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June 17 - Antarctica is a distant memory

Date: Sunday 17th June 2007

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 60°41.5 North, 002°32.7 West. Alongside the Clair Platform.
Next destination: Lerwick, Shetland Islands.
ETA: Wednesday 20th June 2007.
Distance to go: 88.5 nmiles.
Distance This North Sea Season: 1312.0 nmiles since Immingham..

Current weather: Overcast, and Blustery with Showers.
Sea State: Moderate Seas, Moderate Swell
Wind: NorthEasterly, 22 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1004.5 Hpa
Air temperature: +10.5°C
Sea temperature: +10.6°C

Current Position
Current Position

Up to date position information is available courtesy of �sailwx/info� taken from our Metrological Observations..


For the Capt. Harper crew, Antarctica seems like a long way away and a long time ago. In reality, the crew departed the Falkland Islands on March 13th for only 12 weeks vacation before rejoining the vessel in Lerwick, Scotland on the 8th May. That is where we all clambered up the Gangway to the familiar sight of the big, red Shackleton alongside the key.

However, the North Sea has caused quite a change to the routine, and not only our 4 month on / 4 month off rotations. To begin with, the Capt Marshall team brought the ship back from the Falklands and completed the first month of the North Sea Charter Period ( as described by Pat in the previous Web Diary - thanks Pat !). Now the two teams will conduct a 1 month on / 1 month off period whilst the vessel remains on Charter to ACERGY for the summer months. That completed, the Capt Harper crew will take the ship South once more and we will all revert back to the 4 month tour of duty/leave accordingly.

But that is all very well on paper. However in practice, Capt Marshall's crew returned to the UK to discover that due to the requirement of a North Sea Survival Ticket, some of his crew were not yet certified for work amongst the Oil Rigs and Gas Platform offshore. Therefore some of the JH Crew rejoined early - effectively swapping crews - to allow the JBM Crew members the opportunity to complete their training and join us in Lerwick for the next rotation onboard. Then there is a size limitation too. The RRS Ernest Shackleton may look impressive and large compared to the solitary penguin sat on an ice floe, but to a North Sea company trying to find beds for the plethora of disciplines required offshore, the poor Shackleton is no Titanic. !

Shackleton and Friend
Shackleton and Friend

Therefore some of our colleagues are being seconded to our Sistership the RRS James Clark Ross for the Arctic Summer Season, and therefore you will not be seeing anything of 'Ralphs Journals' this summer. But a big 'Hello' to 3rd mate Ralph from his pals on the Shack'.

Likewise, you'll all be pleased to hear the Wavey Davey Wit Spot will not return until Autumn ! So you see, it's not all bad news !



For most of the crew, the return to work started on the Tuesday 5th with flights from the 4 corners of Britain to Aberdeen Airport and thence to the Kings Hall at the University of Aberdeen. This accommodation proved to be second-to-none and all the crew were well-pleased with their overnight in Aberdeen. The 'tail-enders' and those residents of nearby Scotland then joined the multitude for the noon flight onwards from Aberdeen Airport up to Sumbrugh Airport in the Shetland Islands. This would be a real holiday were it not for the fact that we were dashing to the ship to complete speedy handovers with the off-going crew and prepare the vessel for a 2300 hours departure back to sea.

As always, it was nice to see our opposite numbers ( not as nice as it was for our opposite numbers to see US ! ). Handovers ensued and the JBM crew all departed the ship by tea-time leaving us all to start unpacking our suitcases. ( well, suitcase - singular ). This month we were all travelling light as we have only 4 weeks worth of stuff to bring and not 4 months. Books, DVD's, Clothing, Games, are all the trappings of home that make it 'homely' for us when onboard the Shackleton. There was one quandary. Whether to break out all our trappings from the 'cages' - the onboard storage - or whether it would not be worth-while for only 4 weeks ?

2300 hours saw the RRS Ernest Shackleton under pilotage and making headway out of Lerwick harbour and bound for the Bruce Oil Rig in the Northern North Sea Oil Fields.

That was over a week ago. A swift handover in the space of a few hours is not always enough time to get to grips with the vessel and all that had happened in the previous 3 months. The next days were spent reading handover notes, reviewing emails and re-acquainting ourselves with the paperwork and equipment within our domains. I was particularly busy and didn't find the time to publish a web diary last week, so apologies for that.


Then it was directly back to work for the crew and the ship and after a slow start for the first month, I am happy to report that since rejoining last week, the vessel has not stopped working and the Charter Period work list is progressing very nicely. To date we have visited the Bruce, the North West Hutton, the Magnus and the Clair Platforms with their associated workloads.

Legs of the North West Hutton
Legs of the North West Hutton

Top of the North West Hutton
Top of the North West Hutton

We have 3 ROV's ( Remote Operated Vehicles ) onboard and they have been steadily inspecting the legs, risers and superstructures of all these installations to ensure nothing is amiss. (corrosion, leaks, fractures ?). I am happy to report that the work has progressed most uneventfully and in this business, having a 'boring time' is Good News. Excitement and Adventures are definitely not to be desired when you are only 10 meters off a towering lump of metal in the middle of the North Sea.

A point of interest to note about the North West Hutton pictured above is that it is presently 'unmanned'. This once productive platform was receiving a pre-decommissioning survey prior to the Welders with 'Gas Axes' coming along to reduce it to so much scrap. At the time of photography, no-one and nothing was present on the rig apart from the occasional seagull and maybe the odd bit of tumbleweed blowing down the corridors and alleyways !!?


The weather meanwhile has been positively balmy and we haven't been suffering from the inclement storms reported across England this week. Judging from the photos above, calm seas and blue skies have been a normal. Over this last weekend whilst alongside the Magnus platform the weather threatened to get stormy, but it remained smooth enough for us to maintain our work schedule.

And so, that is where you find us now. At work and alongside another platform (this time on the Western Side of the Shetland Islands).


There was one slight break from the program of diving with the ROV's whilst sitting still on Dynamic Positioning (DP System). We had the first helicopter of the season for the JH Team on Friday afternoon. 3 persons climbing onboard the helicopter bound for Scatsca in the Shetland Islands, and one disembarked to be put directly to work with the Surveyors onboard.

Medic and Amateur Paparattzi, Barbara Guersen, was kind enough to wield the camera for the arrival of Bristows Helicopter G-TIGV and take some nice shots of the Helideck as seen from the Bridge.

G-TIGV on Deck
G-TIGV on Deck

G-TIGV Departing
G-TIGV Departing

Photos by Barbara.

Forthcoming Events: Complete the workscope at the Clair Platform and then head back into the Northern North Sea. En Route there is a planned visit to Lerwick, Shetlands to complete a Charterer's crewchange. This is envisaged to be only a swift visit lasting 4 hours or so on Wednesday 20th.

Contributions This Week: Thanks to Barbara for the Helicopter Photos.

North Sea Diary No.2 will be produced on Sunday 24th for publication on Monday 25th - operations permitting.

Stevie B
Radio Officer