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11 July - Back to sea!!

Date: Sunday 11 July 2004
Position @ 1200 Local: 53°12.4' N 002°27.1' E - on the Indefatigable Gas Field off the UK Coast
Next destination: Hull, England
Distance to go: 110.0 nm
Distance sailed this North Sea Season: 110.0 nm
Total distance sailed: 110.0 nm

Current weather: Overcast, fine and clear
Sea State: Vessel pitching gently in moderate sea
Wind: WNW Force 5-6
Barometric pressure:1009.3 mmHg
Air temperature: 13.9°C
Sea temperature: 15.0°C


Above: The position map of RRS Ernest Shackleton. Click to enlarge.

At Last, Something To Report On The ES This Week.

During the week, the Ernest Shackleton was alongside North Quay No.11 berth and then No.10 berth in King George Dock Hull on Humberside, OR Yorkshire, depending upon your political opinion.

It was whilst laying alongside, that we heard of a possible charter for the Vessel on a ‘Mattress job’. I can now confirm that we successfully secured the contract and  here is a picture below to prove that we have started the Charter in fine style !!

Mattress Job

Click on the Image to see the ‘Mattress Job’ and the start of a long-awaited job.

In fact, the Mattress Job is a 3 to 5 day job with possible extensions for Annual Inspections, and the ship has to lay 25 ‘mattresses’ to protect a Pipeline out here in the Indefatigable Field. We have 30 of these ‘mattresses’ onboard but only envisage laying 25 of them to complete the job. How long this will actually take is unknown, but is very weather dependent and should not take more than a few days if all goes well.

Mobilising Mobilising
Mobilising Mattresses

Above: Mobilising the vessel and the "mattresses". Click to enlarge.

It was Wednesday when Bluestream first enquired into the availability of the vessel and by Friday, we had visitors to inspect the ship and make sure we were fit-for-purpose. We must have been so, because on Saturday morning, the personnel, the ROV’s (*) and the Mattresses all arrived at the ship’s side.

(*)ROV – Remote Operated Vehicle – small submersibles.

Above you can see the Containers that house the ROV-shack being loaded onboard and in the holds, cables are being ‘run-in’ to allow power, communications and data to pass to/from the temporary arrangement and the bridge. These were all run-in and terminated within a 12-hours period on Saturday and the weather which had been dreadful during the week, eased up and allowed us a sunny day to complete the mobilization.

The Mattresses themselves are hardly the ‘SlumberNice-type’ of spongy affairs you may first think them to be. They are in fact dense blocks of concrete with a web of nylon ropes throughout which keeps the whole structure together. This can be lifted up in single go and positioned over the pipe, but each one weighs an impressive 9 - 10 tonnes. We managed to find homes for 30 of them, but due to the considerations of deck loading, the Chief Officer Antonio had to spread them all over the ship’s working area to accommodate them all. Some in the Aft Hold, some in the Forward Hold. Some on the Aft Hatch and some on the Hatch of the Main Cargo Hold as you can see above.

By Evening meal, the mobilization was progressing and the Master arranged for the ship to be turned around at the quay so that when they were ready, the ROV’s (two observation or ‘eyeball’ vehicles) could be launched and ‘wet-tested’. Thereupon, all was made secure for sea and the Pilot took us out of the Hull King George Dock at 01.30am on the Sunday morning. After 6 weeks alongside, the Shackleton finally departed for sea, and only 10 days before our anticipated Crew Change ?? Will this now be delayed, or will we be returning to Hull in good time to have our ‘handover’ ? Again, it is all up in the air, but meanwhile, everyone finally got to sleep, exhausted, in the late hours of Saturday Night, or Sunday Morning.

This morning, we woke up to find an unusual sight outside of the portholes… SEA. Lots of sea. We were on passage for the Inde Field off Great Yarmouth and anticipate a noon arrival on location. The scope of the work includes a couple of ‘surveys’ of the pipeline with the eyeball ROV’s to confirm the integrity of the pipe and upon successful completion, the laying of the mattresses can commence.

Wavey Davey's Wit Spot

Was it a busy day for Wavey Davey on Saturday too ?

Yes it was. His computer broke down and he had to THINK !


It has been a week of much industry on the ship here in Hull. Apart from landing a contract offshore, there was a crew-change of DPO (Dynamic Positioning Officers), on Wednesday where we welcomed back Johan Geuze, but there were also signs of activity on the bridge ! At one point the Paparazzi of the Bridge captured Johan wielding a coffee pot and actually making coffee !!

Johan making coffee

Above: Click to see evidence of a DPO at work.

Having said that, Johan does make an extremely ‘passable’ cup of coffee. 

Johan was onboard in previous years. Check out 9th June 2002 and 14th July 2002 webpages for further details. For a third colleague, Mr Malcolm McGregor, it is the first time onboard the Ernest Shackleton and if ‘first impressions’ are anything to go by, he thinks his time onboard is going to be a very pleasant stay indeed. We welcome Johan and Malcolm onboard along with 13 members of the Bluestream team who joined yesterday.



Once back at sea, it was ‘Business as usual’. It is like the Ernest Shackleton had never been in port. At 11.15am this morning the Alarm Bells sounded and the accompanying tannoy announced, ‘This is a Drill, This is a Drill’.

One by one, the various teams around the ship ‘mustered’ and reported in to the Bridge. ‘Alpha Fireteam, All present and correct’. ‘Medical Team, All present and correct’. ‘All correct in the Engine Control Room’. It takes all of 3 minutes for the various parties to report in and for the Radio Officer – keeping the log – to report ‘That’s all persons present and accounted for, Sir’.

All the ‘supernummaries’ are mustered with Micky Quinn the Purser in the Mess Room. Whilst they congregate in ‘warm clothing and proper footware’, the 2nd phase of the exercise starts with Ch. Officer Antonio announcing to the Fireteams to ‘Go and Prepare the Boats’. Upon the command, 2nd Officer Alan from Fireteam Alpha and 3rd Officer Mike from Fireteam Bravo make their way to the Starboard and Port lifeboats respectively and prepare them for launching. The ‘cox’ takes his seat at the controls of the boat ready to start them up once all are onboard, the next in the team grab hold of the ‘muster lists’ for each boat and prepare to account once again for all personnel and assure that no-one is left behind, and the Fireteam members now become ‘launchers’, releasing the ‘gripes’, manning the controls which will swing the ‘Davits’ outboard and handing out the lifejackets to the supernummaries and crew as they arrive on station at the lifeboats. It’s a well-oiled machine brought about by repetitive drills and constant practice.

Phase 3 is when the Captain announces to the Engine Control Room and the Mess room that we are about to ‘Abandon Ship’ (‘’for exercise only’’). At this command, the ECR passes control and monitoring (UMS) to the Bridge and the Supernummaries are escorted to their survival craft for immediate boarding. Again this is all accomplished in a matter of minutes and by 11.29am the boats are full (with the exception of those still ‘driving’ on the bridge) and awaiting the Master’s final and VERBAL COMMAND to Abandon Ship. This is not forthcoming today, instead Antonio tells Alan and Mike to instruct those in the boats about the pertinent points of the Boat Drill and the importance of proper clothing and PPE (Personal Protective Clothing) now that we are in North Sea Mode.

By 11.34am it is all over. Another ‘weekly drill’ is logged in the log books meeting the MCA requirement for regular exercises such as this. All life-jackets and lifesaving equipment is stowed back in it’s proper place ready for the next drill or (God forbid) any circumstance that may require us to run for the boats.

Glossary :

Tannoy = Public Announcement over the ships PA System.

Log book = book in which events connected with the ship are entered.

Muster = To assemble at a specified place.

Supernummaries = Non-ships crew.

Starboard = Right / Port = Left.

Cox or Coxswain = Person who steers a boat and is in charge of the crew.

Gripes = Sennit strips by which a boat is prevented from swinging when suspended from davits at sea.

Davit = Iron or Steel fitting projecting over ship’s side for hoisting and lowering boats.

Forthcoming Events : Another drill NEXT week !!!

Forthcoming Events: Continue with the survey of the Pipeline and then commence the laying of the Mattresses. Once the job is completed, either return to Hull or extend the contract and continue a program of work for our present Client. To Be Advised.

Contributors this week: Bluestream – for giving me something to write about this week. Acknowledgement to Layton’s Dictionary of Nautical Words and Terms for the Glossary.

Diary 07 should be written by Sunday 18th and available for publishing on Monday 19th.

Stevie B
Radio Officer