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29 Jul - Helicopters pay us a visit

RRS Ernest Shackleton Diary

Position at 1200: 5743'N 00050'E.

Conditions:Wind SWxW x 23 kts; Barometer 1014.0mb Falling slowly; Air Temperature 17.2°C; Sea Temperature 15.0°C; Overcast with horizon haze, Moderate SW'ly seas and swell

Asset Map (located on the Forties Charlie Platform, still some miles due East of Aberdeen)

North Sea Oil Platform

Many thanks for your feedback on the content of last week's webpage. Just like opinions about actor Jim Carey, some of you loved it, some of you hated it ! But after last week's web page insanity, you'll be pleased to know we are back to 'normality' this week with the diary of RRS Ernest Shackleton.

It has been a time of decisions this week. There are so many possibilities ahead of us, but which is it to be ? Does the Ernest Shackleton continue to work with Stolt Offshore ? Do we demobilize completely in Aberdeen ? Do we partially demobilize and do another mobilization over in Norway ? Do we go to Norway, or do we retire to Hull or Grimsby between work periods ? Do we go to Hull or do we go to Grimsby ? Do we get any time alongside or do we sit there for a number of days ? Do we have another piece of cheesecake for lunch, or not ???

Although our future at every step of the way seems to be full of uncertainty, there are a few things you can always rely on. Our crew is on 'articles' for a four-month period, so regardless of the operations for the forthcoming month, we shall still be here. Regardless of the forthcoming operations our web-page will still be here. Regardless of forthcoming operations, there will always be cheesecake in the galley ! It is these constants that form the nexus of our existence out here at sea ! But it is true that we cannot say with certainty where the vessel will be next week, but it all adds to the excitement !

'On Articles' - 'Articles of Agreement. Legal and binding agreement, entered into by master of ship and crew, concerning duties, conditions of service and remuneration. Terminates on fulfilment of embodied conditions or on a specified date. May terminate before time intended by mutual consent of master and seaman ; by physical inability of seaman to continue service ; by wreck or loss of ship. (From Layton's Dictionary of Nautical Words and Terms).

Helicopter Safety Zones Helo's, Helio's and Helicopters !
No matter how you wish to abbreviate it, we have had them ! The Ernest Shackleton was home to some helicopter operations this week, which was quite exciting for the 'new' crew. Capt. John Marshall's team must have landed more helicopters on the deck of the Ernest Shackleton than I have had slices of 'north sea cheesecake', but for the current team, these helicopter operations were an introduction to another aspect of the North Sea. Although there were helicopters involved in the 1999-2000 Antarctic Season, the operations down south were conducted and overseen by the team of H.M.S Endurance (R.N). Here in the North Sea there are a whole new set of rules and procedures to be adhered to and are so much more involved, and we are so much more involved. The present crew have all had the relevant training at on-shore training establishments, (Helicopter Landing Officer's Course, Helicopter Refuelling, Helicopter Firefighting, and of course, the HUET or Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) but this was working with helio's in earnest.

Paraffin Budgie G-PUMK lands on the deck Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO) Gatti arrives Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO) Gatti departs for Aberdeen

Paraffin Budgie G-PUMK lands on the deck

HLO Gatti attends

and subsequent departure for Aberdeen !

Click on images to enlarge.

On Monday 23 we had our first aircraft when G-PUMK arrived to uplift one compassionate case and return him to 'the beach'. Yes, another compassionate case. Our previous 'unfortunate' was repatriated last week, by transfer to the Standby Vessel Viking Supporter, but this week we called in an available helicopter, a Super Puma. The crane was swung out of the arena of operations and the helideck was inspected by the HLO for any obstructions or problems. Then the helicopter was accepted without incident. The visit lasted for only a matter of 6 minutes, but preparations, weather reports, passenger manifests and 'pulling off' from the platform took up the best part of Monday morning.

On Thursday 26 we had more visits, this time from a Dauphin 365 G-BTNC. This is the 'shuttle aircraft' for the Forties Field and twice daily, this 'bus' collects and distributes personnel around the field. So it took little arranging for NC to drop in on the Ernest Shackletonto lift two off-going passengers in the morning, and drop off two on-coming replacements for them in the afternoon. These kind of helio operations are commonplace on the rigs and platforms of the North Sea, but it is still a novelty to the crew members of the Ernest Shackleton.

Other operations onboard have been going on apace all week. This comprises of 'throwing' the ROV's overboard to continue the survey / inspections of the legs and risers of all the platforms. Our work has taken us from the North Everest Field to the Forties Field. The first sight of the Forties was impressive by the close location of the big 5 Forties rigs, equally surrounded by a conglomeration of standby boats, supply boats and drilling rigs.

North Sea Oilfield - Click to enlarge The work out here has gone on 24 hours a day largely uninterrupted by moving locations, weather or any other circumstance - other than the aforesaid quick helicopter visits. When you consider that the video recorders are recording throughout the operation of the ROV's, - that is a lot of video tape !. Our workscope in the Forties field is coming to completion this week and that will signify the end of this part of the Stolt Charter for this season, so thoughts have already been turned to the 'demobilization operation' when next in Aberdeen. We shall be saying goodbye to the Lynx ROV, which is destined for work in West Africa.

While on the ship, we hear reports of hot weather and soaring temperatures at home. But we are not without some very clement weather ourselves. The wind and seas have been kind to us and we can boast of blue skies for the best part of our time out here this week. Sunday has brought an increase in the wind and swell, but this is caused by an approaching front which precedes more of the good weather that is affecting the UK at this time. So we could be wearing sunglasses all the way into Aberdeen next week.

All Change in the Catering Department.

This season has seen a shuffling of the catering staff onboard. Purser Bob Weston - of P.B.Bear fame - was unable to return to the Ernest Shackleton this trip and so our Chief Cook, Mike Quinn has nobly stepped in to fill his shoes. Mike has done a sterling job to date bearing in mind that his knowledge of computers was minimal when he started. There is nothing that this man can not do with potatoes and french fries, but this trip has brought a whole new challenge to Mike as he conquers the mastery of chips of another persuasion. Mike is not only now conversant with the 'micro' for the word processing and spreadsheets that we use on board, but he has become a 'mean hand' at Solitaire too !!

Mike (Purser) Flash Eddie (Chief Cook ) Simon Daisy (Second Cook)

Purser Mike, Chief Cook Flash Eddie, and Second Cook Simon Daisy keep us well fed.

Vis-a-vis 'put on weight'

Click on images to enlarge

To fill the shoes of Mike, and thereby filling the bellies of the rest of us, we needed to enlist the help of another Chief Cook and 'Flash' Eddie Bolton has joined to fit the bill ! Mike is a hard act to follow with all manner of delicious things produced from the bowels of the galley, but Eddie - unfortunately - has managed to maintain these high standards too. Worst luck. For those of us on a diet, this is NOT good news at all. Eddie has an impressive nautical history having served with Blue Star Line, The Empress of Canada cruise liner, P&O container boats and no end of North Sea supply vessels, standby vessels and drill ships. This is Eddie's first time with BAS, even though he showed interest in the company as far back as 1993, but he is already anticipating the sights that await him in the New Year when he makes it down to the Antarctic. Eddie acknowledges that he has already been as far south as the Falkland Islands and Tierra Del Fuego in his nautical career, but the Antarctic Peninsula holds a few promises of penguins, of seals and icebergs ! For the rest of us, there is just the promise of yet more calories !!!

Due to the 24hour-a-day operation, the galley - unlike McDonalds - has to remain open 24 hours a day producing all of that good stuff for the night-shift as well as the day-shift. To ably maintain temptations to those on diets, and to those not on diets alike, Eddie hands over the reigns of power to Simon on an evening, and Simon boogies on into the small hours with his ovens, his grills, his fryers and his ghetto blaster going full blast ! Simon joined RRS Ernest Shackleton last season from RRS James Clark Ross, where he was a Steward. You can see Simon 'Daisy' Hadgraft pictured above. I wonder why they call him 'Daisy' ??? Simon has settled in nicely on board and is a cherished member of the crew - especially at breakfast when he provides sausages, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, etc etc etc...

An Artist in our Midst.

Finally, as a note of interest, one of those gentlemen who flew in on the helicopter G-PUMK is an ROV pilot by the name of Barry Pearson. Barry's 'claim to fame' is that he is rather a dab-hand at drawing and painting. He has all the ship raving about his token offerings - which now festoon the Client's office - and he has kindly let me display a couple of his previous offerings on our own web pages. They say 'A picture is worth a 1000 words', and if you look at the pictures below, I think you can better gauge what it is we are doing out here, more than all the descriptive nonsense I could possibly write about it. So, thank you Barry.

Line Drawing by Barry Pearson Painting by Barry Pearson

Click on images to enlarge

For anyone interested in Barry's excellent work, you can see more samples of his numerous depictions of offshore operations on his very own web site. The quality and quantity of his works are really quite amazing. Don't take my word for it - look !

Forthcoming events :- Who knows ??? It is suspected that RRS Ernest Shackleton will be back in Aberdeen by Wednesday August 01 to demobilize the ROV spreads and thence to Hull or Grimsby, or perhaps directly to our next work period. Watch this space !

Contributors this week :- Barry Pearson of Stolt ROV for letting us include some of his excellent work. And thanks also to Layton's Dictionary of Nautical Words and Terms.

North Sea Diary 12 will be written on August 05 2001 and should be published on Monday August 06 2001.

Vive La Cheesecake !