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RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary - 28 May 2000

Arrival in UK and the start of the commercial charter in the North Sea.

Date: Sunday 28th May 2000

Position at 1200 UTC +1
Latitude: 58°11′ North
Longitude: 001°06′ East

On station some 120 nautical miles east of Aberdeen with an ROV deployed at about 90 m below the vessel.

To those of you who look for this page on a weekly basis, my apologies for the delay in writing it. Due to the current workload onboard, with the commercial charter in the North Sea, I have not had the time to sit and write anything at all. However, as things settle down and time does become available, I hope to get the page back to a fairly regular basis, although this may well be every two weeks or so.

All being well I should be able to provide you with a little history on RRS Ernest Shackleton, long overdue, along with an insight into our current work program.

Mike Gloistein

RRS Ernest Shackleton — May 2000

RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived at the Bull Anchorage, at the mouth of the River Humber, on the morning of May 4th 2000 and waited for the afternoon tide to allow the final few miles to Grimsby to be completed. By 1700 UTC the ship was secured alongside No 5 Berth, East Commercial Dock, Grimsby.

Following the discharge of cargo and waste during the next few days, the vessel then sailed on Sunday 7th May from Grimsby across the River Humber to the larger port of Hull, berthing in the King George Dock.

On May 10th Captain Marshall and his crew joined to take over from Captain Lawrence. The crew changes take place roughly every four months, and those that were heading home were in need of a good rest.

May 11th saw RRS Ernest Shackleton back at sea, undergoing trials for the forthcoming charter in the North Sea (all part of the Private Finance Initiative package used to obtain the vessel) and spent just over 24 hours away testing all the systems to full capacity to see how the vessel and its complicated equipment would cope when operated in its Dynamic Positioning capacity and the effect of failures of all systems and controls on our position-keeping ability. This information is required by the Chartering Party so that they know the full capability of the vessel as much of the work requires precision position keeping to within about a metre, especially when working close to rigs and platforms.

Returning to Hull in the early hours of Saturday 13th May, and following a few hours sleep, preparations were then made for the ship’s naming ceremony later in the day.

RRS James Clark Ross was berthed next to us for the ceremony and there was a very good attendance of BAS personnel, both past and present, along with local dignitaries and invited guests.

The naming of the vessel was done The Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, the granddaughter of Ernest Shackleton, and only two attempts were required to break the bottle over the stern of the ship! There were buffet lunches onboard both vessels (with RRS James Clark Ross being given the proud role of entertaining all the children) and also in a marquee on the quayside. Both ships were then open for guided tours to give an insight into the work that they do.

RRS James Clark Ross, 'dressed ship' and the marquee
RRS James Clark Ross, 'dressed ship' and the marquee

Captain Marshall and Captain Lawrence entertained Ms Shackleton onboard RRS Ernest Shackleton and presented her with a ships plaque and in return the Captains were presented with a copy of South, being a film on Shackleton’s famous voyage onboard the Endurance and the ordeals that he and his men had to endure when the vessel was beset and crushed in the pack ice.

Ms Shackleton with Captain Lawrence and Captain Marshall.
Ms Shackleton with Captain Lawrence and Captain Marshall.

On Sunday morning a vessel manoeuvering in the harbour basin had a power loss and drifted into the side of RRS Ernest Shackleton, punching a hole in the steelwork above the waterline. Needless to say this caused a few problems as the ship was due to depart Hull at lunchtime on Monday.

Captain Marshall puts his finger through the hull of the ship!
Captain Marshall puts his finger through the hull of the ship!

A local repair yard was contacted and at 0600 UTC on Monday morning a section of hull surrounding the hole was cut away and two plates were welded into place as a temporary repair to see us through the summer and our annual refit in September when a proper repair could be made. This work was completed and inspected by a Class Surveyor by 1200 UTC, just in time for us to make the departure slot allocated for us at 1300. The Pilot was a familiar face, being an ex-BAS Deck Officer, and he left the vessel at 1545 and the vessel turned to the north.

RRS Ernest Shackleton then made good passage for Aberdeen, berthing at Clipper Quay, where the charter was to mobilize, arriving at about 1500 UTC on Tuesday afternoon. No sooner had we arrived than the ship became a hive of activity with equipment being loaded onboard and welders changing the deck arrangements to enable its safe stowage. The charterers immediately went into 24 hour operations with all their personnel going onto shift work. The proposed plan had us down to depart on Thursday 18th May but due to the technical nature of setting up and testing all the equipment it was not possible to depart until about 0005 UTC on Sunday 21st May.

From Aberdeen RRS Ernest Shackleton headed east for the Balmoral field, in approximate position 58° North 001′ East and about 120 miles away.

During the past week we have been working in close proximity to the Balmoral FPV (Floating Production Vessel) and at times have been as close as 30m to it, all the while with the ROV working under the vessel.

Looking to the Balmoral FPV across the helicopter deck
Looking to the Balmoral FPV across the helicopter deck

Forthcoming events: Further survey work throughout the North Sea, a visit to Aberdeen later in the week.

All being well I will write a further update next weekend which I would hope to have completed for Monday 6th June 2000.