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Mar 25 - Homeward Bound

Date: Sunday 25th March 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 59°05.2 South, 048°39.3 West. At sea.
Next destination: Stanley Harbour, Falkland Islands.
ETA: 26th March 2007 19h00.
Distance to go:300 nmiles.
Distance Since Vernadski. : 571.8 miles. Plus lots for our Ice Navigation this Season and more for Moorings and Buoys.

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


ANTARCTICA FOR THE LAST TIME THIS SEASON.

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Well, well here we are once again down south. Capt. Marshall and his team joined the vessel in Stanley, the Falklands on the 11th March. Over the next two days the handovers were worked through and stories exchanged of the the last few months at sea and at home on vacation. It seems as if the Shackleton has had quite a busy time of it and there was lots to tell. One or two of us, Okay only one of us - me, arrived sporting a rather dark tan which was remarked upon with some envy by the lily-white Northerners who had just "enjoyed" a winter at home. My sojourn had been spent in Cape Town where the weather was somewhat warmer.


Stanley to Rothera.

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We sailed from Stanley on Thursday the 15th and headed south straight for the Peninsula on a dark and grey morning. The next few days were pretty much the same but by Sunday the weather had picked substantially and the usual green gilled mob gathered to worship at the seasick tablet feedingthrough. Our Doc Vicky, ex Halley base, taking care that these vital supplements are in plentiful supply. The bad weather continued throughout the day as we rode it out. Early the next morning saw a vast improvement as we sailed around the southern tip of Adelaide Island into much calmer waters and gradually improving visibility which revealed the fantastic snow-covered peaks. For those first timers to these parts, it it truly quite something to see. We eventually tied up the Rothera jetty at about 11am.

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After a short security briefing by the Base personnel on do's and don'ts in the base area the cargo work commenced and a lucky few went ashore to explore. Throughout the day the visibility and photographic opportunities steadily improved. A few people did the short walk around the Rothera Peninsula and were accosted by by a gang of Fur and Weddell seals quite intent on defending their territory. A wide berth of respect was given. There was lots of fresh snow about which made the going interesting to say the least. The small of effort was well worth it though and the views spectacular.

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Meanwhile back on the ship the Offloading was going well. Dave Bailey, our Purser, personally escorted his 'beverage' order up to the the Stores building and he counted every bottle. To his horror there were about 50 cases amiss. Upon inspection on is return he discovered the missing refreshments had somehow been stored elsewhere. He was quite relieved that it all turned up in the end.

That the evening most of the base crew came down to the ship after supper and gathered in the Red Room for a yarn and a few drinks with the ships crew. A change of scenery no doubt going down well with all and sundry.

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Tuesday dawned and the weather was even better, clear blue skies and almost windless. All the mountains around us clearly visible the cameras duly came out.The few FIDS onboard made plans for some excursions and were taken skiing. The recent snows having left the softest powder which was much appreciated by the inexperienced among them.

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On Wednesday afternoon a few lucky crew members were taken on a short excursion up Reptile Ridge, the mountain directly in front of the base. They stopped at one on the local skiing sites called Val's. They have a small caboose there for stores and making the odd cuppa and snack no doubt. The Islands hinterland beckoned but not for us unfortunately. The Nansen sleds were already drawn up at Val's ready and packed for the first field trips which would depart shortly after we left the island. After an all to brief look around we headed back down again, stopping to take pictures on the way of the incredible vistas before us.

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Back at base after a quick cuppa we were taken on a tour of the new building site where a new main building is being constructed. The old one is coming to end of its innings. It was quite interesting to see the bare bones and guts of a new building. The views from what will be the main lounge were not too shabby either.

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All the base personnel gathered on board that evening for a few farewell gathering. Some of them have been away from the real world over two years. So they had rather mixed feelings about leaving what had become their home. I guess all good things come to an end though.On Thursday morning at about 9 0' clock the ropes were slipped and we headed off on our journey north waving and shouting our goodbyes as the ship blasted a farewell on its foghorn. The weather was fine and clear as we once again rounded the southern tip of Adelaide Island and on up its west coast towards our next destination. the Ukrainian base Vernadsky.


Rothera to Vernadsky and byeond

On Friday morning we arrived off the Vernadsky for a short visit. They had been having trouble with their Weather station satellite transmitter and had requested that we assist if possible.

The Chief mate Alan and AB Andy manned the FRC (Fast Rescue Craft) and the two ELO's Pat and Gary plus a met lady Agnieszka from Rothera were tasked with helping to fix the broken transmitter.

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After a short ride in we disembarked at the base which is situated in an idyllic spot on a small Island. Huge glacial formations nearby and in the distance snow and ice-clad mountain tops of the main Antarctic Peninsula.

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We were given the warmest of greetings and were soon inside sharing a cup of coffee with the 'locals' and admiring all the history of the base on display. The base is formerly 'Faraday' under the UK flag and has been run by the Ukrainians for twelve years. It was marvellous to see that they had kept up its history.

Thereafter the "fixit" team were shown the errant pieces of equipment and set to work. The base personnel seemed to have very little knowledge of the machine, all we could do was connect up our new Power Supply and ensure that all the connections were made and that the indicated voltages were present. They duly did a test transmission, unfortunately there is no way that we could tell whether or not the transmission had succeeded at the time. We would have to wait several hours later to contact the MET office in the UK. However we did as much as we could with what we had.

As Agnieszka was still busy with gathering MET data. We were invited to share some more Ukrainian hospitality and the snacks came out and of course we were offered a small Vodka or two. We were a little apprehensive about this as we had heard stories of people being made to drink far too much on these occasions. However they were not at all pushy.

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The base Commander invited us to watch a short movie that the previous team had made at the mid-winter celebrations. It was hilarious and done in quick time Charlie Chaplin Style. They had a a mini Olympics doing mostly silly things, it was really funny to watch and gave us a sense of the intense camaraderie that these folk feel for each other.

We were then asked to go and look at the old "Wordie" Base. This is an old shack that was the original base and is full of old equipment and quite fascinating to see. The cameras were clicking away merrily.

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After that it was time to say goodbye and we dropped our escort off at the jetty and headed on back to the ship. We were all completely exhilarated by the experience and felt very lucky to have been there.

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Once back onboard Capt. Marshall decided to take us through the Lemaire Channel. It was an absolutely perfect afternoon, clear blue skies and virtually windless. We glided gently between these majestic rocky snow covered parapets that felt almost close enough to touch. Everybody was out on deck and the cameras sounded like ratchets continuously clicking. This place is nicknamed the "Kodak Crack" as it is a favourite of the cruise ships that can get through. It goes on and on and gets better and better the deeper you go into to it and finally as you exit you come across these impossible looking rocky needles piercing the sky like sabres of an angry mother earth. Really quite something to see and on such a good day, we were very lucky.

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What's In Store

We will be arriving at Stanley on Monday evening where most of the Base personnel will leave us to make their way back home. We should be there for two days before heading off up north once again through the tropics and on to the U.K.

After offloading all our Antarctic equipment we will be gearing up for the north sea period. Another season in the oil fields awaits us.


We hope you enjoyed trolling through our latest adventures and are glad to share them you.

See you in the next issue.

Pat O'Hara

Radio Officer.