Our site is using cookies to record anonymous visitor statistics and enhance your user experience. OK |  Find out more

Skip navigation

21 Aug - Hello to helos

Date: Sunday 21 August 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT+1): 58°46' North, 001°34' East -
Next destination: Peterhead, Scotland
ETA: Thursday 23 August, 2005
Distance to go: unknown at this time
Distance sailed from Immingham and Crew change : Not Available due to various courses and manoeuvering.
Total distance sailed: Not known.

Current weather: Fine and clear. Patches of cloud against a blue sky
Wind: 120°, 08 kts
Sea state: Calm with slight swell
Barometric pressure: 1019.3 mmHg
Air temperature: 15.9°C
Sea temperature: 13.4°C

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

Summer arrived today with the departure of that big yellow band of cloud ! The Shackleton at last found blue skies and beautiful weather.


‘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 … Whoops, sorry, this is the WRONG Webpage ! That was THE OTHER WEEK! See what I mean about GROUNDHOG DAY.  And this week has been pretty much the same thing…

This Week, the Ernest Shackleton has continued in the North Sea with a full program of  pipeline surveys and going nowhere fast ! The time, on the other hand is marching ever onward towards another port call and the ultimate end of the North Sea charter period in September.  Here we are another week later and it seems like only yesterday since the last webpage was written ?  But there were a couple of highlights to the week to distinguish it from any other, for example, the first helicopter of the season for the GPChapman team.

They’re Like Buses …

… you wait and wait and wait, and then all of a sudden, three come all at once.

After working all season without a sniff of a ‘paraffin budgie’, this week has seen 3 helicopters arrive on the ZDLS1 Helideck in quick succession.  Our first on Wednesday 17th, our second on Friday 19th, and another on Saturday 20th.  All of this despite having an initial port-call date of Saturday 20th which has now slipped back to the 23rd. But in the North Sea Industry, a delayed crew change of 2 or 3 days is not seen in the same light as observed by the Officers and Crew of the British Antarctic Survey.  For BAS, the crew are quite flexible to having the crewchange anywhere within a 7 day period of the expected date.  Last crew-change, the GPC Crew disembarked in Stanley, Falklands and waited around for a whole 5 days before they could fly home for their leave.  But with a period of leave that spans up to 4 months, the ‘lost’5 days can be viewed very ‘philosophically’. However, in the North Sea where they work 2 weeks onboard and 2 weeks off, a 2 or 3 day delay in crewchange can be a rather sizeable slice of leave to lose.  Therefore, when the date to ‘get off’ arrived, helicopters were arranged accordingly and ‘heli ops’ occurred on the Ernest Shackleton.

Super Puma (MkII) G-TIGC lands on deck Super Puma (MkII) G-TIGC lands on deck Super Puma (MkII) G-TIGC lands on deck

The first arrival on the Helicopter Deck.  Super Puma (MkII) G-TIGC lands on deck, and is attended by HLO Gatti (Helicopter Landing Officer).

Having spent many years on the Offshore Gas and Oil Rigs and travelled many times in many various versions of helicopters, there is a tendency to become very blasť about these interesting vehicles.  However when you see the approach of the ‘budgie’ and hear the ‘Wokka Wokka’ of the rotors as they beat the air, you cannot help but be impressed by the power and grace of this marvellous invention of mankind.  For the guys getting off – they are a Godsend !


Davey’s Jokes this week need no introduction.

A Burial ? Maybe.  But no introduction !!!

A Man came up to Wavey as he stood there at the bar in a very rough-looking club

‘You’re a stranger here’,.. he said.

‘How do you know that’ ? said Davey.

‘You’ve taken your hand off your glass, he replied ?

Then there was the farmer who made his Chickens drink lots of whiskey.

He was hoping they would lay Scotch Eggs ?

And ‘Owing to the Drought’ announced a Pub Sign ‘All our beer will be served at full strength’ !

Wavey readily admits that his humour is undergoing the strain of working hard in the North Sea !  We look forward to a return to the halcyon days when he has nothing to do but maintain a bridge watch, looking out of the bridge windows, and hatching new material !  Roll on.

As anticipated, Vreni, Wavey Davey, our resident researcher has been busy and has come up with a definitive reply to the question posed last week, - ‘how did pilots and pilotage come about in history ?’

A Short History of Pilotage in the UK

Early pilots were known as Lodesman or Lotesman (German word linked to Lodestone the early compass). The name ‘Pilot’ derives from the Dutch ‘Pijl’ = vertically straight and ‘Leod’ = plumb lead used for measuring depth.

Pilots came into being in the earliest times of maritime trade principally to provide ships with safe passage into harbours or through dangerous waters. As a consequence pilots were usually experienced mariners with particular knowledge of the local waters where they plied their trade.

The Laws of Oleron (the underlying laws forming the basis of mariners law) exacted severe penalties on any pilot who lost a ship in his care. The crew who were free of any penalty beheaded him at the windlass. In England in the 13th century a pilot could be hanged for losing a ship.

In the 16th century Henry VIII appointed Sebastian Cabot as Grand Pilot of England. The Cabots operated out of Bristol and one of the earliest pilots of the area, George Ray; formerly a barge master went with John Cabot on his voyage of discovery in 1497.

During the early 16th century pilotage on the Thames became a problem. A significant number of young inexperienced mariners claiming to be pilots put life and trade at risk. As a result Henry VIII granted a charter to the already existing Trinity House, London to ensure the safe regulation of shipping on the River Thames on 20th May 1514. Prior to that Trinity house had been an Association of Shipmen and Mariners of a semi-religious character and with benevolent objectives.

18th & 19th Century Piloting.

Following the creation of Trinity House of Deptford Strand in 1513, which ultimately became the principal maritime authority in the UK, it took many years before a reasonable amount of authority was gained over Thames pilotage. In other parts of the country developments followed on a local basis.

In Dover the Fellowship of the Dover Ferry Service founded the Court of Loadmanage of the Cinque Ports. There was acute rivalry between them and Trinity House, which was to last 400 years.

Trinity House of Newcastle was formed in 1536 and regulated Pilotage on the Tyne. Trinity House of Kingston-upon-Hull (founded1369) was given a charter in 1541.

Although in possession of a charter it did not automatically command obedience. Some masters would not pay the dues and unlicensed pilots operated although Trinity House could fine them. The records of Trinity House at Hull record many instances of unlicensed piloting during the 18th century where individuals were fined up to £3.33 per occasion.

By 1801 the four major ports of the UK were London, Liverpool, Bristol and Hull. Pilotage control was not officially exercised at Liverpool until 1766 when an Act appointed Commissioners to do so these comprised the Mayor & Council together with Merchants, Mariners and the late Commanders of Vessels. Prior to 1766 pilotage existed and was operated by fishermen and local seamen with special knowledge of the area.

In Bristol, control of pilotage had been vested in the Corporation of Bristol and was delegated to the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol from 1611 onwards. Bristol controlled all pilotage in the greater part of the Bristol Channel. Bristol exercised this power for pilotage into ports of South Wales.

During the 17th century there was a shortage of pilots for the Royal Navy. Samuel Pepys, as Master of Trinity House, wrote a memorandum on the subject. Pilots on RN ships were not members of the Royal Navy nor members of the crew and, therefore, had no standing and were treated very casually by Naval officers and were often not provided with food or accommodation. Problems continued between Trinity House (and other Authorities) and the Royal Navy throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. It was not uncommon for pilots and their apprentices to be impressed into the service. Pilots bringing in homeward bound merchant ships often warned the masters of the presence of press gangs and advised them on ways to avoid them.

Between 1800 and 1914 pilots faced some of the most difficult years any had to face. Steam power and improvements in the safety of ships, frequently iron built and driven by screw propulsion presented new challenges to pilots. The size of ships grew rapidly and they were capable of greater speed and less dependent on tides and wind. In addition ship-owners suggested that pilots were no longer important and suggested reductions in tariffs. They also suggested that vessels towed by tugs did not need pilots.

Modern navigation aids, GPS; Radar etc and pilotage exemption certificates have reduced the need for pilots in some ports.


Records of the Corporation of Trinity House;

Sea and River Pilots. Nancy Martin,

Encarta Encyclopaedia. Alfred Collins, River and Harbour Pilotage in the UK.




Wavey. 16-08-2005.

Back on the North Sea Oil and Gasfields, the Shackleton started the week up at the Northern-most of the UK platforms, the Magnus.  Oftentimes working within the protective 500 meter exclusion zone of the platform, I was fortunate enough to get some photographs at close proximity which display the sheer magnitude of the beasts.  They are very large indeed and tower over the little Shackleton below.

Magnus Platform Magnus Platform

This photo shows how ‘spindly’ are the supporting legs that carry the structure that towers above. At the Magnus, these legs will extend right down to the seabed floor some 130 meters below. The Magnus is a ‘fixed installation’ and therefore as the Shackleton rises up and down with the tide and the swell, the Magnus remains stationary in comparison.  The water level can easily be monitored as it breaks against the legs of the platform and recedes to uncover the abundance of marine growth and weed that clings just under the waterline.

This is a good point to re-introduce you to the underwater view of the ROV work as depicted by onboard Artist Barry Pearson from the 2001 North Sea Period.  Barry did some really good representations of what it must look like down there. In the picture below, we see the ROV inspecting the underwater manifold in the gloom of the dark North Sea Depths.

Drawing by Barry Pearson Drawing by Barry Pearson

Forthcoming Events: Complete the present transit and inspection of the 24’’ Bruce to Forties Pipeline, and then head for another crewchange in Peterhead, Scotland.  Further helicopter operations are expected during the next week and an ongoing program of ROV survey continuing down towards the Southern North Sea. STOP PRESS . The Peterhead Call has just been postponed till … ?   We are waiting to discover if we will be going shoreside during the next week.  Check in next week for details.

Contributors this week: Thanks indeed are extended to Wavey Davey for his research into the subject of nautical pilots.

North Sea Diary No.10 should be written on Sunday 28th August for publication on Monday 29th August, operations permitting.

Stevie B
Radio Officer