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Dec 02 - Cape Town

Date: Sunday 02nd December 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 33°54.2 South, 028°25.4 East. Alongside Cape Town South Africa.
Next destination: Halley, Antarctica.
ETA: To Be Advised..
Distance to go: 2850.7 nmiles.
Distance Travelled since Immingham this Antarctic Season: 7970.7 nmiles.

Current weather: Clear, Bright, Sunny, and Warm.
Sea State: Calm alongside.
Wind: Westerly, 18 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1005.9 Hpa
Air temperature: +20.5°C
Sea temperature: +9.9°C

Position Chart
Position Chart

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


This is the very first time the RRS Ernest Shackleton has ever pulled into the port of Cape Town in her time with the British Antarctic Survey. We believe it was possibly about 5 years ago that a BAS ship (the RRS James Clark Ross) last visited South Africa.

Shackleton in Cape Town
Shackleton in Cape Town

The Calm that awaited us at the end of our journey

Weather Weather Everywhere ...

It's been an awful week for weather this week. The Shackleton has had it's first introduction to the notorious Cape Weather and despite the weather being 'good weather', it was nevertheless the wrong type for the equally notorious 'Shackleton'. As mentioned many times before, due to the short prow of the ship and rounded, ice-cracking, bow, the 'Shackleton' does not ride the waves very smoothly when the sea is coming from the front. And guess where the predominant waves were coming from this week ?!

View from the Porthole
View from the Porthole

The effects of the Isobars
The effects of the Isobars

The Isobars which we would LIKE to see...
The Isobars which we would LIKE to see...

The weather is good, because of the lurky High pressure area to our SouthWest. The difficulty is that it is stationary and day after day the weather charts show the same High in the same position. With the resulting anti-cyclonic winds pushing all the waves to the North/Norwest, the momentum just builds up and builds up causing the most awful pitching motion on the ship.

Pauline (Forward) sums it up very nicely with the following reflections ;

Cape Rollers
"Life led at an angle
work continues on the slant
decks fall….. disappear,
stairs leading up rise higher
confusing mind, thoughts ,stride and feet.

Frothy white and blue suds
slam the glass of A DECK portholes
spinning seawater
on programme; recycle.

Snatched glimpses,
tops of clouds,
left of clouds, underside
and right of clouds
are other porthole vistas,
programmed to repeat.

Constantly curtseying
re-establishing stability,
she creeks and shudders
through an extrovert sea,
And those on board plan
and anticipate the ships ETA
only………miles away."

Pauline Forward.

Pauline is the Ch.Engineer's wife and has joined us for the journey South from Immingham. When Derek and Pauline pay off in Cape Town this time they will be able to enjoy a few days safari in Africa before returning home. Thanks to Pauline for summing up in poetry the feelings that can otherwise be expressed in the following piece of poetry produced by your very own web-editor.

This is something that I just chucked together in a few minutes in the washroom.

" Ughhhh, urghhhh, URGHHHH "

I think Pauline's offering is a little more artistic even if mine might be the more 'colourful' !! haha.


Finally, after what seemed like an endless journey during those last days, the ship hove into view of the Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a distinctive shaped, flat-top mountain behind the township of Cape Town. It is obvious because the surrounding terrain throughout the Cape is largely flat. And another aspect of the Table Mountain is that despite blue, cloudless skies, it always seems to attract a 'table cloth' covering of cloud ! ?

The 'icing' on the cake !
The 'icing' on the cake !

Although we were scheduled to arrive early on the Friday morning (30th), those head winds had taken their toll on our speed and put us back by several hours. We were able to make up some time with the addition of a little extra throttle and eventually arrived on the afternoon tide into the Cape. We were all alongside by 4pm in the afternoon, and it was delightful to feel terra-firma under the feet after such an exhaustive last few days. But the work didn't stop there !

Also on the way in, it was nice to see some other vessels in the area after so many days of sailing in an empty sea. One of those vessels was this one pictured below. Checking on our Automated Information System, we confirmed that this large-looking vessel was the 3rd in the BAS Fleet this year,... the 'Amderma'. The Russian vessel hove into view of the Cape Town anchorage and came on hire to British Antarctic for the forthcoming Halley Call. The Amderma is here in Cape Town to start loading the new Halley VI Base fabrications and our own Capt John Harper will sail south with her into the Ice. (which looks very challenging this year... but it is still early days). It was the first sight we have had of our new 'Sistership which should appear largely in future web pages.

The Amderma on arrival Cape Town
The Amderma on arrival Cape Town


There was a last day of work for the crew on Saturday as some additional cargo needed loading and existing cargo needed repositioning. There were handover notes to completed, last minute planned maintenance to do - that never ceases - and of course it was a very busy time for Capt.Dewi who has all the paperwork for entering a foreign port and signing off the whole crew off on arrival. Of course, there are some hard and fast members of our company who don't know when 'enough is enough' and are staying on for the duration. Doctor Hannah is Halley-bound where she intends to dole out paracetemol throughout the forthcoming winter season, and there is Chris, our Ch.Officer - who will resume his guise as 2nd Officer to cover for a lack of navigator on Capt.Marshall's team for the next months... Way to go, Chris.

Finally, we have the two cadets, who - having signed up for the trip to Cape Town - were lucky enough to be offered a berth onboard for an extended trip down to the Antarctic ... and what a bonus is THAT.

As you can see, it's 'smiles all around' for Cadet Tom on entering Cape Town.

Cadet Tom
Cadet Tom

And that is where we are about now. We are anticipating the arrival of our relief's over the weekend, and it simply remains for us all to wish you a very Happy Christmas Season at home and leave you with some very 'un-christmassy' pictures to get you in the mood. Click on images to enlarge.

The Shackleton in front of Table Top Mountain - without cloud.
The Shackleton in front of Table Top Mountain - without cloud.

The Shackleton at Quay No.2 and what a difference. This is hardly Mare Harbour with an assortment of military ships in the background, and instead we have the Victoria and Albert shopping complex and super-yachts surrounding us. WE LOVE CAPE TOWN !

Forthcoming Events: Crew change in Cape Town, and the vessel will sail for Halley..

Contributions This Week: Grateful thanks to Pauline for the Poetry, and Tom for some of the Photographs. And finally to BAS for letting us come to this super new venue of Cape Town !

Antarctic Diary No.8 may be produced on Sunday 9th December. To be Published on Monday 10th December.

Auf Wiedersehen Everybody

Stevie B
Radio Officer.