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Feb 18 - Pack Ice

Date: Sunday 18th February 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 7513.5 South, 02531.1 At Creek N9 the Brunt Ice Shelf
Next destination: Signy Base, South Orkney Islands.
ETA: 28th February 2007.
Distance to go: 1227.0 nmiles.
Distance Since Montevideo. : 14415.0 nmiles. Plus lots for our Ice Navigation this Season and more for Moorings and Buoys.

Current weather: Sunny, Bright and Clear.
Sea State: Calm alongside the Shelf Ice.
Wind : Sou'South Easterly, 2 to3 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 994.5 Hpa
Air temperature: -8.1C
Sea temperature: -1.7C

 Click to Enlarge.

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

This week the RRS Ernest Shackleton has continued with it's quest to find Pack Ice and HIT IT !

We were again playing with pack ice for the first few days of the week as we finished off the program of CTD's in this Southerly section of the Weddell Sea. Altogether, Povl, Keith and the boys have run 107 CTDs usually positioned about 4 miles apart from each other. They have covered an extensive section of ocean and although we have taken a break from the Science presently, we still have some more to do once we have completed the Base Relief at Halley.

 Click on Image to Continue the CTD'ing in the Pack Ice

Monday and Tuesday were CTD days and whilst we were on one location, we had an unexpected visitor. Details of that follows shortly. But then we turned to the East and headed for the Creeks of Halley one more time. The steaming distance was short indeed because the last of the Transects were very close to the Stancomb Wills Ice tongue where we had to spend our Christmas stuck in the 10/10th's Pack Ice. No such impediment this time. It was a short overnight cruise to arrive early on Wednesday morning (14th Feb). HAPPY VALENTINE's to everybody retrospectively.


This last week, at around 1400 hours on a Tuesday 13th, the Shackleton received an unexpected visitor. Having watched the sailwx.info link on the internet all week, we were aware that our Argentinean friends were visiting their Base 'Belgrano' in the deepest South, but when they were seen to sail North again, we thought we had missed them completely. As it happened, the Argentinean vessel, 'Admirante Irizar' was steaming slowly and so had not passed us by at all, and came upon us as we were hove-to on one of our CTD stations. At first, a shadow on the horizon was seen and thought to be yet another Iceberg, but as the Iceberg grew larger, it turned out to be the Irizar on passage out of the Weddell Sea.


 The Distant Iceberg transpires to be an Antarctic Vessel.

Pleasantries were passed on the VHF radio and the Argentine Commander requested permission to send a boat over with a parcel for us. Once the mighty vessel hove close to our ship, a little Zodiac inflatable brought some of their crew across to exchange small gifts. Hopefully a British Antarctic Survey 'Shackleton' plaque will be adorning the bulkheads of the Irizar at some future date.

The Irizar was brilliant. As they approached, we saw the signal flags flying from their Yardarm. 'Uniform.Whiskey.One'. A quick reference to the International Code of Signals confirmed the message they were sending us ... ' I wish you a pleasant voyage. '

 Our Antarctic Neighbour.

There was one chap on their upper decks who had managed to drum up an oversized hand in Yellow (just visible in the above photograph) and he was giving us a very enthusiastic wave, as the Irizar Public Address System blared out some Pomp and Circumstance and other classical tunes.

It was only a brief encounter and within 30 minutes the Irizar was moving away to the North and we were continuing to our next CTD station, but it broke up the business of the day and gave us a great opportunity for photographs. Final farewells were passed on the VHF as the two vessels steamed in opposite directions, and then attention was turned back to the business of CTD's.

And now, at the risk of repeating ourselves, we catch up with what's been happening in the world of RALPH'S JOURNAL.


Having left the Falklands and arriving in King Edward Point, South Georgia for the last time (for 3 years), we were greeted with an excellent view of the McNaught (2006 P1) comet.
Click on All Images to Enlarge.
 A long exposure photo of the comet over KEP by Martin Biuw

We then proceeded to the Weddell Sea to start our science cruise. Our first job was to deploy and recover moorings. These moorings have a variety of different instruments which record current information, temperature, conductivity and sediments. Temperature and conductivity are used to determine the salinity and density of the water.

 Scientists preparing the mooring's current meter

The moorings are effectively a string of instruments, supported by sub surface floats that have instruments fitted at different points along its' length. They are anchored to the seabed by means of a large weight, in this case train wheels. The moorings are fitted with an acoustic release. This will allow the mooring to float to the surface when a acoustic signal is transmitted to it.

 A diagram of a typical mooring arrangement

At various points throughout the Weddell sea we took CTD measurements. This is a device that is lowered to the seabed and records conductivity, temperature and depth, as well as taking water samples on it's way up.

 The CTD as it disappears below the sea

While we were deploying the moorings, a group of Chinstrap Penguins were "Porpoising" past the vessel. I've stitched three photos together to show what "Porpoising" actually is.

(note : this one does not enlarge) Stitched photos showing a sequence of Chinstrap Penguins "Porpoising"

On another note it's starting to get quite cold here, after a few nights less than -15C, it's now got down to -21C. We're about to head North for the South Orkney Islands soon where I hope to report on the hut cleanup operations.

Author : Ralph

Wavey Davey's Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey this week wants to pay tribute to an article he saw in his local mag. I cannot acknowledge the author as there is no indication who wrote it, but our thanks go out to the clever person who opens our eyes to the downfalls of THE SPEEL CHEQUER !

Aye have a spelling chequer, I disk covered four my PC
It plane lee marks four my revue Miss Steaks eye can knot see.
Eye ran this poem threw it, you sure real glad two no,
It's very polished in it's weigh and my Chequer tolled me sew.

A chequer is a blessing, it freeze yew lodes of thyme,
It helps me right awl stiles two reed and aides be when aye rime.
Each frays comes up on my screen, Eye trussed too bee a joule
The chequer pours o'er every word, to cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore we rote with chequers hour spelling was in deck line
Butt now when wee dew have a laps, Wee are not maid too wine
And now bee cause my spelling is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults in this peace, of nun eye am a wear.

To rite with care is quite a feet of witch won should be proud.
Wee mussed dew the best wee can ass flaws are knot aloud.
That's why eye brake in two averse Cause eye dew want too please
Sow glad eye yam, hand suggest yew bye this soft where for pea seas.

Author unknown.

... and finally from Wavey, he bought his nearest and dearest a top-of-the-line talking parakeet before he left home, the very best that money could buy. The intention was that the bird would keep her company and stop loneliness sinking in while Davey was away. He phoned home recently,...

'How have you found the Parrott ?' enquired Davey.

'Very tasty...' she said.

The Creeks that are further south and nearer to the Halley Base were still beset with Sea Ice. The problem with the Sea Ice is that it is furrowed with the troughs and ridges caused by pressure and movement within the ice and prompted by the swell of the ocean beneath. Therefore, it was a foregone conclusion that the vessel would return to the N9 Creek further North, and upon arrival, we found the 4x4'' timbers that we left there were still in position. The 4x4's are stakes that are used to tie the ship to the Ice edge during the relief operations.

Once more the 'Wor Jordie' personnel basket was used to put the shore party ashore with picks and shovels and Ice drill to ensure we had the necessary anchor points on which to tie up. Although still in place, some of the 4x4's were unusable as we couldn't get alongside in exactly the same place as we were previously. Moving further around the ice cliff, we found a spot that best allowed us to get side-to bearing in mind that the ice does not necessarily calve off the cliff edge in a nice straight line. Instead, the jagged edge has to be 'worked a little' in order to straighten out our proposed berth.

 Digging for Gold, or Planting a Bumper Crop ?

That done, the 4x4's that were to be used had to be 'dug out'. Over the comparatively short time that we were away doing a 'Falklands run' and CTD's, an accumulation of snow had just about buried the stakes which required a good digging session to uncover a good lashing.

I was lucky enough to capture a group of our people caught in the act of burying some more 4x4's in the snow. I think the intention is to grow a bumper crop of them for harvest NEXT season to save us having to bring our with us. Charlie our Bosun, is reputed to be a dab hand at the gardening, and I am sure these boys can convince him to part with a little 'Baby Bio' to help the crop along ???

Anybody with any gardening tips for the type of soil... (SOLID ICE) that they are trying to propagate in, please forward them to a grateful mooring team, and we will try them accordingly.

By lunchtime on the Wednesday, the ship was once again securely tied up against the shelf ice and we started to see the first of the vehicles appear over the horizon on their way to the coast from Halley.


Whilst alongside here near Halley, we have embarked the first of those FID's who are returning to civilization and NOT remaining behind to carry on the good work. Kathy Hayes is one of the first onboard, and she has something to share with us :-

''Here are some poems written by Class 2 of St Johns Chapel Junior School (age 8-10). This is the school I went to as a child and my niece Georgina Hayes is now attending. The class have been emailing me during my time at Halley this summer whilst learning about Antarctica.

Dr Kathy Hayes (Applied Glaciologist for the Lifetime of Halley project)

Ice so thick.
Ice so cold.
People must keep very warm
To stay in freezing cold temperatures.
It must be very hard and cold.
How could they stay alive?
By Paul

Penguins waddle across the ice,
up mountain.
The blizzard gets worse and
down the mountain the penguins slide .......
faster and faster.
All the penguins say,
into the sea.
Ice bergs crashing into the sea;
beware if you're there.
By Dillon

Penguins swimming in the sea,
But be careful of the whales you will get eaten So BEWARE!
When you get out waddling here and there
Up to your mums and back down to the sea.
Slipping here and sliding there
You struggle up the hill and slide back down
By Bernice

You're down there in the ice and snow!
That's a place you should not go!
It's cool!
Well so are the penguins.
By Connah

Penguins waddle across the ice
Not exactly paradise.
The killer whales in the sea
Coming after you and me.
Icebergs melting over there
Albatross flying in the air.
By Megan Evans

is for Antarctica so cold filled with ice.
N is for Nunatack, they're tops of mountains.
T is for Temperature as low as they can go.
A is for Ants you find in 'Ant'arctica.
R is for Riding on huskies so fast they go.
C is for Crashing icebergs they fall from so high.
T is for Tractors to get around on.
I is for Ice so slippery and cold.
C is for Cool Antarctica
A is for ALL the scientists down there in....
By Emily

Ice is breaking
Ice so thick, ice so cold near the ice I'll never go.
With the killer whale that frightens me.
But penguins and seals so kind and cute
Icebreaker ships smash through the ice
The icebergs are dangerous they fall so bad.
By Alex

Penguin and huskies
Penguin waddle across the ice,
Penguins think it is so nice.
Huskies with sledges prancing across the snow,
Look at how fast they do go.
By Rosie

Snow snow, winds that blow
Penguins waddling throw the ice.
The ice is deep, the ice is thick, the ice is deep and hard.
Down the hill the penguins go,
going on the slippery slope.
Faster and faster, riding past.
Whales, whales swimming fast
Eating penguins jumping high.
Ice bergs falling, quickly falling.
By Jack

The killer whale
In the Antarctic the penguins waddle through the snow.
Sliding down the hill they go
Beware of the killer whale.
By Isaac


 Ice in Antarctica.

This week the weather has been quite brilliant with only occasional overcast days but othewise the winds have remained calm and the sun has come out on many occasions. The webcam has been swamped with lots and lots of UV light 24 hours of the day, and is suffering - bless it, - and the temperatures have plummeted alongside the Shelf Ice. On some sunny nights, (remember we do not have sunset at this latitude at this time of year), the thermometer has dropped as low as - 21 degrees. Brrrrr.

But it is not only on the Ice shelf that the Ice is thick and sparkling... along our own window shelves there is evidence of Ice forming... GLOBAL WARMING INDEED ! Hah, yet another bit of evidence to the contrary that in spite of reports of Ice melting at the Polar Ice Caps, we are being plagued by Ice on the bridge ... on the INSIDE.

But before you start to pity the poor deck officers forced to spend their working days on the bridge, might I add that the temperatures up here are perfectly tropical and too warm if I am to be believed. The circumstance of Ice on the windows is actually the condensation that is forming on the inside of the window and then congregating on the cold, metal, frames beneath. Once in contact with the cold metal, crystals of ice soon form and before long, you have a centimetre of Ice forming along the lower ledge. I just hope when the temperatures rise a little more, the ice will melt and the moisture evaporate leaving no trace. Otherwise Wavey Davey, 'get your cloth out' !

 Click to see the Bridge Window ledges.

 Frosticles appearing all around the bridge.

The Last Call Halley.

It has been an N9 relief once again. Despite the 60-odd kilometres between the ship and the Base, the relief task was completed in only 4 days. And that is four days only without having to resort to the normal 24-hour shift pattern that normally occurs for a Halley relief. 575 drums of fuel were landed and an amount of cargo followed by the back-loading of empty drums and waste cargo coming the other way down the Shelf drumline. There were no special circumstances and the operation went like a well-oiled wheel. So much so that we are ready to depart the Creek N9 for the last time this year and head North back to the Falklands via Signy and a little science along the way.

This year we are leaving 18 winterer's behind and have already embarked the majority of the Summer visitors. Later today the last of the Summer workers will join the ship and wave a last goodbye. Again it will be a bitter-sweet experience for those who have spent the last 2-1/2 years here to be saying 'Farewell' for perhaps the last time in their lives. Halley is a once-in-a-lifetime-chance for most. Only the lucky Marine staff from the Vessel and a few 'return offenders' (?) get the chance to see it again and again.

For the JRH Crew who are looking forward to their crew change early next month, it is the last time they will see Antarctica for another 2 years. the way it all works out, one team does the Antarctic one year and the other team the next. Speaking personally, we have not been disappointed by our visit to the Ice Shelf this year. Plenty of Ice, a goodly amount of sunshine and calm weather all around.

Thanks Halley.

Forthcoming Events: Finish preparing for Sea and depart the N9 Creek with a full ship of FID's sometime late on Sunday afternoon. (18th). We do not anticipate any Pack Ice problems on the 5 day voyage back to the South Orkney Islands, just lots of whales, seals, petrels and terns and hopefully a continuation of this lovely weather that we have enjoyed this week.

Contributions This Week : Thanks to Povl and Martin for the Photographs, Kathy for the Poetry, Ralph for his Journal and Wavey Davey as always, for being Wavey Davey.

Diary No.13 will be prepared on Sunday 25th February 2007 for publication on Monday 26th February, operations permitting.

Stevie B

Radio Officer.