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Mar 04 - Goodbye Antarctica

Date: Sunday 04th March 2007 

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 59°05.2 South, 048°39.3 West.  At sea.
Next destination:  Mare Harbour, Falkland Islands.
ETA: 08th March 2007.
Distance to go: 551.1 nmiles.
Distance Since Montevideo. :  15669.0 nmiles. Plus lots for our Ice Navigation this Season and more for Moorings and Buoys.

Current weather: Overcast, with Showers.
Sea State: Moderate Seas, Moderate Swell
Wind :  West Sou'Westerly, 32 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 983.9 Hpa
Air temperature:   -3.7°C
Sea temperature:  +2.0°C

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



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I realise that the RRS Ernest Shackleton  left the Brunt Ice Shelf and the real Antarctic last week, but I couldn't help including these two pictures as 'parting shots' because I think they display Antarctica at it's very best (along with the ultimate 'Antarctic Shot' featured at the end of the webpage)..  The Seal hole is a great shot because you can see the occupant who is determined to keep his little breathing hole open and claimed as 'his own'.  The other shot needs no explanation at all.  Sun, sea, sand and surf.  *( well, 'sun' at the very least ).  I hope you like them.


This week has been spent off the South Orkney Islands.  Although we have now left the Pack Ice well behind us, there is no lack of Ice around Signy Base on Signy Island to cater for those who may be having 'Sea Ice withdrawal symptoms'.  Massive Icebergs always congregate on the Southern Side of Coronation Island and the little Signy Island just off the mainland.  Then Signy is blessed with a few Glaciers around, so there is no shortage of  Icey Antarctic views to be had.

But our remit at Signy Island and the vicinity was the removal of old Antarctic Huts.  Under the conventions of the Antarctic Treaty, the British Antarctic Survey is responsible for the removal of all the old items left behind from previous decades of exploration and science.  The first on our list was the Penguin Observatory on Gourlay Beach otherwise known as 'the Love Shack'.  One of the demolition team were good enough to make a photographic record of the hut before removal and the beach afterwards.  However, we are not entirely leaving the Penguin rookeries totally unobserved, as the Signy Team will be putting in the new hut that was delivered by the Shackleton in December.  This is simply a case of upgrading the existing facilities.

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  What was once an observatory is about to become an MFI Flat Pack.

  This is how we 'Move House' Antarctica-style.

  The successful Demolition Team.

Now you see it, Now you don't.  

Once Gourlay was safely removed to the holds of the Shackleton, the vessel moved around to Shingle Cove to remove a small hut there.  The hut at Shingle Cove however, was a far less complicated affair to remove.  Because it was so small, it was hoisted aboard the Tula in one piece and removed to the Shackleton with the minimum of dismantling necessary.  

  The Shingle Cove Hut Removal.  The minimum of fuss required to removed this one.

That was accomplished in the shortest of time periods, and then off we proceeded to the nearby Laurie Island.

At Laurie Island there is a further hut to be removed at a promontory called Geddes Point.  However, the nearby Argentinean Base had concerns about the impact the hut demolition would have on the resident colony of penguins there.  And so, apart from an appraisal visit by our scientists from the Signy Base, the job has been postponed and our visit was very brief indeed.  This was all accomplished in rainy, miserable, weather so the boot room and drying facilities of the Shackleton were constantly in use.  

Finally this week, we had a visit to the Argentinean Base scheduled, and Saturday morning saw the vessel at anchor in Scotia Bay on the South Side of Laurie Island.  The 'Orcadas' Base is positioned in a 'saddle' of land between two bays, one on the North coast and the Scotia Bay on the South side of the Island.  We chose to anchor on the South side and run in the personnel by small inflatable boats to the Base.  We were on location all day Saturday which allowed most people to go ashore and some of the Argentineans to come onboard and sample the hospitality of the Shackleton.  It was a great day for Public Relations and I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the visit.  There was many exchanges of patches, T-shirts, caps and other memorabilia and it gave the Signy guys the opportunity to meet - 1st hand - their nearest neighbours.  In my estimation, there are not enough of these Social calls on the ship's calendar and it can only go a long way to cementing relationships down here in Antarctica.

Click on the Base to Enlarge.

Orcadas, our Argentinean Neighbours.

Saturday was over all too soon and the Base and Ship personnel returned to their respective homes in time for tea.  We blew the ship's whistle and the Shackleton left the Argentineans to themselves once more but we take with us some nice memories of some really friendly folks.

Wavey Davey’s Weekly Wit Spot.

And as we set sail away from Antarctica at last, Wavey Davey was heard to say ...

'It's amazing.  Despite all the advances that we make in modern technology, why is it that we cannot have any Fresh Ice instead of all this Frozen stuff ???'   Er, well, yes, ... thank you Davey.

Do you know why Cleopatra was always heard to be saying ' No ' ?

Largely, because she was in denial !

Thank you, and there will be more from Wavey-Davey Next Trip ... unless you're lucky !

It was nearly 2 months ago, when I wrote that despite the bad weather, the Catering Staff in the Galley were still producing all the good stuff that has us running down to the gym and trimroom at every opportunity, but it is only now that I can feature THE GALLEY TEAM.

The fact that it has been SO LONG since I introduced the topic of the Caterers, is evidence that either :-

1) they are too shy to appear in the annals of these pages, or

2) the weather has been kind to us in the past months and only now has the Shackleton started to wobble about again!

Actually, I suspect it is a bit of both.  Rab and Ray (the two 'R's') do not appear too often in the webpage, and indicates that they do not volunteer themselves to publicity.  But they are ever-present in the Galley and as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, they continually produce food that is Far Too Good.  My ever-expanding waistline is evidence to the fact.

Apart from Micky Quinn the Purser and Mark 'Bellies' Jones, the other unsung heroes are Ray Collins and 'Rab' Shields pictured below.  So long as you keep the internet radio streaming 24/7 to the galley radio, you will always see a smile and a welcome in the Galley from Ray and Rab.

   Raymond and Rab.

But what never fails to amaze me is how they continually produce the 'goodies' even when the ship is suffering from the motion of the oceans and these last days have been no exception.  Due to some severe Sou'westerlies that have been blowing in the South Atlantic here, the poor Shackleton has been caught beam-on by a rather terrific swell.  This keeps the ladles and spoons swinging as they hang up on the rails above the Galley range, and the Galley boys leaning this way and that !

  Click to lean with the Chefs in the Galley.


To stop the pots and pans sliding off the hot range, there are retaining devices that get broken out when the weather turns nasty, and I can only assume that pans are only half filled to prevent the ever-bubbling soup from making a big bid to escape all over the galley range. ???  

All battened down.  

The Galley may wobble this way and that but the pans still remain on the stove where they belong.  And meanwhile, Rab still manages to roll the pastry and Ray roasts the Sunday joint, and the salads, sweets and accoutrements all work their way to the mess Bain Marie where the hungry hoards descend upon whatever is produced.  The only disappointing aspect is that when it becomes so rough, the hoards are still all in their bunks and they don't get to appreciate what the Galley Team have provided in what must be very difficult conditions.  But come rain or shine, rough or calm, you can always rely on the Galley Team to keep producing the calories every single day of the trip.

Next week, we take an in-depth look at the Infirmary onboard, and the scales, the cardiograph and the anti-fat pills in-particular !!!

What's In Store


The RRS Ernest Shackleton has once again obtained work for the Charter Period in the North Sea.  Once again we will don the guise of a 'North Sea Rig Pig' and go to work amongst the Gas and Oil Platforms from the Northern extremes of the Magnus field down to the Southern Gas fields of Yarmouth and Humberside.    It is an operation at which we are becoming very adept, and we are looking forward to yet another successful summer there as a prelude to our new Halley IV rebuild season in 2007/2008.


But there are changes afoot for the two crews of the Shackleton, and our 4 months on and 4 months off rota will be modified slightly to avoid working long periods together in the North Sea environment.  Therefore the JBM Team will rejoin this next week and only remain onboard for a brief run down to Rothera and the return to the UK and complete the first month of the Charter.   The JH Team will then be looking at a slightly earlier return to work nearing the end of May and only do a one-month stint of work onboard before going home for a short period of leave.  And so on.  Throughout the Summer the Teams will swap out every 4 weeks or so to be more in-keeping with North Sea schedules and the regular crew-changes of the North Sea Charterers and our own D.P.Operators.


Some crew are looking forward to the change whilst others will miss the regimented work and leave periods they have come to expect.


Nevertheless, the crew are all looking forward with optimism and anticipation for the start of next season when the emphasis will move from the Falkland Islands and Western side of the Atlantic in favour of Cape Town in South Africa and runs between there and Halley.  Its' all change for the crew of the Shackleton.


And finally, as the vessel makes it's way out of Antarctic waters and back to our Falkland Island crew change, there is one photograph that sums up the feelings of the whole crew at this time after a very successful, but long stint onboard our Antarctic vessel .....


Wildlife in the Antarctic.



Forthcoming Events: Complete the passage to Mare Harbour and tie up at the Military Facility there.  We will unload all the cargo and waste we have from the Bases and take Bunkers ready for the next crew to go onward to Rothera down the Antarctic Peninsula.  Once that is complete, we will slow steam around to Stanley and prepare for the Crew Handover.  The Crew will leave from Mare Harbour and the Officers will complete their handovers in order to depart for the UK shortly thereafter.

Contributions This Week :  Thanks to the Galley Crew for keeping us well-fed in the face of adversity and rough weather.. Thanks to Wavey Davey for all the jokes and photographs and to Povl, Martin, Ralph and the other photographers who have contributed this season.  

Diary No.15  will be left to the on-coming crew to produce, time and operations permitting.

It only remains for the Capt John Harper crew to wish you all a very good Springtime and we will be back with you in the North Sea this season around May.  Signing off for the last time this trip,...


'Chocks Away'

Stevie B

Radio Officer.