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

Skip navigation

11 Sep - Busy, Busy, Busy...

Date: Sunday 11th September 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT +1): 57°18' North 001°52' East.
Next destination: Grimsby, Humberside.
ETA: Monday 19th September 2005 – Approximately 0700am alongside.
Distance to go:  Not known at this time.
Distance sailed from Immingham and Crew Change :  Not Available due to various courses and manoeuvring.
Total distance sailed : Not Known.

Current weather: Fine and Clear.  High Cloud and Blue Skies.
Sea State:   Slight Sea with Moderate Swell.
Wind :Light Airs.
Barometric pressure: 1015.5 mmHg
Air temperature: 15.6°C
Sea temperature:13.8°C

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

The Ernest Shackleton has been covered with cloud again this week, but during the last days, we have been visible on the Satellite images with no cloud obscuring us above.  Of course that means clear, blues skies and an amount of sunshine.  Meanwhile, the weather predominantly observed in Bergen has been cloud, cloud and more cloud, which invariably means light rain or drizzle in that Norwegian City.

Satellite Images courtesy of Dartcom® Weather Satellite systems and the Norwegian Weather Forecast by that Famous Norwegian Weather Forecaster Sven Yor Smileling.




  Busy busy busy.  Click to enlarge the Shackleton working.

In my own defence, the disclaimer at the bottom of the weekly webpages says ‘operations permitting’.  Well, they didn’t permit a page last week.  And why ?  The webeditor was busy out on the Helicopter Deck tracing a  particularly tricky Earth fault and trying to get through the month’s list of planned maintenance before the onset of the refit period starting from the 20th September.  Like everyone on the Shackleton this week, we are looking towards the end of the North Sea Charter Period and going into next phase of operations – the annual refit.  Because it is envisaged to be a busy time in the Portsmouth Dockyard, as much work as possible is being prepared, finished, or planned in preparation for our arrival there on the 22nd


Apart from trying to get ahead in the workscope, things this week have been ‘firming up’ for the month ahead.  Initially due to be released from the Charter period on September 14th, we have now arranged to work through until the 19th and instead of a demobilization at Immingham or one of the Scottish Ports, we have confirmed that it is to be an overnight stay in Grimsby on the Humber. 


But I am racing ahead again and forgetting to report what we have accomplished in the last 2 weeks.


We have completed the spot surveys on the Pipelines of the Southern North Sea Dutch Sector and departed back to the Northern area of the British Sector.  We departed the Valdemar/Tyra Field last week on Monday 5th and headed for a quick Stolt crewchange in Peterhead, Scotland.  On route we had a job of work to do on the ATP Tors site off the Humberside coast, but that was only for a matter of hours before we resumed passage and arrived in Peterhead on Wednesday 07th.  The port call lasted only 5 hours – time enough to exchange some personnel and survey equipment – and then we were underway again.   On departing the harbour, we had an Emergency Fire and Boat Drill to include those new-joiners and then full away on Passage for our present location – the Armada Field (see the satellite image above for position).

Goodbye Chief Officer Gatti – Hello Captain Gatti.


As mentioned in the Diary No.7 ( http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/Living_and_Working/Diaries/RRS_Ernest_Shackleton/northsea2005/07/index.html) Antonio, our Chief of Officer’s has been promoted to the new Master of the RRS Discovery.

 Click on Images

As such, Peterhead was his Port of Disembarkation and he was able to jet off to his home in Spain for a little vacation before he takes up his next post in October.  Agneiszka – our Stolt Administrator – was at hand to snap him leaving at the bottom of the gangway but not before having a farewell piccie taken on the Shackleton Bridge.  Unfortunately, due to the hurried call, the continuing operations and the fact that Antonio was busy clearing out of his cabin for the next guy, there was no opportunity to give him a ‘good send off’ !  But Antonio is intending to visit us in the Portsmouth refit to collect the last of his chattels and we will be able to show our appreciation for his work and companionship at that time. Bon Voyage, Captain Gatti, and meanwhile Ch.Officer Alan Newman has stepped up to take over his duties on the Shackleton.

Photographes by Agneiszka (except when she is standing in front of the lens, of course ?).



A bumper issue of Wavey Davey’s Zannyness !


Davey asked me recently ‘ What would you rather be or a wasp ???’   eh ???


‘Knock, Knock’

‘Who’s there ?’

‘Interruptin’ Sheep…’

‘Interuptin Sh …. ‘


(I’m not sure that last one translates well to the written word, but it had me in stitches when Davey sprung it on me).


Davey says ‘ Did you hear of the Female Trainee Pilot who was being interviewed by her instructor ?’

He said ‘ Tell me what would you do if you found yourself in a shallow dive ?’

‘I’d drink up quickly’ she said ‘ .. and leave !’


Davey travelled lately in an aeroplane so old, it still had an outside toilet ?


Is it any wonder why Davey was thrown out of the ‘Serious Crime Squad’ ???  With jokes like this ?

Weather-wise, the summer has truly come to the North Sea.  The Shackleton has experience lots of sunshine and clear skies, and where would the typical English summer be without that entirely famous .. FOG ?  This shot was taken during a reposition of the vessel from the Valdemar Field back to Peterhead.  It is not often that we can barely make out even as far as our Helideck on the aft, but this particular day was a real ‘pea souper’.  The fog stayed with us all of Tuesday 6th until well into the evening shift.

  Click on Image to try to see through the murk…

But despite the restricted visibility that may have proven difficult to the sailors of yore, we are fully equipped with a suite of radars and navigational aids that allow us to make progress through the worst of weathers, but can the same be said for our winged friends, the ones with the feathers ???



To any of you who have sat in Heathrow Airport with the prospect of a longhaul flight ahead of you, or conversely, anxious to return home after a lengthy period of travel away, how wonderful to hear those words which restrict movement and add to the queues at the Airport coffee counter ?  But for our unexpected fleet of aeronautical visitors this week, they didn’t seem to be particularly perturbed by the weather.  Rather, they seemed quite content to just ‘sit it out’ and wait for the better weather to return.  But even then, there seemed little inducement to get them to budge !


Click on all Images to View our Feathered Friends Taking a Well-earned Rest.

   Click on images to enlarge.

Birds on the Focs’le, Birds on the Helideck, Birds on the Foremast, and Birds on the Aerials.

You see, the problem was that once the sunshine returned and we anticipated the flocks buzzing off, they were quite content to continue sitting around the rails and superstructure of the vessel.  ‘Not so much of a problem’, you might think, apart from the plethora of ‘little deposits’ that the flocks altogether left behind, but on the contrary, we found that their presence was impinging upon our North Sea Operations.


Whilst on DP (Dynamic Positioning), the vessel gets it’s positional information from the Global Positioning System of satellites all whizzing around in space.  It’s a great system that can pin-point your location down to within 1 metre across the surface of the planet.  The equipment ‘sees’ these satellites via little ‘mushrooms’ mounted at the very top of the highest point on the ship.  These GPS antennas however, have a great secondary purpose… namely a roost for passing Seagulls.  Unfortunately, in this multi-million dollar, highly technical, interstellar system, there is no provision for getting around the problem of a fat seagull sat on the GPS antenna.  Whilst radio waves will ‘pass’ through many materials, a bunch of seagulls clustered on top of the antenna has a tendency to ‘block’ those incoming signals from space, the result of which is a pin-point accuracy of many metres ?  So how to resolve the problem !???

With our vessel hovering over an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) below and trying to follow the track of a submarine pipeline on the sea bed, the concept of wandering away a few metres either side is not to be cherished.  Therefore – the birds had to go !!!

No longer are firearms carried onboard British Vessels and even if they were, we would not be so unkind as to shoot any of the Seagulls !  Remember the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and the Albatross ?? (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

So another remedy had to be devised.   ENTER WAVEY DAVEY and his patented Bird Scarer !!!  As you can see from the photograph below, it comprised of a very long pole and lots of ‘silvery bits’ attached at the end.  Waved around in true ‘Wavey Fashion’ it was designed to have the desired effect.  What actually resulted was an audience of mildly amused Seagulls, and some equally incredulous Seafarers, watching Wavey wafting the thing around like a madman !  It was about the wittiest thing he’s come out with in a long while !  hahahaa

  Click on Davey to Enlarge Ye Olde Bird Scarer of Ol’ London Town ?!!!

Hand held compressed air horns, even the ship’s foghorn failed to have the relevant effect and in the end, it took the Radio Officer and Administrator to climb aloft in the Conning tower and simply clap and shout at the birds above.  Eventually they flew.  Rather from boredom than being frightened I suspect.  I think they got fed up with people gesticulating at them and decided a freshly-caught fish would hold more amusement.


Apart from the Seagulls, the Shackleton was also visited by a Hawk of some description this week.  He hung around for a number of days roosting on the cranes, on the decks and on the ROV Winch too, but luckily, Wavey Davey was not called upon for his services as a Bird Scarer.  There is no further sign of our bird of prey today, but he is probably living off small birds that alight around and about the rigs and installations here in the North Sea.  Sorry, but I failed entirely to capture our falcon friend on fotograph this week.   So apologies to those ornithologists amongst our readership, who have been left totally unsatisfied as to the size, type and age of our visiting friend.

Meat for the Birds, and Salad for the Troops.


While we tried to tempt the Falcon with a nice piece of fresh meat, the personnel onboard are desperately trying to avoid all the good stuff as we all turn our eyes in despair to our ever-increasing waistlines.  Is it any surprise.  Here is just a small percentage of what’s on offer every meal in the Messroom onboard our little ship.  We have 4 mealtimes every day catering for the change-of-shift as we maintain a 24hour work schedule and for the more adventurous  ( or shall we say weaker-willed ) of us, we can actually attend all 4 of them if the inclination takes our fancy.  Speaking of which… it’s Sunday Lunchtime, and it’s getting close to Mealtime.

  Bon Appetite.  Click on the Table to Display the Dishes. 



As the survey continues beneath us, the everyday business of work, maintenance, eating, sleeping, drinking tea, continues in the usual manner.  Another aspect of ship-bourn life is Training.  We chose a particularly lovely evening for the ‘night shift’ to take the FRC (Fast Rescue Craft) out for a run to spread it’s wings, get some water under it’s keel, and give the crew some Familiarisation Training.  Although not strictly ‘crew’, Administrator Agnieszka was invited and happily accepted the offer to get dressed up as a Michellin Man and go for a ‘jolly’ in the little boat and even managed to take the helm at one point.



  1. Jimbo Baker suited up and ready for action – complete with ‘Terminator Sun Shades’.
  2. Boat launch with Mike Golding at the Helm and passenger Agnieszka Rakowska
  3. Off goes Ernest Shackleton II, ‘the mini version’
  4. Crew Training.  Agnieska takes the wheel.

Mike Golding – who steps up to 2nd Officer to replace Nav’s Newman – took command of the boat crew that evening.  Along with Mike and ‘Agi’ were A/B Jim Baker and Micky Brown – also on the night shift – who manned the launch and recovery controls back on the Shackleton.


Agnieszka, is a Polish lady and is a popular member of the Stolt Team onboard.  Ever ready with a smile and ‘demands for coffee’ on the bridge, she has worked with Capt.Marshall’s crew at the start of the contract and is here until the end of the Charter Period next week.  Apart from having to wear safety boots that were about 15 sizes too large for her, I believe Agi had a whale of a time on the boat training trip and came back with a camera-full of shots of a lonely Shackleton on a calm evening sea.  Thanks to Agi for the photo of the Shackleton at work, featured at the top of this page.


And Finally …

  As the sun sets into the West, we say Goodbye to yet another week on the Shackleton and wish you pleasant days till we return next week … ‘Operations Permitting’ !

Forthcoming Events:  Complete a last week of Pipeline and Seabed Survey for Stolt before returning to the UK for Demobilization.  Highlights of the forthcoming week will be the proposed helicopter operations mid-week and more cakes emanating from Rab, the nightshift cook, who is tempting us daily with all things nice and ‘sticky ‘ !

Contributors this week: Thanks to all the budding photographers who have allowed me to purloin their efforts.  Agnieszka, Maarten, and John the DPO.

North Sea Diary No.12 should be written on Sunday 18th September for publication on Monday 19th September, operations permitting.


Stevie B

Radio Officer.