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24 July - Waiting on Weather

Date: Sunday 24 July 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT+1): 60°34' North, 000°51' West - Off the shoreline of the Island of Fetlar in the Shetland Islands
Next destination: Lerwick, Shetland Islands
ETA: To Be Advised, but expected to be in approximately one week
Distance to go: 81 nmiles to the next worksite
Distance sailed from Immingham and Crew change : Not Available due to various courses and manoeuvering.
Total distance sailed: Not known.

Current weather: Cloudy but clear. High cloud with blue patches
Wind: 325°, 05 kts
Sea state: Calm in the bay, Wick of Tresta
Barometric pressure:1007.8 mmHg
Air temperature: 11.4°C
Sea temperature: 11.4°C

Satellite picture of Shackletons postion Click to see a Satellite Pass of the Shackleton in the Danish North Sea.

As you can see from the image, the ‘yellow’ depicts that clouds that are above our heads and keeping the ‘summer’ from reaching us. However Scotland and England seem to be having a nicer time of it,… and as for Bergen in Norway ?!

This Week on the Shackleton

‘Waiting on Weather’. As I write this, we are sitting in the balmy cove of  the Wick of Tresta at Fetlar in the Shetland Islands. Not the South Shetland Islands near to where we have our Base of Signy, but the Shetlands where the sheep come from ! It is balmy and the sun is attempting to come out again this morning, but out at the worksite, we have been having reports of 30kts of winds and 4 or 5 metre swell which would preclude us from doing any ROV work. So it was that the Captain and Company Man have decided to stay in the shelter of land and await the passing of the depression responsible for the awful weather. Unfortunately, we cannot dictate the weather we are going to get.

Not so for Micky Quinn our Purser. Having been 4 months away from Antarctica now, and with the prospect of our present contract spent almost entirely in the Northern Hemisphere, Micky must be pining for the Glaciers. Only this morning Mick was found decked out in his full Antarctic regalia and seeking the penguin-like atmosphere of the Deep Freeze onboard. Antarctica ? Mick just cannot get enough of the place and is making his own weather !

Hey Mick… you forgot your skis !!

Mick in the freezer Mick undertakes a Freezer Inventory. 1 penguin,… 2 penguins,… 3 penguins… Click to enlarge.


Due to technical reasons beyond our control (namely, I forgot the great joke he told me this week ?) Wavey Davey will not be able to present his infamous humour. But fear not, he will be back in fine form again next week. Watch this space…

Continuing …

We started the week out on the Tyra West Platform in the Danish sector (for those of you who weren’t paying attention last week !). We completed the workscope there by early on Wednesday morning, so were released to head towards Scotland by 0635am in the morning. It was a 20-hour steam to Peterhead so we didn’t anticipate getting to port until the morning of Thursday 21st . The pilot was arranged and the Ship’s agents were primed to receive us at the North Breakwater. It was not the best voyage back to port. With the winds coming from the Northwest, the Shackleton was head into the waves and swell and responded in her own inequitable fashion ! The ‘Polar Roller’ started pitching again. It made for a very quiet voyage back to port with the clients taking to their beds. (we have Clients, not FID’s when in the North Sea ). But you can’t keep a good client down and by Thursday morning everyone was on deck to get reconnected with their mobile phones and rejoin the human race.

It is funny how despite the advent of emails onboard and satellite phones, the cellular phone is ever-popular when within ‘shouting distance’ of land. One would believe they had been parted from their loved-ones for YEARS, rather than the few days we were out on location. Imagine how these chaps would survive in the remote areas of Antarctica without a ‘Cell’ to be had anywhere ?

And so we were ‘all fast’ alongside the quayside in Peterhead, Scotland. by 08.00am and then began the 18-hour mobilization period for the next phase of the Summer Charter.


Look what landed upon our decks this week ! Just about the same time as there were celebrations to commemorate the first landing on the moon by the Lunar module of Apollo 11 on July 20th 1969, we had our own lunar landing on the decks.. Click the first image to see just what ?…

The Eagle has landed ‘The Eagle Has Landed’.

The Eagles have landed Click to Enlarge. ‘The Eagles have Landed, have Landed, have Landed, have Landed, have Landed,…’

Not only did ONE of these Lunar Module look-a-likes settle gently on the deckspace of the Shackleton, but then it was joined by no less than another 15 of it’s brethren ? Are we being invaded by little green men ? Or are these holders or ‘stands’ for the seabed into which transponders will be installed by the ROV’s to mark the exact position of the new installations that are about to be put under the oceans ?

I am told it will be the latter, although I’m not convinced… Why else would Antonio, the Chief Mate take a party all over the vessel on a ‘Stowaway Search Routine’ on Friday ? Looking for stowaways, or searching for those little green men from their NASA spacecraft ???

I shall let YOU be the judge !

May the Force Be With You.

The Mobilization

This went without a hitch and the equipment required for the next phase was ‘landed’ on the decks and lashed into position ready to go to sea. We continued with our 12-hour watches as it seemed un-necessary to disturb the crew’s sleep patterns for the sake of an 18-hour mobilization period. That meant the night crew were at liberty to go ashore in the afternoon, and after the evening meal, the day crew could make the most of an opportunity to go ashore in the evening. Peterhead has a few shops, a few pubs on offer, and even the prospect of some old World War Two defences for Wavey Davey to go and visit. I am not sure if he got finished with work in time to go where he wanted, but I think he tried.

Whilst alongside and within the harbour walls, we were surprised to see the waters on the port side of the bridge being broken by what we thought might be dolphins. As it transpired, it was Whales. We couldn’t identify the species of Whale, but it played around in the harbour for quite a time before being replaced by a group of playful seals. In fact we could view the seals outside the harbour playing in the swell and waves that were crashing on the rocks not too far away. Peterhead harbour must certainly boast healthy and fish-laden waters to attract such visitors.

As for myself, I managed a couple of visits to the Supermarket in search of victuals for myself and some of the crew, and of course, the daily papers made an appearance all over the ship that day. We get electronic versions of the press daily onboard the Shackleton, but I guess some people can find no substitute for the black print that smears your fingertips when reading a real broadsheet ?

I was lucky enough to hit upon a local theatre just opposite the supermarket and managed to discover a theatrical show on offer the nights of the 20th-22nd July in Peterhead. A local amateur group were staging ‘Stepping Out’, a comedy that was turned into a movie starring Liza Minelli and Shelly Winters. I loved the movie so I got on a cycle and went ashore that evening for a 07.30pm start at the local playhouse and got a little culture. It was an excellent presentation, even if everyone had very pronounced Scottish accents, and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. It concluded by 10.00pm which allowed adequate time to return to the ship before the shoreleave expired at 11.00pm. Everyone was onboard and the Pilot embarked ready for a Midnight departure.

Peterhead was only a brief port of call, but despite being at sea for only 7 days, I think it was enjoyed by everyone who had the opportunity to get ashore.

In the words of the famous partnership Gilbert & Sullivan :

To lay aloft in a howling breeze,
May tickle a landsmen’s taste.
But the happiest hour a sailor sees,
Is when he’s down in an in-land town,
With his Nancy on his knees, (Yo-Ho)
And his arm around her waist !

(HMS Pinafore – G&S)


The value of good science must be in the quantity and quality of it’s data. Having started a scientific project of ‘the eating habits of the crew onboard’ way back in March 2000, (see Antarctic 1999-2000 season, update 24) it is time to revisit the project to verify the data and produce conclusions. To that end, and armed with a very fresh box of sweet biscuits, I approached each of the 4 DPO’s (Dynamic Positioning Officers) on the Bridge and put them to the test ! You are what you eat.

DPO Ray Click to Enlarge Contestant No.1

First up was Raymond. Snr DPO Raymond Kuczynski is a Scot from the little town of Dundonald on the West Coast of Scotland. This Ayrshire lad went straight for the Bourbon Biscuit. This is a rarity indeed on the Ernest Shackleton. In the world of Deck Officers onboard this ship, the biscuits around the tea-point always disappear at a great rate of knots, but the Bourbon Biscuits are always left over. Why do the deck officers not like them ? I can see no reasoning for this anomaly, but so it is that this brown biscuit is not well-liked amongst the bridge team ! Not So with Raymond. This is Ray’s first season with the Shackleton team and has integrated well and is a mild-mannered, gentle-spirited shipmate. So what can we say about the Bourbon Biscuit apart from it’s apparent lack of popularity ? It is totally monotone in colour being brown, brown and brown. It is straight with a sugary coating, but always sweet and perhaps a tad ‘rich’ for the taste of simple folk. Can this be a description of Ray ? Is he very straight-laced ? Does he sugar-coat it and is he too ‘Sunday-best’ for the likes of us ? I hardly think so. In this case, I think the conclusions prove to be totally Wrong. Unlike my earlier studies, which proved ‘the biscuit reflected the man’, I cannot think that the Bourbon Biscuit has anything in common with Raymond. I don’t even think the origin of the Bourbon would have any beginnings in a small hamlet in Scotland ? It sounds more French to me ? Further research will have to be invested in this before any definite conclusions can be made.

DPO Jan Click to Enlarge Contestant No.2

Next we have Jan. DPO Jan Dobrogowski from Poznan in Poland went directly to the Chocolate Finger. The Chocolate Finger is everybody’s favourite onboard the Ernest Shackleton. So why do they put so few of them in the Box of Biscuits? When the virgin box is opened, you can bet the Chocolate fingers are the first to go – even to the extent that the lower layer of biscuits is raided before all the Bourbons are eaten from the top layer ? Thin, straight and crispy inside. Yes, if nothing else you have to admit that Jan is thin. Despite his prevalence for the sweet confectionary of a Chocolate finger, he still manages to maintain a sylph-like figure. (spit spit jealousy – editor). Jan is oftentimes found in the Upper Hold (aka ‘the Gym’) where he plays badminton most days. Straight ? Yes, Jan is definitely a ‘straight’ character. When he fell victim to theft in Hull and had a colleagues bicycle stolen, did he not unwaveringly admit the loss and offer to compensate for the theft from his own pocket. ? A very straight chap but as for ‘crispy inside’ ?  Jan has been with the Ernest Shackleton for two seasons now, but I don’t think we can accuse him of being ‘crispy’ ? Maybe this scientific data is failing me this time. The results are not quite what I expected, but then again, isn’t that one of the wonders of science ? My colleagues in Cambridge would be able to shed some light on that statement, I am sure.

DPO Johan Click to Enlarge Contestant No.3

Then we tested Johan. Snr DPO Johan Geuze is a Dutchman, but presently living in West Yorkshire. Not for long. Johan is destined for another job on the River Schelde in Holland, so is returning to his homeland and this – his 4th year on the Shackleton – will be his last. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours. But would you believe, Johan also dived straight for the Chocolate Finger ? What IS the popularity of this biscuit ? But like the biscuit, Johan has been a great favourite onboard the Shackleton and will be missed when he moves on. Like the Chocolate finger, he was one of the first here, and like the Chocolate Finger, he will be ‘no more’ on the bridge. We shall just have to get more Chocolate Fingers and DPO’ s ??? Again, like the biscuit, Johan is THIN. I think the preliminary findings of this scientific study is EAT THIN CHOCOLATE BISCUITS. Excuse me, I must just go to the tea-point and start ‘getting thin’. (Editor). Maybe the fact that he is oftentimes found with Jan in the gym doing the ‘Badminton’ thing might have something to do with it ? Maybe I should head for the gym and leave the biscuits alone ?

DPO Arthur Click to Enlarge Contestant No.4

Lastly we have Arthur. DPO Arthur Alfred is another foreigner, being from Canada originally. Arthur is actually resident in Aberdeen where he has lived with his good lady for many years after leaving his home in Vancouver to work over here in the Offshore Industry. Arthur was seen to go for the Chocolate Chip Cookie. What is it about DPO’s that they have to have a ‘chocolate fix’ ?? Not a coconut cream or a jammy dodger amongst them ? Actually, the Chocolate chip cookie is a relatively new choice in our biscuit selection, and like the biscuit, Arthur is on the Shackleton for the first time this month. He has settled in really quickly and seems to be enjoying the work with us. The Chocolate chip cookie is crumbly, has not uniform shape and is totally infested with sweet nuggets of chocolate. How can we relate this to our roadster-loving DPO Arthur ? Shapeless, he is not. Okay, so he hasn’t been seen with Jan and Johan down in the gymnasium but ‘shapeless’ is an adjective that cannot be used here. Okay, so he may be riddled with nuggets of chocolate, but only after eating a cookie ? Crumbly he is not. He is very ‘together’, especially when in charge of a multi-million pound vessel only metres away from an offshore installation. These guys really have to ‘keep it together’ and know what they are doing to drive the DP system on a ship with thrusters and propellers all churning away in different directions.

My conclusions ? I can categorically state that unlike my earlier research into this study of ‘You are what you eat’, that it is a complete load of ‘twaddle’. I conclude there is no relationship between the consumer and the biscuit they consume. Which is probably very good news for the editor of this research topic who loves all things nutty !!

Researcher : Dr Custard Cream.

P.S – But it is fitting that the boxes of Penguin biscuits are being consumed with a vengeance by the Antarctic Officers on the bridge recently !

Finally, the vessel sailed from Peterhead into a Nor’Norwesterly wind Force 7 and forecast to get to Gale 8. With a Northerly heading up to our next arena of operations, we were right back into the bumpy, bumpy weather we had left behind earlier that morning. How long ago that seemed ? It wasn’t so uncomfortable that Sparkie Steve or Ch. Mate Antonio were ill (these two are generally the yardsticks by which we can tell how terrible the seas are ). However, it was decided by the morning that there was no way we would be able to commence work once on the Forvie Field, east of the Shetland Islands. With those forecast gales arriving, the on-scene shipping in the area were reporting high seas and winds and so the Company Man and Captain agreed to sit-it-out in the lee of the Shetland Islands near Lerwick. And that is where you find us today. We arrived on Friday, conducted pre-Charter DP.Checks and with the shelter of the bays, launched the lifeboats and Fast Rescue Craft to complete our obligatory launch exercises. The stay in the sheltered waters has not been wasted as the planned maintenance and ship-borne housekeeping (‘ship-keeping’ ?) kept us busy and Micky Quinn employed in the freezers !

Forthcoming Events: Await the forecasted good weather and plan to sail at 12.00 noon from the Shetlands for the Forvie Field. Once on location, commence with a week-long series of surveys and laying of transducers.

Contributors this week: Thanks to the DPO’s for the help with the ‘science’ this week.

North Sea Diary No.6 should be written on Sunday 31st July for publication on Monday 01st August, operations permitting.

Stevie B
Radio Officer