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02 Jun - Back in the UK

Date:  Sunday 02ndJune  2002.
Position @ 1200 (UTC): Alongside In Immingham
Next destination:  Offshore Southern North Sea
ETD:   Monday, 03rd June 2002
Distance to go:   65.0 km
Total Distance Sailed:  0.0 nm

Current weather:  Bright and Hazy.
Wind:  Easterly, Force 3
Barometric pressure:  1017.7 mb and steady.
Sea state:.   Calm in port.
Air temperature:  16.1°C.
Sea temperature: 14.6°C.

No Ship's Position reports are available during our stay in the N.Sea since we cease doing Met.observations.

It is two weeks,  since the Ernest Shackleton  last reported fun and frolics at sea and the anticipation of our arrival back in England after our season down South.  I can now report that we entered the Approaches to the English Channel on the evening of the Sunday 19th May and spent Monday and Tuesday navigating between more ships than you can shake a stick at.  Funnily, down in Antarctica the Officers on watch have only to contend with floating ice and bergs and their answer is usually to just ram straight into it - but with masses of ships in the English Channel, that solution is not to be recommended.
But the remaining transit to Grimsby was relatively uneventful and we anchored off the entrance to the Humber Estuary on Wednesday 22nd awaiting a favourable tide.  The tides became favourable around 14.00 hours and the Ernest Shackleton negotiated her way alongside the quay at Grimsby by 15.00 hours local time.  Having moved the remaining hour from GMT to BST, we arrived at the same time as those who were waiting to meet us at the quayside on a chilly and grey Wednesday afternoon.  But there was sunshine in abundance amongst the FID's faces and those waiting to greet them on the shore.  There was a great sign held aloft by two welcomers which said ' Welcome home Uncle Keith, I am your new baby nephew, Bert'.  What a surprise indeed for Rothera winterer Keith Walker on his return to reality !?

By 1530 hours, the gangway was down, the Captain announced 'finished with engines' and the relations were all onboard seeking out their kith and kin.  We must apologise to everyone who came onboard both family, friends and business colleagues from Cambridge, as so many bodies all demanded the attention of so few of the ship's company, and I fear we did not do justice to everyone.  We hope nobody felt 'left out', but you will appreciate what a busy and crazy time it was as work started almost immediately in preparation for the demobilisation.

     Click on Images to Enlarge.  

Here we see the ship's ROV crane being lifted off to be replaced by a larger and 'bluer' beastie of the same ilk.

  Click on Images to Enlarge.  

Here we see the large crane being 'tested'.  We cannot lift 50 Tonnes + of weight just to check the crane.  What if it should fail ??? So big bags of water are used to test the crane to it's limits. The weight of water in those bags amounts to approximately 65 Tonnes.  The crane passed it's test.

Thursday and Friday were spent fixing things, modifying things, and preparing things for our DP Trials.  ''Guilty'' I hear you say.  But no !!  We went to sea and spent Saturday off Flamborough Head successfully passing the tests and trials that must be passed in order to give the Ernest Shackleton a 'clean bill of health' to work in the North Sea each year.  Early on Sunday morning the ship slipped back into the Humber to arrive triumphant alongside.  This time the port was Immingham.

The ship takes pleasure in thanking all those concerned in the DP Trials this year for their hard work - as these things take up to 12 hours of intense testing and re-testing.  'What happens when you fail this thruster ??' ... and 'What happens when you lose this power supply ??'.


The rest of our time here in Immingham, has been spent in mobilising for the BP 2002 GVI General Visual Inspection, performed by Stolt Offshore in the North Sea.  It is amazing how quickly the crew of fabricators, welders, electricians, mechanics, technicians and all and sundry appear from the 4 ends of England to transform the ship.  In the space of a few days we have gone from an Antarctic vessel sporting a 'Tula' workboat, to being a North Sea Tiger, sporting the very latest in Remote Operated Vehicle technology.  We have two ROV's onboard at the present and they will feature in future pages no doubt.

We have had inductions into the BP / Stolt way of Safe working practices and 're-breather' courses for an ingenious bit of equipment used when transiting to and from the shore by helicopter.  We have started the regime of 12-hour shifts that we will be working once we are on-site in the North Sea and so the vessel is now 'alive' 24 hours a day.  That means there is constant grub on offer for the two shifts from the galley ! Mmmm.

Morale on the ship appears to be very high, and the only cloud on the hazy Immingham sunset above is that everyone is now anxious to be back at sea, to be undertaking the work and to be free from the hustle and bustle that a mobilisation can muster.  There are so many strange faces and unknown bodies coming and going from the ship, that an intensive program of signing on/signing off and safety inductions has to be implemented to control it all.  At least once we are at sea, the faces will remain the same between crew-change days !

The forthcoming itinerary will see the ship start in the Southern North Sea sector amongst all those Gas rigs on Gas fields with imaginative names like Cleeton, and Indefatigable.  The ship will then progress North with the work going up towards Aberdeen, towards Lerwick and eventually to the West of the Shetland Islands.  But that is for the future.  For now, we just complete our preparations for ROV work at sea, and hope the sunny Bank Holiday weather of the last few days will prevail for our journey out to our first site of work.

A balmy dusk looking across the now-quiet dock at Immingham.

And finally, a word of self-congratulation to the FID's and Crew of the Ernest Shackleton for recent efforts on behalf of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution).  This worthy body has recently sent receipts to the ship to gratefully acknowledge the donations of £ 84.80 and £ 439.00 respectively from contributions to the RNLI Lifeboat box, from fund-raising events, from the crazy 'sponsored' hair-croppings and general fining people for the odd mis-demeanours !!!  It cost a person a forfeit to the Lifeboat box for any infringement on the social rules on board.  So thanks to all those who contributed and your support of the Institution has been acknowledge and appreciated.

Forthcoming events: Depart Immingham after completion of mobilisation and as Immingham Port traffic allows.

Diary 2 will be written on 08th June 2002 and for publication on 09th June 2002

Steve B