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Mar 30 - The Shackleton Crew Change

Date: Sunday 30th March 2008
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 08°51.9 South, 008°48.4 West.
Next destination: Grimsby, England, UK.
ETA: Friday 18th April 2008.
Distance to go: 4238.0 nmiles.
Distance Travelled since Immingham this Antarctic Season: 23073.4 nmiles.

Current weather: Sunny, Bright and Clear, and Hot.
Sea State: Slight Sea.
Wind: Nor'easterly, 10 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1007.8 Hpa
Air temperature: +28.6°C
Sea temperature: +27.2°C

Position chart
Position chart

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


THE SHACKLETON CREW-CHANGE.

It was March 20th, and very early in the morning. Sparkie Steve was the first to arrive at 05.30am on an early morning flight from Germany. It was only 1 hour later that the rest of the team arrived on a direct flight from England. By 07.00am we were all piling onto the Agent's mini bus on the way to a hotel in downtown Cape Town, for a chance to freshen up, sleep and generally recover from the 12 hour-plus-flight to join the RRS Ernest Shackleton.

The overnight stay in the Cape Town hotel was very necessary, but also allowed for some tourism and evening meals out and about in Cape Town. For some it was a quiet meal in the hotel before bed, and others went out to really sample the place they had last visited in December last year. But with the Halley VI building project due to last for the next 2 or 3 years, there will be plenty of opportunity to become familiar with the delights of this great city in the Southern extremes of Africa.

09.00am the following morning was the time the Agent returned to the hotel to transfer the whole crew back to their 2nd home, and the start of the handover period. Capt.Marshall's crew soon departed to the hotel for a well-earned leave after the rigours of 3-1/2 months down in the Ice of the Antarctic. The off-going crew were to stay in hotel accommodation for a few nights pending their flights back to the UK.

Not so for Mr.Pat, the Radio Officer, whose home is in Cape Town and who was able to see his nearest and dearest as soon as the vessel was tied up and secure in the Port. It was a very short handover indeed that saw Patrick heading off to start his holidays, and I wish him a pleasant leave period, and many thanks for producing some sterling web pages during the Antarctic season.

Handovers completed, and cargo lashings checked and secure, the vessel was ready for sea by the Saturday morning, and at 10.00am, the Port Pilot assisted us to slip away and head off once more to sea.

Leaving Cape Town
Leaving Cape Town

The weather was blowing from the South East as we departed which meant that for the voyage North, the wind was all from the stern. This produced a very pleasant departure on a gloriously clear and sunny day. A good start to the trip. The Table-Top Mountain nevertheless maintained it's 'table cloth' covering as can be seen in the photograph. We will not be re-acquainted with Table-top again until November this year.


WAVEY DAVEY MAKES A RETURN IN FINE FORM....

HE'S BACK. HE'S BOLD. HE'S NOT IMPROVING HIS JOKES....

He also asked me to take my time when typing this latest joke, for those readers out there who are slow readers !

Live from the bridge of the Ernest Shackleton, we are proud to present that Master of Mirth and Purveyor of Putrid Jokes, Wavey Davey !

He says, that there was an elderly couple who after years of happy marriage started to fear they were becoming very forgetful. So in anxiety, they took a trip to the Doctor who dismissed their fears and advised them to just 'Write little messages to aid your memories, and you'll be fine'.

Going home, they feel much appeased and the Husband offers his wife a cup of tea.
'No thank you, she says, but I really would like a bowl of ice cream'.
'Okay' says the husband, 'a bowl of Ice cream it is'.
'You'd better write it down' says his wife,
'No, no, it's okay, I'll be able to remember that, ... a bowl of ice cream'.

'Oooh, and can I have some strawberries on top ?' asked his partner.
'Okay' says the husband, 'a bowl of Ice cream with Strawberries on top it is'.
'You'd better write it down' says his wife,
'No, no, it's okay, I'll be able to remember that, ... a bowl of ice cream with strawberries'.

'Oh, and can I have some whipped cream on top of that ?' She asked.
'Okay' says the husband, 'a bowl of Ice cream with Strawberries and cream on top'.
'You'd better write it down' says his wife,
'No, no, it's okay, I'll be able to remember that, ... a bowl of ice cream with strawberries and topped off with fresh cream'.

He toddles off into the kitchen and takes quite a while before he returns with a
tray stacked high with a plate of fried Bacon, Eggs, Sausages, Tomatoes, and Mushrooms.

'Oh no'... said his wife.
'What's wrong ?' asked the perplexed husband ?
'You've forgotten the Toast' she said !

(Well done Davey !).


THE FIRST WEEK ONBOARD.

The crew returned to their duties as if they had never been away. Whilst folks at home think that 4 months leave is an awfully long period for a holiday, I think every man onboard would agree that it hardly seems like we had been away. It takes very little time to be back into the 'swing' of things, with planned maintenance, watch-keeping duties and Charlie-the-Bosun has even gotten back into his regime of exercise in the trimnasium !

Our proposed track to the UK takes the Shackleton North calling at St.Helena, past the Ascension Islands, up to the Canaries and finally home to England and our usual port of Grimsby on the East Coast. No sooner had we departed Cape Town, the temperatures started to creep upwards and we have been blessed with sunshine most of the way. It's great weather for getting all those outdoor jobs completed, and even a first BBQ on the aft deck this last weekend.

But it was only 1 weeks' steaming before the vessel hove into view of our first port of call, - Jamestown, St.Helena.

We had 3 St.Helenians onboard who have been busy all summer down in Antarctica, and now they are returning home for their period of leave. Since the RRS Ernest Shackleton was passing by the island, it was proposed that they should return home on the ship and therefore our crew got to see the island for the very first time - and we were not disappointed.

St Helena
St Helena

The Island is small, lush, and very beautiful and brings to mind images of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' or perhaps more currently, 'Pirates of the Caribbean' ! As the island materialized out of the early morning haze, the weather again was kind and blue skies were very much in evidence as we made our way to the northern coastline of the tiny island where the main town of Jamestown is situated.

Shackleton in the Bay at Jamestown
Shackleton in the Bay at Jamestown

We anchored in the bay, welcomed our Agent onboard, and prepared for a most unusual - but pleasant occurrence - an afternoon excursion across the island. Capt.Harper had arranged with the Agent and the Governor of the Island for a mini-bus to convey the crew around the highlights of the island which boasted amongst others - the home of the Emperor Napoleon at the time of his demise in 1821.

SAINT HELENA

Shackleton in the Bay
Shackleton in the Bay

To begin with, a motor launch came alongside at around 12.00 noon to take the crew ashore. A skeleton crew including the Chief Officer and 2nd Engineer remained onboard along with some other noble folks who all volunteered to remain at home 'holding the baby'. Someone had to do it, and it's many thanks indeed from the rest of the crew for volunteering to remain behind.

The Motor launch meant that we could all go ashore without having to don the usual amount of paraphernalia that usually goes hand in hand with boat movements. No need for survival suits and full life-saving appliances, and instead we donned some lifejackets for the transfer from the Shackleton to the Jolly boat, and then we set off for the small harbour at James Town.

As we departed, we got a good view under the bows of the National Geographic Ship, the Endeavour, which was also in town for the day. It was an excellent opportunity for a photo shoot as we went by. As soon as we made the shore, there was a mini-bus waiting to transport us all around the island.

The motley crew
The motley crew

The Island/Agent had provided a first class driver/guide who spent all afternoon with us to ensure we missed none of the marvellous sights. He was forthcoming with answers to our questions and was naturally quite knowledgeable about his island.

The Views were spectacular
The Views were spectacular


View over St Helena
View over St Helena

Topographically, the shoreline of St.Helena is largely steep cliffs and impossible landing sites. James Town was cut into about the only natural valley that worked down to the shoreline, and as we made our way up the small road at the valley-sides, we were again afforded some excellent photo opportunities of the 'layout of the land'

I shall not attempt to summarize the history of St.Helena here, as there is plenty written on the world wide web about the island that was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502. It fell to the colonisation of the English East India Trading Company in the 17th Century right up until the day it became Crown Property in 1834 But as mentioned, there is sufficient written on the web without me explaining it all !

For further reading refer to http://www.btinternet.com/~sa_sa/st_helena/st_helena_history.html

Perhaps St.Helena's largest claim to fame was that the Emperor Napoleon was exiled on the Island by the British and her Allies, after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. It was here that Napoleon fell ill and died at the age of 51 and here he was (initially) buried. Part of our tour took in the original grave-site of the Great Emperor as the sign attests.

To Emperor Napoleon
To Emperor Napoleon

You may need to 'click' lots because by report, he was not a very large man and could have benefited from a little enlargement ?

Tomb of Emperor Napoleon
Tomb of Emperor Napoleon

But you would never guess his stature from the size of his grave stone. This large, and largely untouched tomb has no engravings and no signs of pomp and ceremony, but is set in the most tranquil and secluded spot of a lonely valley. It took a good few minutes to hike down the lonely track to the single grave, but as a final resting place, there could not have been anything nicer. The flowers - including some indigenous to the island - were in full bloom, and birds and insects noisily singing and buzzing merely added to the tranquillity of the place. Poor Napoleon, I do wonder if he would have preferred eternal rest in that little bit of heaven rather than being exhumed and removed to a final resting place in Paris.

Flowers of Paradise
Flowers of Paradise



The Winding Streets
The Winding Streets

. . . Now this really WOULD be beneficial. Due to the topography of the place, donkey tracks that were once hewn out of the rock have become little more than single track highways with many switch bends and u-turns. The picture out of the front of the bus windshield hardly does justice to the 'zigging' and 'zagging' that the driver had to do as he drove us all over the place and up to 'Longwood' on a high plain of the Island. Longwood was the home of the Emperor whilst he was incarcerated on the Island for 5 years, and Longwood is open for public viewing. We spent a good hour in the museum surroundings of Longwood discovering the last years of Bonaparte, but I could have spent infinitely more time there - if time had allowed. Again it was an ideal spot and you can hardly imagine incarceration there as being anything but pleasant.

A visit to the Governors resident 'Plantation House' also allowed us a stroll around the grounds whilst the Governor Andrew Gurr and His Good Lady Jean, had only that very lunchtime been entertaining our own Captain and Chief Engineer inside. Outside in the grounds we were allowed an introduction to some long-term residents of St.Helena, 'Jonathon the Tortoise' and company. These are the Giant Tortoises presented over the years to successive Governors and the age of the oldest of them is reputed to be in excess of 175 years old.

A 175-year-old........ No, Not Wavey Davey !
A 175-year-old........ No, Not Wavey Davey !

Finally, we were all deposited on Ladder Hill, so named because it towers over the sleepy hamlet of James Town below and from the fortification above, there is a steep drop ladder of steps all the way to the town below. Famous for the many attempts to speedily ascend the steps to the top, the steps just had to be 'tried out' by some of the crew. Largely we all just descended down towards the town and refreshments, but some hardy folk remained on the bus to travel to the bottom so they could attempt the record ascent and climb UP !. I don't believe any records were broken in the attempt that afternoon, but quite a few muscles were sore in the succeeding days onboard ship as the long descent took it's toll on many a leg !

The 700 Stairs of Ladder Hill.... okay 699!
The 700 Stairs of Ladder Hill.... okay 699!


Ladder Hill
Ladder Hill

After a little refreshment and what shopping that the little town of James Town could afford, we all returned to the Shackleton on the 1800 Motor Launch and a very good day was had by all. Unfortunately, the day didn't end there, and the crew had to 'turn to' in order to lift the Anchor, point the ship North and proceed on our way towards Tenerife, the UK, and the North Sea Season.

By way of 'Farewell' we would like to thank the Governor, our Agent, and the People of St.Helena for a marvellous and hopefully, first visit to their Island. They were most welcoming and made a very big impression on all onboard.

'Farewell and see you again soon, St.Helena.'

Forthcoming Events: Continue on the Northern-bound passage to the UK, briefly visiting Tenerife, and doing a program of survey transects off the coast of Africa.

Contributions This Week: Grateful thanks to the Island of St.Helena, and to all the budding photographers who were present on the Crew Tour that day.

Antarctic Diary No.15 may be produced on Sunday 06th April. To be Published on Monday 07th.

Cheerio
Stevie B
Radio Officer