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07 Aug - 'Groundhog Day'

Date: Sunday 07th August 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT +1): 60°43' North 002°05' West. Just arrived on the Clair Field, West of the Shetlands.
Next destination: Sullom Voe Oil Terminal, Scotland.
ETA: Thursday 11th August 2005.
Distance to go: 48 nmiles to from this worksite.
Distance sailed from Immingham and Crew change : Not Available due to various courses and manoeuvring.
Total distance sailed : Not Known.

Current weather: Cloudy Fine and Clear. High Overcast.
Sea State: Moderate to Rough Sea and Swell.
Wind : 359° at 30 knots.
Barometric pressure: 1019.7 mmHg
Air temperature: 12.6°C
Sea temperature:11.2°C

Click to See Chart view of the Shackleton in today’s position.


‘Wake up Campers, and don’t forget your booties because it’s cold out there today’.

‘It’s cold out there everyday …’ *

… and that’s how it feels here on the RRS Ernest Shackleton presently.

I got up at 0530 with the alarm as always, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, dashed into my uniform and up onto the bridge. I bumped into someone on the stairs on the way to work and thus started yet another day in the North Atlantic here on the Shackleton.

Yesterday was exactly the same. Tomorrow will be the same too. It’s the same for everybody. It’s GROUNDHOG DAY !

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it’s all about a guy who finds himself trapped in the very same day, everyday. He wakes up and it’s February 02nd everyday and he’s in the same place, in the same town, in the same routine, in the same day. So if this webpage this weeks sounds a little like last week’s webpage, then please forgive us, but with Groundhog Day, it’s a case of the same ol’ things over and over and over again. Just look at Wavey Davey’s joke selection. We’ve been having the same jokes over and over and over again, so nothing new there ! haha.

Actually, to be truthful, this week started out totally different from any other day of the week, alongside in Lerwick, the Shetlands.

Click to Enlarge the Shackleton hidden behind the ‘Research’.

Our neighbour that day was the Shetland’s registered ‘Research’, which was a mightily impressive vessel indeed. I managed to catch a photograph of her alongside ourselves, and a twee ‘mini Shackleton’ in the harbour. The Research had nice lines and is a pelagic fishing vessel. But we didn’t stay alongside very long. We stayed for only 12 hours. We demobilized one project and welded, cabled, and tested the next project onboard. For the engineers, it was a chance to get a suck of bunkers(**), and then we departed at 2300 as the dark descended over the small-town hamlet of Lerwick. We departed the Shetlands and the North Sea for work this week in the North Atlantic ‘around the corner’.

*(excerpt from the Harold Ramis movie ‘Groundhog Day’ starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell).

** ‘Bunkers’ – Compartments in which coal is carried. Name is also given to the fuel (oil or coal) used for a ship’s propelling and auxiliary machinery. (Definition from Layton’s Dictionary of Nautical Words and Terms).


Davey went to a restaurant recently, to dine.

He did ask if they did ‘takeaways’, but was not impressed when they said ‘ Sure, ‘

’20 from 25 is 5 !’

But he stayed and at the end of the meal he requested a coffee, but without milk.

‘I’m sorry Sir’, said his waiter.

‘We’re all out of Milk. Would you like it without Cream or without Whitener instead ?’.

Arghhh, Deja Vous ? I’m sure I have heard that many times before. Groundhog Day !

On Location.

But once on location, we then started the routine and Groundhog Day commenced. And what do we do for a respite from the monotony? A famous ‘stomper’ of the Shackleton decks is John Harper, Chief Officer. However, Ch.Officer, no more. John is worthy of a mention because only this week we discovered that he has been successful in his application to be the next BAS Master at the retirement of Capt.Chris Elliot who is currently on the RRS.James Clark Ross. Heartfelt congratulations go out to John on his promotion announcement and he will take up the reins of power in the Spring. Capt John was kind enough to grace us with an interview during a temporary promotion to Captain back in 2001, and you can still see what he has to say at the following link. Please don’t miss this link as the interview is vastly amusing and well worth investigating :-

Another promotion in the ranks is our very own Chief Officer Antonio, who is likewise being advanced to the rank of Master. Antonio will be leaving us this season to transfer over to our fellow N.E.R.C vessel the RRS.Discovery where he too will be adding an additional stripe to his uniform epaulettes. Congratulations also to Antonio on his promotion, and what conclusions can we draw from these appointments ? Since both these gentlemen live in Spain, speak Spanish and are married to Spanish-speaking ladies, I suggest that if you want to advance in the Royal Research Merchant Marine, it’s time to consider a change of address, and reach for the Hodder and Stoughton ‘Teach Yourself Series’ complete course of Spanish for Beginners !

‘Hola, senõr Capitano. ¿Cómo Estás’

Click to enlarge an image of the Studious Senõr Antonio on the Bridge.

The Schiehallion Field.

Click on the image to enlarge the already large Schiehallion FPSO.

At the risk of repeating the sterling report from Purser Dave Bailey on the other crew, the Shackleton has made a return visit to the Schiehallion Field and has been working up-close and personal with the Floating Storage and Production Platform. Here is a picture of the beast, but we got a lot closer. However, if I took pictures closer to the vessel, my ‘wide angle lens’ still wouldn’t get the ‘whole picture’. So large is this floating platform. In all respects the Schiehallion is like every other offshore platform but is designed to operate in greater depths than is possible for a fixed installation. (see definitions of the various types of rigs from this Webpage ).

The crew onboard work a regular 2 or 3 week rotation and fly back and forth to Scotland via helicopter. We saw one such helicopter approach for a landing on the helideck on Thursday and happened to have the camera to hand for the landing.

Final approach and landing on the Schiehallion .

In comparison, the Shackleton hasn’t had a single helicopter visit this summer, for the GPC crew. We had intended to accept an incoming flight on Thursday 11th this month, but that has been replaced by a port call at Sullom Voe in the Shetlands. The Clair 22’’ pipeline that we will survey from the West of Sheltands, brings us directly to Sullom Voe and so the helicopter was cancelled in favour of the opportune port call.

At least we can see a change of routine in our near future and an end to that monotonous Ground Hog Day !

But, for such an uneventful week devoid of newsworthy items, two promotions and no incidents is actually pretty good. There is a very pro-active culture of Safety onboard the Vessel as both Client and Ship’s Personnel strive for that ultimate ‘no accidents’, ‘no incidents’ regime. We have all had our Safety awareness brief this week with the BP/Stolt Rep onboard, and are actively encouraged to report anything that might seem unsafe or questionable during the course of our normal workday. It’s reassuring to know that no circumstance is too small or unimportant not to deserve close scrutiny in an attempt to keep us all working and working safely.

Forthcoming Events: Complete work here on the Clair Field then head for Sullom Voe for a Client Crewchange on Thursday 11th August.

Contributors this week: Thanks to Capt’s Antonio and John too, for his retrospective interview.

North Sea Diary No.8 should be written on Sunday 13th August for publication on Monday 14th August, operations permitting.

Stevie B

Radio Officer.