Petrels, Prions, Terns, Skuas are compulsive viewing at all times and in all weathers.
+ It takes at least half an hour to get all the cold weather gear on - and then you're too hot.
+ Emperor penguin chicks are both charming and obedient. Nursemaid penguins behave just like middle-aged school teachers did 40 years ago.
+ You have the persistent impression that some benevolent deity is keeping an eye on you and making sure all is well. This is a very nice feeling.

Author Jo Arendt


Postman Pat Part Six : -

We left Poor Postman Pat Partying with the girls after a hard days adventure.

Postman Pat

He had been dancing all night and his feet got so hot he had to cool them off.

Postman Pat

He was so tired he slept like a log ‘and woke up in the fire place’.

Postman Pat

After the party he got the coach home.

Postman Pat

When he got home he posted himself off.

Postman Pat

To take a cruise on a cruise ship out of the Mersey.

Postman Pat

Where in the world will he end up?


Apart from completing the cargo operations at KEP in 2 days, there was also an opportunity for crew jollies during their off hours, and even a last KEP BBQ. It seems to be something of a tradition to all huddle in the cold night air by the Boat shed at KEP and have a hot steak or burger in one hand and a cold beverage in the other. Strange, but true. However, it also always well-attended (especially since we gave those cooks of ours the night off, and the BBQ was the only watering hole with food that night !!!), and moreover, it is always well-enjoyed. Most had a good bite to eat and a drink and disappeared for the warmth of the interior by about 10pm, but as usual, there were some hardy hanger's-on who managed to see through midnight and into the small hours. I wasn't one of their number, because I was taking a leaf out of the book of our 2nd Officer Chris Handy who seems to always take advantage of the early light and calmer weather of the morning. So I, for one, was seen heading off for a last walk-about in South Georgia at 4.00am when the sun was bright, the wind was non-existent and the views were spectacular.

Bearing in mind that the Shackleton is due to head off to Cape Town and Halley in future years, this was the last chance for many of us to see the beloved Grytviken Whaling Station for some seasons. We were not disappointed. The weather was largely perfect and the company - as always - convivial.

With the arrival of Wednesday morning, we departed. Our next call was actually just around the corner. We had a party of 3 scientists to input into Hound Bay just along the coastline. The Shackleton on DP (Dynamic Position Keeping) stayed on station whilst the Tula and Fast Rescue Craft ran trips to and from the shore to install the shore party. No Base was waiting for them this time. These were real 'knarley' scientists who were going to be living in Pyramid tents for the next 5 weeks whilst they conduct a program of science on the wildlife in the Bay.

The amount of cargo required by Catrin, Philip and Helen for the 5 week stay filled the hold of the Tula and then some. Personal baggage added to the cargo and we spent the best part of Wednesday ensuring they were billeted, comfortable, safe and had communications before we wished them well and sailed away from South Georgia for the last time in 2007.

Since that time, the Ernest Shackleton has been earning her title as a 'research ship' by conducting CTD's and Buoy Deployments around the South Orkney Islands. Initial teething problems have been worked out and test deployments conducted to ensure the equipment is working as expected.

However, the full report of the workscope will wait till next week, and meanwhile here is a taste of what we are doing in calm waters with blue skies.

The Launch and Recovery of the CTD !
The Launch and Recovery of the CTD !

Povl Checks the Bottles
Povl Checks the Bottles

Forthcoming Events: Continue with the Science programme off the South Orkney Islands and head off in a Southeasterly direction for more CTD's and Moorings on the way to Halley.

Contributions This Week: Thanks to Doctor Jo Arendt for her article from 2000. Thanks too for Ralph's Journal, and KEP for a jolly good stay and BBQ.

Diary No.10 will be prepared on Sunday 04th February 2007 for publication on Monday 05th February.

Stevie B
Radio Officer.