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21 May - Grimsby to Haugesund & 'sampling bottoms'

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position @ 1200 CET: 60° 40'.5 North. 2° 59'.2 East, in the vicinity of the Oseberg East Platform.
Activity: v/l in DP mode,  bottom sampling.
Conditions: Wind Southerly 8 kts,  Barometer 1025 mb steady,  Air Temperature 9.9 ° C, Sea Temperature 9.2 ° C,  overcast and clear,  rain earlier,  slight sea,  low NNW'ly swell.

Welcome Back

For those of you who have been looking for the Ernest Shackleton weekly update, my apologies for the delay in this the first edition from the North Sea for 2001.

Since the return of the vessel from Antarctic duties to the port of Grimsby on May 7, life onboard has been somewhat hectic. Due to continued poor weather as we crossed the Atlantic, our arrival was delayed to the evening tide, having missed the morning one by some three hours. This meant that we had to anchor in the River Humber, just off the Pilot Station, and await the tide to rise so that we could proceed up the river and into the Royal Dock at Grimsby, via the lock gates. There is not much room in the lock when we pass through, but with careful navigation by Captain Marshall we made a fine entrance, and were greeted by families and friends of those onboard, along with a number of staff from the BAS headquarters at Cambridge, who would oversee the discharge of all the cargo.

Once the gangway was down and loved ones were onboard, the ship's Light Taut Wire (used as a reference system in waters up to 300 m depth) was loaded onboard, having been ashore for the Antarctic season because it was not required whilst south.

Tuesday saw all the cargo discharged ashore and sent to Cambridge, and also the cargo tender Tula was lifted onto the quayside as the area of deck that she normally occupies would be required by the charterers during our period in the North Sea.

The remainder of the week was taken up with loading stores and spares, some of which had been ordered months in advance whilst the vessel was still down south and preparing for the North Sea work. This included having all of the Tula mountings burned off the deck, and our boat and waste container removed.

On Friday 11 May the vessel sailed once again down the River Humber and out to sea, to a position off Flamborough Head, where we were to conduct trials of all the ship's systems before we could go on charter.

The trials started at 0600 on Saturday morning and finished at about 1700. During this time all the systems that related to Dynamic Positioning were tested. This included failing supplies to equipment to see what the results would be, and to see if they conformed to what should happen under such conditions. I am pleased to advise that we passed this rigorous test,and once the Surveyors had disembarked via the pilot boat, we headed off.

Initially we thought that we would be going to Hull for a few days to mobilise some ROV (Remote Operated Vehicles) but this was changed and we were crossing the North Sea for the Norwegian port of Haugesund. Following a lovely day on Sunday 14 May, when the sea was flat calm and mirror like, we approached the Norwegian coast in the early hours of Monday morning. A pilot was embarked at 0600 for the somewhat scenic trip through a fjord to Haugesund. Our first stop was to take bunkers at a fuelling berth and once this was completed, just after lunchtime, we then moved to the other side of the fjord to the mobilisation berth. Although a little chilly, the day was clear and sunny and a wonderful introduction to Norway for those who had not been the country before.

The first thing that one notices is the sheer volume of traffic on the water, ranging from container vessels, passenger ships, ferries, yachts to humble rowing boats. Many of the commercial vessels are no sooner tied up than they are away again, stopping for as short a time as possible.

Our stay in Haugesund lasted until Wednesday evening, giving all onboard the chance to walk into the town for a look around and to perhaps visit some of the small bars along the waterfront. All good things come to an end though, and so we headed back out to sea for the Norwegian Sector to conduct bottom sampling.

The bottom sampling is carried out so that the environmental impact of the oil industry within the Norwegian Sector can be closely monitored. It is carried out every year. It involves taking mud samples from the seabed. These are stored onboard and will go to a laboratory for final analysis, with a report being written and submitted to the oil company involved.

As the North Sea is a difficult place to write about, and there is only so much that can be said about sampling bottoms, I hope to bring you a series of articles about the work of the oil and gas industry is doing in the North Sea and the activities that the Ernest Shackleton is carrying out in support of this.

Origins of Oil and Gas

Diagram - origins of gas and oil.  Courtesy of UKOOA

The United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) has an informative series of web pages on the Story of Oil and Gas. These provides useful background information on all aspects of offshore oil and gas starting with its geological origins through to the exploration, development and production phases.


The next edition of the Ernest Shackleton diary should be available sometime during the week beginning 28 May 2001.

Mike Gloistein

Weekly diary entries