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13 June - A Veteran Visits

Date: Sunday 13 June 2004
Position @ 1200 Local: No.3 Quay, King George Docks, Port Of Hull, England
Next destination: TBA
Distance to go: N/A
Distance sailed this North Sea Season: 160 metres
Total distance sailed: 160 metres

Current weather: Very few clouds, sunny, fine and clear
Sea State: Calm alongside in dock
Wind: Light airs
Barometric pressure:1029.3 mmHg
Air temperature: 19.7°C
Sea temperature: 17.4°C

The Past Week on ES

Welcome back to the King George Dock in Hull, where we find RRS Ernest Shackleton still alongside in the same place as last week.

Distance sailed this week amounts to a massive 160 mtrs. Why 160 mtrs ?? On Wednesday 09th this week we had to vacate our No.3 Berth and moved across the water to the other side of the dock, 80 mtrs away.This was North Quay and 80 mtrs closer to the Port’s gate. That was a step in the right direction for those who elect to stroll the 4 miles into town along the scenic River Humber route. During the move, it was an excellent opportunity to test the lifeboats, so once away from the side, the Starboard Lifeboat was launched and recovered before we reached the ‘other side’.

The other 80 mtrs travel came on Friday 11th when we were requested to once again vacate a berth, and so we returned back to our original position here on Berth No.3. It’s not a massive journey in the annals of Nautical Seafaring, but at least the Shackleton got chance to ensure her engines, thrusters and other systems are still working well. Whilst on the North Quay, Western berth we were able to take on fresh water. We are unable to use our Evaporators to make our own Fresh Water whilst we are not at sea, so we have to take a supply from the shore.

And so one week later we are still alongside, still doing maintenance, adding the finishing touches to a rather smart paint job, and still awaiting the word from Riebers to tell us what work is in the offing for the Ernest Shackleton , this Summer season.


Even when we are not working offshore, the regular routine of the vessel must continue with programs of maintenance, inspections and emergency drills. This week we did Helideck Drills in preparation for North Sea work where we are called upon to land helicopters on deck. The majority of the work during this phase of our operation, is done by the Helicopter Pilots, but we still have to be in attendance.The Helideck team will normally consist of the following members :-

1 HLO (Helicopter Landing Officer). He is overall responsible for the safe operations on the Helideck, including inspections prior to aircraft arrival, conducting unloading and loading of baggage and freight, liaising with the Helicopter Pilots and giving ‘Helideck Clearance’.Moreover, in an emergency, this man is on-scene commander and is well-versed in all aspects of dealing with Helicopter incidents onboard. HLO’s today were Antonio Gatti (Ch.Off) and Alan Newman (Navs).

2 Baggage Handlers. As expected, they will load and unload the baggage and freight, help passengers on and off the helicopter, supply the pilots with any required victuals, and assist in any emergency situations as necessary.

2 Monitor Guards.These men wear full fire-fighting flame retardant suits (not so pleasant in the height of summer offshore), and man the ‘fire monitors’ that overlook the helideck port and starboard.These monitors are capable of delivering sea water at pressure across the expanse of the helideck, or with the push of a button, can be mixed with a foam ‘concentrate’ to produce a thick layer of ‘soapy foam’ with a covering capability to extinguish fuel fires by starving them of oxygen. They can assist in any fire operations in the event of an emergency.

3 Fast Rescue Craft Crew. Readily dressed in waterproof Survival suits and lifevests, the FRC Crew standby should there be a need to immediately launch the prepared Fast Rescue Craft to effect a rescue/recovery should anything/anyone fall overside during helicopter operations.

Coupled with this team, we have Engineers standing-by in the control room to expedite any emergency measures necessary (isolations, additional pumps, etc). On the bridge, the Master oversees the whole operation and is ready to organize any additional measures should an emergency arise, and finally the Communications Officer stands by the Radio/Telephone/Fax to talk with the Helicopter on approach and departure, and pass any necessary details (departure message, requests) to the Helicopter Operators onshore.

That makes a total of at least 11 men in attendance during a helicopter arrival, and from a nominal 20 crew, you can see how man-intensive these operations can be for the Ernest Shackleton. However, once the helicopter has departed the men are quickly ‘stood down’ so these operations can sometimes be only a momentary interruption to the daily routine onboard when working offshore.

The Drills themselves are very varied depending upon the scenario we are trying to ‘play’.Helicopter crash ondeck, helicopter overboard, refuelling exercise, fuel spills, or in this case, we went through a normal arrival and departure of flight ’12-Charlie’.For 12C we simulated the aircraft by the appearance on the Helicopter Deck of a red-coloured Wheelie-Bin !

Click on Image to Enlarge the Wheelie-bin Helicopter

12C was arriving onboard (didn’t quite make it to the centre of the helideck, did it ???) we were expecting 2 passengers, ably played here by DPO Jan Dobrogowski and DPO Fred Kirk. The DPO’s (Dynamic Positioning Officers) are on hire to us for the duration of the North Sea Charter Period.Once we had simulated the arrival of the Wheelie-Bin 12C and disembarked Jan and Fred complete with their Baggage, HLO Antonio gave the ‘all clear’ and the Wheelie Bin was free to fly away.

A similar view with the Foam Monitors manned and ready for action.

A further phase of the operation was to simulate the Wheelie-bin having difficulties and (we assume) a fire. As such, the ‘monitors’ were swung into action and covered the helideck with a protective shield of water, followed by a brief deployment of foam. Samples of both were taken by the HLO for analysis by the shore authorities who will confirm we are getting the right ‘mix’ of foam for the most efficient covering of a helicopter fuel fire. In the photo below, you can see the aftermath of the snowy foam being sprayed – which incidentally ended up in the wheelie bin during the subsequent ‘clean up operation’.

...and while all this is going on, Alan, the Irish Second Officer, gets the opportunity to practice his ‘River Dance’ on the Helideck. Nothing like a spot of Irish Dancing while you are waiting for the Wheelie-Bin Helicopter to take off !!!

Wavey Davey's Wit Spot

So Sorry, but no joke this week.Wavey Davey is sick.

(Some say he has been ‘sick’ for years).But he MUST be sick. He has not been plaguing us with his inane jokes all week.

When asked ‘what was his malady?’ he said, ‘Nothing’ ‘I’m alright’, but we really don’t believe him.

Could it be that laying alongside in Hull has stunted his train of comical quips ?

Maybe he can only deliver the goods during those long, long, lazy watches on the Bridge at sea ?

We shall see if he is ‘back to form’ in time for next week.

‘No joke for the webpage this week ?’ said I ?
‘Hull Taxis’ said Wavey Davey.

‘D-Day’. A Veteran’s Visit

Following The Ceremonies of the D-Day landings, the Shackleton crew meet their very own Wartime Merchant Navy Hero in Hull.

The 6th June 2004 – A motley group from the Shackleton were ashore in Hull for the afternoon when we met by chance a WWII seafaring veteran Ken Wardale. It so happened that Ken had brought with him a few mementos of his time at sea and records of his war service in the shape of his discharge book and Merchant Navy wartime ID card – complete with fingerprints! The Merchant Navy played a crucial role in keeping the UK alive whilst sailing U-boat and mine infested waters in slow convoys - poorly armed and badly protected. So we were well proud to meet someone who actually did it and then amazed at how Ken had managed to keep these the last 60 years and all well looked after!

Wartime ID Card – Click to Enlarge.

Kens wartime adventures started at the tender age of 15 – a messenger boy in the Fire Service. At 17 years old, Kens first ship was Everards ‘PROWESS’ a 1,000 ton coaster, completely unarmed except for a light machine gun kept in the open bridge!

‘We had 2 able seamen and 2 ordinary seamen and we slept in the focs’le. There were 4 bunks, 2 either side and a small ‘bogie stove’ right forward. She was an old ship with leaky portholes – they were right beside the stove so as she dug her head into the seas there’d be a splash on top of it and the place was always full of clouds of steam. The rest just swilled around on the deck’

The ‘PROWESS’ sailed to Isle of Grain, Fulham, Greenhithe, and the Linden River.

Times were tough as Ken recalled, but even in the war years, some made money by supplying grade ‘Z’ food to the ship

whilst the owners were charged for grade ‘A’.

‘It was ok when you got to the other side’ said Ken ‘in the US we’d get eggs and poultry and we were well fed then’

Ken talked about some of his ships.

‘FORT ABTIBI’ – she was well armed having 1 x 5” anti-submarine gun on the poop, 8 Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns, and Merlin and Hotchkiss guns.

‘You might not think we had missiles in those days but we did’ said Ken smiling ‘no-one believes me when I say it. They weren’t the following type of course, we just fired them as the Heinkels went past and hopefully we’d catch one or two. They were rocket guns with 24 rounds each. I sat in the dome and moved it using the left and right pedals’ Ken was originally trained as a gunner in the Navy.

‘They were very short handed so that’s how I ended up as part of the 16 Naval gunners. Ordinary merchant men didn’t fire them.’ She went to ports such as Brindisi, Taranto, Bari, Naples, Venice, Geralamini, Port Suoli.

‘She was placed in the convoy so they could attack the planes as they came in. We were glad to get back – thought we never would but we got back alright’

‘We went through the Gibraltar Straits at night, always did to avoid the German aerodrome at Benghazi. We got a warning to keep lifebelts handy because we’re expecting dusk and dawn raids. Citibarani and Algiers were only 30 minutes flying away’

‘FORT FROBISHER’ – 5 hatches, jumbo derricks for heavy lifts. She was well armed. Ken did 17/18 months in her.

‘My missus was pregnant so I went down the pool and asked for a short trip’

‘I’ve got just the one for you Ken’ this bloke says to me ‘over to the St Lawrence and Montreal (Canada) then straight back’

‘That’ll do nicely’ – Click to see this little piece of Ken’s History.

Manning Pool slip showing instructions to join ‘Fort Abitibi’ on 18th Dec 1943.

‘That’ll do nicely’ I thought. Then we were half way across the Atlantic and our orders changed for Norfolk Virginia. Then through the Med and went through to Bombay!’ ‘We ended up going to Burma’

‘Then the Americans dropped the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It was all over so we discharged our cargo in Bombay and went to Naples with army surplus stores. We did get our ore in the end, to Dagenham for Fords!’

‘And when I got back into Hull Paragon Station it was a 16 month old Janet that toddled across the platform to meet me’

Before the Navy took you across they had a conference – all the Captains discussed what would be the plan, whether to go north or south about, convoy tactics, speeds and courses.

‘We might start on one course then be given the order ‘East by South a half South’ from the Mate and 125 ships would turn simultaneously by 95 degrees for an hour then back again. The courses they would steer that watch were chalked up on a board where the helmsman could see it. When it was near the time the Mate would say ‘Are you ready for a move? They rarely got it wrong. In the convoys all he had to steer by was a special blue light on the stern of the ship in front.

Ken was also in the D-Day landings. His ship was too big to fit into the Mulberry Harbour, near Cherbourg so the bow was put on the beach. Flat bottomed barges called Rhinos came out to the ship, 2 on either side. They had a powerful engine in either end. It was a hasty operation as Ken recalled

‘There was absolutely no finesse, we just dropped it into the barges, no time to put this here and that there. Dockers from Hull were on the beaches, they were just put in army uniform and off they went! We had 5,000 tons of cargo and spent 10 days on the beaches. Pegasus bridge was near Cherbourg so there was a lot of planes flying overhead dropping paratroops. There was quite a lot of bodies in the water.’

4.8s.9p Income Tax ?… I Wish !!

Kens ‘liberation of Europe’ wage slip. Note he paid off with 4 and 15 pence after deductions for his troubles!

Ken visited the Ernest Shackleton last week joining us for dinner on board at Capt Chapman’s invitation. He was very impressed with the ship and its modern bridge. And we counted our blessings! He took with him a memento of his visit from all on board.

Ken Wardle in company

James (Baker) and Derek (Lee) offer Ken a ‘thank you’ on behalf of the Ship.

Forthcoming Events: Continue to wait work in the North Sea or elsewhere in the world.

Contributors this week: Alan (Navs) Newman for his nice write-up on Ken’s visit this week, and also for his excellent display of Irish Clog Dancing on the Helideck. Thanks Al.

Diary 03 should be written by Sunday 20th and available for publishing on Monday 21st.  

Stevie B
Radio Officer