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Apr 13 - Sailing North

Date: Sunday 13th April 2008

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 45°08.3 North, 008°24.2 West.
Next destination: Grimsby, England, UK.
ETA: Wednesday 16th April 2008.
Distance to go: 764.4 nmiles.
Distance Travelled since Immingham this Antarctic Season: 26549.0 nmiles.

Current weather: Sunny, Bright and Clear.
Sea State: Moderate Sea.
Wind: Nor'Westerly, 14 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1015.7 Hpa
Air temperature: +11.5°C
Sea temperature: +11.8°C

Current Position
Current Position

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



This Sunday finds us well and truly back in the Northern Hemisphere.

We have put the clocks back over the weeks until we are now on Greenwich Mean Time (or UTC) and the mornings were STILL dark at 0600am in the morning. We will continue on this time zone until we get near to the UK when we will 'spring forward' the extra hour to British Summer Time.

The reason for it being so dark in the morning was that the vessel had sailed from 18 degrees East of the Greenwich Meridian to 18 degrees West of the line. That means that the sun rose later over the Horizon as we pushed further West into the Atlantic.

Pushing West and North. 'North' was particularly important for last week because we crossed from the Southern to the Northern Hemisphere and all that it entailed. Yes, despite having only the one FID onboard the vessel this voyage, King Neptune still demanded his pound of flesh !


It was mid-week last week when we crossed the line and so received the Royal Barge of King Neptune alongside around 14.00 hours on Thursday 03rd.

The Master welcoming the Royal Party
The Master welcoming the Royal Party

As is traditional Capt.John Harper was on hand to welcome the Royal Entourage onboard the vessel and confer upon Neptune, the freedom of the vessel. This was particularly ironic considering we had only that very morning had an Emergency Safety Drill all about repelling borders and anti-piracy considerations !

Captain and King Neptune
Captain and King Neptune

But who is hidden under the guise of King Neptune this time ? Sporting a very convincing mask, our King Neptune this voyage had the flavour of being 'Norwegian' about him. We suspect the mask was hidden onboard from way back, ,when the Norwegians used to own and operate the 'Polar Queen' *

* The 'Polar Queen' was the former name of the RRS Ernest Shackleton before the British Antarctic Survey obtained her.

Court in session
Court in session

Along with our Royal couple came the usual array of Courtroom Cronies, which are pictured here in the company of the good Captain.

And then Court was convened and the fun began.

The battle in full flow
The battle in full flow

The usual procedure onboard - if you are a miscreant who has never crossed the Equator by ship - is to run and hide. But we all know that on a small ship such as the Shackleton, you cannot run far, nor hide for very long.

Perhaps this was foremost in the minds of the miscreants who opted to 'hold out' on the top of the conning tower this trip.

Preparation was very much in evidence as they congregated aloft with an impressive array of water-bomb weaponry and having the high-ground seemed to give them the advantage initially.

It seems to be a fashion these days to defy the authorities and try to withstand the inevitable long arm of the law.

However, it was a foregone conclusion.

With our Police Force having so much previous experience at extracting persons from the most unimaginable places, it wasn't long before the hoses were rigged and pressure (water pressure ?) was brought to bear against the defenders. One by one they were apprehended, shackled (no pun intended) and brought before the Court for their just deserts...

Vanessa 3rd Officer Laidlow
Vanessa 3rd Officer Laidlow

Engineer Cadet Sam Gower
Engineer Cadet Sam Gower

Officer Cadet Ben Riley
Officer Cadet Ben Riley

Travelling FID, Brian Hunter
Travelling FID, Brian Hunter

and finally ( who would POSSIBLY want to be the last ...) Officer Cadet Paul Moore.

Officer Cadet Paul Moore
Officer Cadet Paul Moore

'Do you promise to tell lies, a whole pack of lies, and nothing but Porkie Pies' retorted the Prosecutor.
Charges were read.
'Guilty' cried the Judge
'Kiss the Kipper' cried the ensemble
'Away with them' cried the constabulary.
'Er...' cried King Neptune !!!

(It was noted that King Neptune at various points in the proceedings was less-than-vocal)...

Of course all were caught, charged and served a hefty helping of justice out of a ladle (unless you were Paul and received the whole bucket load ?).

One word of commendation must go to Paul who was the only party to attempt to evade the law by concealment.

On the Shackleton, we have port holes, but we have a void space between the porthole and a glass screen which acts as insulation against the cold, against noise and, I guess, against any unforeseen leaks ? Paul managed to somehow squeeze his body into this space and at the same time conceal his where-a-bouts by closing the Greenroom curtains behind him ... now you see him, now you don't.

It was enough to throw the police dogs off the trial for a good hour or two and provide a little 'fun-of-the-chase' to the proceedings.

Well done Paul.

The barbecue feast
The barbecue feast

Of course, after all the 'gunk' they had to swallow, what better way to take your mind and taste buds off the ordeal than an evening Barbeque on deck ?

The coals were stoked, the provisions laid in and everybody had a very pleasant and mellow evening onboard after the rigours and chases of the day.

Another memorable 'crossing the line' ceremony came successfully off.


Move over Wavey Davey .... Dewi is on the case... and on the bridge.

Every day we produce a Daily Newspaper which contains the usual 'doom and gloom' that comes in a newspaper, but also a few additional essentials. There are 3 daily questions in the truncated news service that we receive on the ships and the bases, and a Sudoku and a Crossword.

The 3 questions go down particularly well, with an informal 'inter-departmental rivalry' going on to see who can get the 'three-out-of-three' ?

But moreover, the Crossword will keep people pondering for quite a while as they wrack their brains to come up with a successful solution. One day, Ch.Officer Dewi was pontificating over the cryptic crossword and asked ...

'What's the answer to this one .... 'A POSTMAN CARRIES A VERY HEAVY BAG'
'How many letters' ? was the obvious response....
'5,254' said Dewi !!!

(with jokes like that ... come back Wavey Davey,. all is forgiven).


We have several avid fishermen onboard the Ernest Shackleton. Usually you can find Purser Micky Quinn in the good company of Electrician Paul Bidmead, dangling a rod over the back end of the vessel when we are in Mare Harbour, or even on the Quayside in Peterhead. However, not to miss an opportunity, Michael-the-Quinn was quick to take up his rod last week while the rest of the ship's company was ashore availing themselves of the wonders of St.Helena. These photo's have just come to light and so I present our Fisherman of the Week spot, starring none other than Micky and (literally) a handful of fish ...

Micky and the Grouper
Micky and the Grouper

Micky and the Red Snapper
Micky and the Red Snapper

Micky and the Trigger Fish
Micky and the Trigger Fish

So what does Michael do with his new found friends ? Does he throw them back so they get bigger and he can catch them again at another time, or does 'Fresh Fish' appear quite often on the menu ? Mmmmmmm.

Well done Mick, and I hope when you come back in the next life,... it's not as a FISH !


During these last weeks as we travelled North up the coast of West Africa, the Shackleton has been 'earning her bread and butter'. Although the sister-ship James Clark Ross does the bulk of Science for the Survey, we are pleased to report that the Shackleton does embark on a program of science when it is possible. This trip we have been doing soundings for the Hydro graphic Office, whereby we record a bottom profile of the seabed between areas of interest. This trip we were sailing over predicted wrecks and sub-marine obstacles and made approximately 46 transects as we went.

Sample EA600 Echo Sounder Display
Sample EA600 Echo Sounder Display

Then last Sunday, the vessel had sailed passed the equator and into the Northern Hemisphere with a planned port-of-call at the Canaries during the onward journey. The reason was to collect two passengers. One was the 2nd Engineers' wife and the other was an IT gentleman direct from our HQ in Cambridge. Unlike St.Helena, our previous pause, we had no intentions of stopping alongside whatsoever. Pull up outside the harbour, collect our passengers and move right along. However the fates would have it otherwise.

As we closed on the Canaries the weather became decidedly windy and rough, and that meant no small boats were plying their craft between the harbour and the ship's moored in the anchorages. We could not pass by and leave our passengers behind, and so it was that on Wednesday 09th April, the Shackleton made possibly the quickest port call in the History of Santa Cruz, Tenerife. We pulled into port at 07.30am in the morning, collected our passengers and a small amount of provisions (FRESH MILK - Mmmmm) and then pulled directly out of the harbour and back to sea at 07.50am.



As we pulled into the port, we could see the Island of Tenerife in all it's glory under an (almost) cloudless sky, but almost as soon as we arrived, it was 'Farewell' to Santa Cruz and we proceeded directly off to resume our passage to England.

Apart from a short stay just North of the island to do some pre-North Sea DP testing ( DP = Dynamic Positioning of the vessel ), we have pushed ever onwards up the coast of Portugal, Spain and into the Bay of Biscay.


As Manos, our land-lubber IT Guy will testify, the RRS Ernest Shackleton does not get a reputation for being an uncomfortable ride, for nothing. High winds and rough seas have predominated this last week and we have been keeping an eye on the weather forecasts to see when it would break. From Tenerife right up till today, the seas have been coming from the side which ensured the Shackleton kept on rolling uncomfortably and helping to make us all a little less than 'chipper'. However, I am happy to report the transit of the Bay of Biscay - notorious in itself for bad seas - is going well and relatively calm. The weather system that was before us has dissipated and been replaced by a High Pressure area which is due to deteriorate to bad weather again next week ... but not before the Shackleton has left the Biscay behind and headed on up through the English Channel.

''The Channels' is the expression of British seamen for a feeling of exhilaration mixed with the longing for home and a love of country, felt when at last entering the English Channel after a long voyage'' from 'Impressions and marine events from the early 50s, recollected by Robert Priddy'.

The Channels, it is. Although the majority of us have only recently left the UK in March to rejoin the Shackleton, the feeling of anticipation for being ashore in England is no less present amongst the crew. It has been a good passage from Cape Town, but no-one will deny that it will be good to step ashore in England when we arrive there next week.

Forthcoming Events: Continue on through the English Channel and up to the East Coast of the UK. We will demobilize all the Antarctic Season equipment, cargo and backloading, and prepare for our Summer season in the North Sea..

Contributions This Week: Grateful thanks to King Neptune, and all the photographers who have let me purloin their efforts.

The last Antarctic Diary No.16 should be produced on Sunday 20th April subject to operations.

Stevie B
Radio Officer