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Mar 18 - Departing Halley - Homeward bound

Date: Tuesday 18th March 2008 

Position @ 0600 Local (GMT): 33° 54 South, 018° 25.5 West.Cape Town
Next destination:  St Helena
ETD:  23rd March 2008.
Distance to go: 1701nm
Distance Travelled since Immingham this Antarctic Season. :  21708 nmiles.
Current weather: Sunny and calm
Sea State: light
Wind : Light airs
Barometric pressure: 1014.2 mb
Air temperature:  25° C 
Sea temperature. 10°C 

Position map
Position map

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


Departing Halley - Homeward bound.

The Shackleton at night
The Shackleton at night

Wednesday the 5th of March dawned a  glorious sunny but cold departure day. The final load of personnel for the ship were escorted down to Creek 4 by the winterers and arrived mid-morning. They all hastily climbed on board and once their baggage had joined them the mooring ropes were let go. 


Farewell Winter Team
Farewell Winter Team

Goodbye Halley
Goodbye Halley

With a few loud blasts on the horn we slipped slowly away and the final farewells were shouted across the ever increasing gap of water between us.  The captain turned the bow northwards and we started making our way through the frozen sea sea which stretched out right to the horizon. A few nervous jokes were exchanged on the bridge about being stuck down here for the winter but we soldiered on as the group on the fast-ice waving farewell grew smaller and smaller in our icy wake.

Goodbye Halley
Goodbye Halley


Icy wake
Icy wake


Iced sea
Iced sea


Frozen sea
Frozen sea

We spent the next few hours making our way up northwards hugging the shelf line and looking for a shore lead. 

At first there nothing but the frozen sea but after a few hours we started seeing patches of water and quite soon thereafter a shore lead was found.  The Captain was a bit concerned about what the ice conditions might be at Stancombe-Wiills but we managed to get through the choke point without much difficulty.

Cutting through the sea ice
Cutting through the sea ice

The next few days were spent continuing northwards up the Antarctic coastline in moderate ice conditions.

By Sat 8th. the telltale signs of open water ahead were seen as the pack-ice started undulating as the waves passed underneath. Unfortunately the weather was not too good as we entered open water and the seas very rough almost immediately. No gentle introduction for us I am afraid to report.  It was at this point that quite a number of the FID's went missing  as the seasickness bug took hold. It would be a good few days before we saw some of them again.

Shadow of the ship on the ice cliffs
Shadow of the ship on the ice cliffs


Shadow of the ship on the ice cliffs
Shadow of the ship on the ice cliffs


Ice shelf
Ice shelf


Frozen sea spray on the deck
Frozen sea spray on the deck

As we pounded into the heavy seas the bow of the ship was covered in a ghostly carpet of frozen sea spray which built up layer upon layer over the next few days creating a rather eerie effect as shown in the photographs.

Frozen sea spray on the deck
Frozen sea spray on the deck

The passage since then from the sixties through to the forties was pretty grim. We past Bouvet Island about six miles off  and had a very brief glimpse of the Island through the gloom before changing course for Cape Town.

We crossed the Antarctic convergence the next day and since then the temps have crept up and the weather has improved steadily.

Frozen sea spray on the deck
Frozen sea spray on the deck


With a little prompting from our doctor Melanie the South African lads organised a quiz on Thursday night which was good fun and enjoyed by all who attended. Our grey matter being sorely stressed we retired to re-group.

On Friday evening all were entertained by the nimble fretwork of Matt Richardson on the guitar who kept going for a good few hours with songs new and old. 

By Sunday evening the weather had improved significantly and we took the opportunity to have  a barbecue on the aft deck and all gathered to enjoy the nice warm weather and relax with a drink or two as we watched the setting sun.

BBQ in the sun
BBQ in the sun

As our arrival day  in Cape Town approaches the ship is buzzing with travel plan talk. It would seem, once the ship has docked,  that we will be scattered to the four corners of the globe in search of further adventure.

Bon Voyage to all.

Well that is about it for this years Antarctic season. We hope you have enjoyed sharing it with us and bid you all farewell.


Forthcoming Events: Arrival Cape Town and Crew Change.

Antarctic Diary No.14: I will leave you in the capable hands of Steve to further enthral you with tales of the high seas and adventures of the RRS Ernest Shackleton.


Contributors this issue: Photo's by Pat O'Hara, Andy Walder, Ray Davis, et al

Hamba kahle (Go well - Xhosa greeting)

Patrick O'Hara
Radio Officer.