Our site is using cookies to record anonymous visitor statistics and enhance your user experience. OK |  Find out more

Skip navigation

Oct 7 - On the Blocks

Date: Sunday 07th October 2007 

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 50°48.5 North, 001°06.1 West.  In Refit at Portsmouth.
Next destination:  Immingham, UK to load.
ETA: Monday 25th October 2007, to be confirmed.
Distance to go: 315.8 nmiles.
Distance Travelled since Immingham this Antarctic Season. :  315.8 nmiles.

Current weather: Hazy, Fine,  Dry and Clear.
Sea State: Puddles.  No Swell.  
Wind :  Easterly, 03 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1023.0 Hpa
Air temperature:   +23.5°C but feeling much warmer on the Bridge !
Sea temperature  None actually.

Ships Position Click to Enlarge.

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


 Click on all images to Enlarge

Sitting on the blocksSitting on the Blocks.

The vessel hasn't moved very much since the last report on these webpages.  'Thank Goodness' say we all.  It would be a wondrous thing indeed if it were to move since all of her 4028 Tonnes is resting on blocks in the Lock D dry dock at FSL in Portsmouth.

It has been 2 weeks since the last report which has been marked by the starting, continuation and even completion of the many and varied projects scheduled to get the Shackleton fit and ready for yet another year of Service for British Antarctic.

The work has gone on from the dock bottoms with the pulling of Azimuth Thruster and overhaul of Tunnel Thrusters, right to the very top with replacement and investigation of the ship's topmost Global Positioning Antennas.

Athwartship Thruster The Athwartships Tunnel Thrusters .. in pieces.

Sat-Dome Cleaning Sat-Dome Cleaning (2)  The Sat Dome Cleaning Arrangement.

One task very much to my own heart has been the cleaning of the Satellite Dome.

The emissions from the Funnel Exhausts just behind the Dome produce a particularly nasty dust which is carbon-based.  Although harmless enough when vented to the air, the accumulation of the 'soot' on the rear of the dome forms a layer which cuts down on the received satellite signal ( in much the  same way that Radiographers use sheets of lead to shield against Xrays ).  The annual cleaning of the dome leaves the surface squeaky clean and the signal perfectly visible to the Satellite dish housed within the dome.

To clean the Satellite dish this year, an amount of scaffolding has been erected around the dome.  Ensuring the equipment within was inert and not transmitting, the scaffolders did a wonderful job of giving access 360 degrees around the dome at two levels.  Perfect for 'soogying' down with brush and hot soapy water.  The scaffold was so impressive, I just had to capture it on a photo for future reference.  


When I first requested a 'cleaning of the Satellite Dome', I was considered a little silly.  But it is true that Satellite is not a trouble-free medium for the transmission and reception of radio signals.  Things DO get in the way.  Soot...  Leaves...  Oil Rigs...  our own Conning Tower... and even SNOW !

Now when I mention 'snow' (especially in Antarctica where we are usually surrounded by the stuff ), it is hard to convince people that snow can have an effect on the received signal and therefore their ability to access the internet, receive their emails, or make phonecalls !  

'Why, - is it snowing in space ?' they enquire ???

But it's true.  When the snow has a particularly heavy moisture content and therefore 'sticky', it can accumulate on the dome and freeze.  The ice - although transparent to radio signals - can still form a barrier that effectively attenuates the microvolt signal being received from space.  Drier snow can oftentimes accumulate too, but is usually blown off as soon as it appears, and without the water content, it doesn't freeze and doesn't pose such a problem, but yes, you DO get the 'wrong type of snow'.

It is just like those excuses of 'Wrong type of leaves on the line' which the British Railways claimed in the 80's !


Whilst taking photographs of the Satdome this week, I was able to capture the sight that awaited me on the bridge one morning while the kettle was actively brewing up for the first cup of tea of the day... 

  VSat Moon 1  VSat Moon (2)

The Dawn arrives with a very bright Moon in the Sky.

I liked the fact that the moon appeared quite visibly on the digi-photographs.  They don't always appear properly, and yet, even now you cannot appreciate how large and bright it was as I looked out of the bridge window towards the southwest.

One thing that has been apparent here in Portsmouth is that Autumn has certainly arrived.  The temperatures are dropping, Tesco's already have the Christmas Selection Boxes on the Shelves, and the Daylight appears and disappears very quickly of late.  The two photo's above were taken less than 5 minutes apart and yet the dawn appeared really rapidly.  Likewise, if I cycle ashore in the early evening light at 1800 hours to catch the shops open, it is always dark night by the time I return an hour later.  It is definitely time that the Ernest Shackleton was not here.  The James Clark Ross has already departed this part of the hemisphere and is already en route for the equator. With the onset of more winter-weather, I propose it is time we departed too.


The unsung heroes of the Shackleton are the Engineers who seldom seen above decks and who beaver away to keep the engines, and hotel services working 24/7, 365 days of the year.  I had the opportunity this week to visit the Engine room whilst all the equipment is turned off and getting lots of well-earned attention.  I managed to take a photo of the Starboard Main Engine while one of the cylinders are being serviced.  Here are a series of photos to show the size of the things involved.  

 The Starboard Main Bergen Diesel Engine in Light Green - The Starboard Main Bergen Diesel Engine in Light Green The Starboard Main Bergen Diesel Engine in Light Green.

Another view showing the 2nd of the 6 Cylinders receiving attention (L) - Another view showing the 2nd of the 6 Cylinders receiving attention Another view showing the 2nd of the 6 Cylinders receiving attention.

The Block opened up and the innards on view.  The Block opened up and the innards on view.

An Elusive Engineer - An Elusive Engineer and an Elusive Engineer.

Although the Engineers do not often appear in these pages, this week is different. !  Look !

If you scan the image carefully, that is an engineer's leg on show, for sure !  But whose ?  As usual the engineers are busy at work in the most inaccessible spaces as every inch of the Machine Spaces is crammed full of machines, pipes, wires and boxes. !


The Dry dock continues daily starting with the 0800 signing of Permits to Work and the 0830 morning meeting.   Throughout the course of the day there are many comings-and-goings as painters, upholsterers, welders, scaffolders, engineers, technicians, yardworkers, electricians, and a multitude of other disciplines descend upon the ship to carry out their various tasks.

It's hard to believe when looking at the state of the Shackleton just now that she will be back at sea in just two short weeks. There are still holes in the Ship's Hull and tank bottoms and plugs are still absent from their respective holes below.  The radar cannot turn because there is a myriad of scaffolding all the way to the very top of the Conning Tower, but it is the Master's hope that we will be floating the vessel and leaving the Dry dock by around the 20th of this month.  Considering the delays experienced by the JCR last month with her refit, we are optimistic that we should be able to leave on time and head for our loading program on the Humber.

Forthcoming Events: Continue in Refit.  Start pulling down some of that Scaffolding, and replacing the plugs and plugging the holes in the Hull this next week. 

Contributions This Week :  Thanks to the Engineering Department for making a small showing.

North Sea Diary No.3 should be produced on Sunday 14th October - refit permitting. To be Published on Monday 15th Oct.

Stevie B

Radio Officer.