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Feb 25 - Goodbye Halley

Date: Sunday 25th February 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 60°38.9 South, 042°05.0 . At sea. Next destination: Signy Base, South Orkney Islands. ETA: 26th February 2007. Distance to go: 127.0 nmiles. Distance Since Montevideo: 15642.0 nmiles. Plus lots for our Ice Navigation this Season and more for Moorings and Buoys.

Current weather: Overcast, Fine and Clear. Sea State: Moderate Seas, Slight Swell Wind: NorWesterly, 4 Knots. Barometric pressure: 981.2 Hpa Air temperature: +1.9°C Sea temperature: +1.0°C

Current position of the Shackleton
Current position of the Shackleton

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

This week the RRS Ernest Shackleton left Halley behind and has headed back to the 'Happy Hunting Grounds' off Signy. 'Hunting ?'. Yes, I should say we are hunting. We are firing the 'release codes' to the release mechanisms 4000 meters below the sea surface and then waiting for the attached buoys to come bobbing back to the surface. Recovering deployed instruments is 'harvest time' for the scientists. Buoys that have been recording data for years are now giving up their secrets to Keith and his team... once we are able to locate them.

You may think it is easy to see a bright yellow buoy (or series of buoys ) on the surface of the ocean, .. but it's a BIG ocean. It requires much scanning all around the horizon with high power binoculars in order to locate the surfaced array. And that has been keeping the scientists busy this weekend, but before that, they were captive on passage along with the 22 other FIDs extracted out of Halley.

GOODBYE HALLEY. It was about 5pm last Sunday evening when the ship finally said farewell to the remaining Halley Team and departed Creek N9 for the last time this season. We leave behind 18 winterers who - I am sure - are looking forward to the departure of the ship as their signal to 'get stuck in' to the business of being Antarctic Heroes. The sailing of the ship marks the last remnants of civilization before being left behind to their own metal and Winter Base Commander, Pete and the Team, will not be seeing anybody else until the season starts again next December.

We wish them well and a good Winter 2007.

But evidence of winter was far away as we departed N9 last week. I couldn't help but take a series of photographs to show how splendid was the weather as we set sail. Sailing away also marks the 'start of the end' for the JH Team as we now head back to Stanley and our crew-change, but on a day like this day, it is hard to think of leaving. This is a day to stay behind and make snowmen and attempt to make snowballs from the fluffy (and dry and powdery ) snow ! The fluffy stuff doesn't make good snowballs actually as they tend to disintegrate no sooner are they thrown from your hand !

Panorama at Halley Panorama at Halley Panorama at Halley Panorama at Halley

Click on the Individual Images to Enlarge the Panorama.

What I like about this shot is the evidence - and only evidence - that is left behind after we depart the Creek N9. Hitherforeto, the Shelf Ice is pristine and deplete of anything except blowing snow. After our presence by the Ice Edge, we leave a spider's network of vehicle tracks and footprints that look like some very busy railway terminus. You can see the tracks heading off to the horizon where they all converge on the 'drumline' and eventually arrive at Halley Base. Within a week of blowing snow, the landscape will be returned to the virgin snow-scape that we found when we arrived. But just look at that sky ? It's what makes coming to Antarctica worth-while.


Burjor Langdana, is a Dentist. Coming from Mumbai, (Bombay) India, he has since worked all over the world from New Zealand and Africa to Leeds in the UK. A very varied career to date and now we can add to that 'Antarctica'.

Burjor the Dentist in his 'pyjamas' ... (Dental Scrubs)
Burjor the Dentist in his 'pyjamas' ... (Dental Scrubs)

Burjor has always had an interest in getting to the 6th Continent, but as far a back as 8 years ago he was making application to get a Dental Job down South.

His main connection with British Antarctic was his friendship with ex-Shackleton Dentist Penny G. Last year he was having a vacation in Edinburgh and met up with Penny.

'Any chance of a Locum Job in Antarctic' asked Burjor in his ever-optimistic way. 'No Way' said Penny. She was aware that the Dental duties this year would be split between two Dentists who had already been selected. She knew this to be true because Penny is one of the two. Penny was due to attend Rothera and the Antarctic Peninsula whilst colleague David was due to join in Montevideo and do the Halley-run.

So the next day, Burjor returned to his Dentistry in Leeds, and was surprised indeed when that very day he received a text from Penny saying 'Guess what ?' The chance in a lifetime posed itself when Dentist David had to return home from the Falklands due to compassionate grounds, which left a Dentists post available for anyone who could take it at short notice. In Burjor's own words, he was prepared to 'drop everything and be there by hook or by crook' !

And so it was that when the Shackleton returned from the first call at Halley, Burjor was able to join ship in Stanley in time for the next call to Halley and the sub-Antarctic bases. And what a trip it has been.

Burjor performing Dentistry on a Seal or just practicing his bedside manner???
Burjor performing Dentistry on a Seal or just practicing his bedside manner???

Burjor says, 'Photographs just don't do justice to working on an Antarctic Ship surrounded by Ice Bergs, which definitely provides a better view from that of his window of the Clinic in Leeds. Outings on the Sea Ice to assist the Scientist with Seals and dropping in on Penguin Colonies. Seals and Penguins are not so plentiful in the Lake District .

Apart from the thrill of discovering Antarctica, Burjor has being doing some great work in the Dental Surgery too. Every Base Member is given a thorough check-up to ensure they have the very best chance of getting through the winter with no dental problems at all. So every call at every Base see's Burjor dressed up in his 'pyjamas'( Dental scrub suit) and ably assisted by his dental nurse, Dr.Vicki, doing the good-stuff with probes, mirrors, dental floss and .... the drill !

Click to See Burjor and Assistant Vicki at work in the Surgery.
Click to See Burjor and Assistant Vicki at work in the Surgery.

Actually, speaking from personal experience, Burjor's 'bedside manner' is kind and informative, it is never painful and fun to be attended on by a friend and crewmate. As always, Burjor like those before him, likes to remind us all of the Dentist's mantra... ... REMEMBER TO FLOSS !

That's a big THUMBS UP from the Patient
That's a big THUMBS UP from the Patient

...and all's well. That's a big THUMBS UP from the Patient !

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

Wavey is getting tired... Awwwww. I would say that you can tell by the quality of his jokes, but the quality of his jokes were never very much to write home about ? I think like the rest of us, Davey's humour can benefit from a spell of shore leave and then he can come back with a whole host of terrible offerings. Meanwhile, this is the level of joke we are having to endure in the last weeks of his days (and nights) on watch ...

Topically, Davey has had to visit the Dentist. The teeth keep falling out of his comb ?!!!

He tells me that there was a break-in at the local wig factory back home. Yes, police are still combing the area !

A waiter was delivering a really poorly cooked egg to a dinner guest. The Yoke was runny and hardly cooked. It was cold and unappetizing.

'Hey, what kind of egg do you call this ?' complained the diner.

'Don't blame me', said the Waiter, ' I only lay the table '.

As you can see... it's time for Davey to get off !

Back off the South Orkneys, and the Scientists are involved in the last of the Science cruise ES031. We were unfortunate enough to fail to collect the South Orkney moorings in January when we passed by on the way to Halley. But this weekend we are back and having infinitely more success in recovering the moorings that have been down there for up to 3 years. Povl sends a portable transducer over the ship's side and the Captain puts us into 'Silent running'. By selecting Diesel Electric mode (ie. running on the ship's Azimuth thruster and not the main propulsion), we create a much less noisy acoustic signature in the water. At 4000 metres depth or more, the sound signal returns from the deployed moorings are difficult to hear in anything but the quietest acoustic environments. It's like listening for a whisper in a crowded Football stadium !

However, once in quiet mode ( we are forbidden from singing raucous Soviet Union anthems during this period ??? ) Povl can faintly hear the return calls of the transponder he is pinging. Once contact is established - or in some cases even before contact is established - the 'release codes are activated and we wait to see if the remote releases will fire and allow the positively buoyant array to come bobbing to the surface.

It takes up to 30 minutes for the buoys to break the surface and during that time, Povl is listening to determine the range to the transponder. With luck he hears a decreasing range as the buoy ascends, but in some instances, he was unable to hear it, if we just sent the release command 'blind'. During the 30 minutes of waiting, it was questionable as to whether the release mechanism below was responsive or not, and if the buoy would ever break the surface at all. It was all very exciting.

The best way to determine if these unresponsive transponders had been released was to scan the surface and look for them. Many pairs of eyes eagerly scanned 360 degrees around the vessel looking for some sign of the floating array. It became a bit of a competition actually, and I think the final score for those members scanning the surface ended with a win for Germany. Lars, our German scientist was the first to spot 2 of them. The results were as follows :-

Germany = 2, Sweden = 1, England = 1, USA = Nil Point ( pronounced Nil Pwoin !!!).

Sorry Phil. Our American Phil wasn't even in the running. However it is not as bad as it sounds when you consider he was two pair of eyes compared to the 10 plus pairs of British eyes that equally failed to home in on the target. Congratulations to Lars on having a very sharp pair of eyes and an equally expensive pair of binoculars !!

This weekend, however, signals the end of the Science Cruise of the Shackleton and we return to our Logistics role. There are two old Base Huts to be extracted from the Islands of the South Orkneys and a transfer of personnel at Signy to accomplish. So once we finish with the final deployment of the final instruments and taken a last CTD, the Shackleton will head once more for Jordan Cove at Signy Island.

Forthcoming Events: Complete the Science and Head for our Base at Signy Island.

Contributions This Week : Thanks to Dentist Burjor Langdana for the information, and all the Dental Floss we can use onboard.

Diary No.14 will be prepared on Sunday 04th March 2007 for publication on Monday 05th March, operations permitting.

Stevie B
Radio Officer