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August 19 - In the North Sea

Date: Sunday 19th August 2007 

Position @ 1200 Local (GMT): 57°06.6 North, 002°50.8 East.  Alongside the Ula Platform. Norwegian Sector
Next destination:  Stavanger, Norway
ETA: Wednesday 29th August 2007.
Distance to go: 175.1 nmiles.
Distance This North Sea Season. :  Undetermined.

Current weather: Overcast, Miserable, Raining and Dark.
Sea State: Moderate Seas, Long Swell
Wind :  Easterly, 20 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1006.3 Hpa
Air temperature:   +15.4°C
Sea temperature:  +14.8°C

Shackleton Position Click to enlarge

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

Hello Again from the North Sea !


 Alongside the Valhall Platform and about to depart for Scotland Alongside the Valhall Platform and about to depart for Scotland.

Last week you left us floating alongside the Valhall Platform in the North Sea with a proposed voyage to Tananger, near Stavanger in Norway, in order to effect a Crew Change.  

This week you find us floating alongside the Ula Platform in the North Sea having had our proposed voyage to Tananger changed to Aberdeen, which is nowhere near Stavanger in Norway !!!

It's a very fluid schedule when you are working the North Sea Charter Period.  But we are very flexible on the RRS Ernest Shackleton.

 View from the bridgeThe view from the Bridge.  Pretty Close.

We required some parts for one of the ROV's which were more-readily available on the UK side of the water, and so last minute arrangements were made for the Acergy crew change to take place in Scotland.  We completed a phase of work at the Valhall platform, recovered our 'references' (Light Taut Wire and beacons) and with the ROV's safely back onboard, we set sail for Aberdeen on Tuesday (14th) lunchtime.  

However, we did not go directly to Scotland, but went via the ULA field in order to do a 3 hour task on a sub-sea structure before proceeding onwards.  It only delayed our arrival in Aberdeen by an hour or two and so we were securely tied up alongside at Clipper Quay by Wednesday Afternoon on the 15th August.


The visit to the port of Aberdeen was only a short affair.  We were due alongside for about 12 hours, but as it transpired, the time alongside extended until late on the following afternoon.  Fitting those spares to the ROV's and then having to 'wet test' them kept us alongside until a 1900 hour sailing on Thursday.  The 'wet test' is where the newly serviced ROV is lowered over the Starboard side to ensure that all is well and no water has got into the systems.  The time to discover any faults would be alongside rather than 18 hours away on the Oil fields !

  Port side toThe RRS Ernest Shackleton port-side to !

That is why the vessel was 'port side to' while we were tied up.  Because of the position of our main crane, we usually favour the Starboard side at the Quay.  We tied up Starboard side to initially to allow the Crane to load provisions and stores for the vessel and then the Shackleton performed a pirouette to allow the Wet Test to take place when the ROV's were ready.

For the Crew, the overnight call in Aberdeen offered the un-expected chance to go ashore at the end of the working day and have a sociable night of shopping, a well-appreciated drink at the pub, or (in my case) an evening viewing of a latest release at the Cinema.  Haircuts were had.  Cellular phonecards were topped up.  And toiletries and provision were purchased from the local shops.

The port at Aberdeen is really local to the centre of the City and so getting to and from the town was a matter of a few minutes walk.  A really good place for a port call.

But 24 hours in port soon passes and the Master ensured everybody was aboard before he took the vessel out through the breakwaters and back to sea on the Thursday for an overnight steam to the Ula Oil Field, again in the Norwegian Sector.


Something worth mentioning on the return to the Oil fields, was our weekly Emergency Fire and Lifeboat Drills.  I make no apology for the ensuing photograph of the participants during the drill, because it was DARK.  In point of fact,... it was the middle of the night !

no view at all  Click on Image to See No Image Whatsoever !!

Usually, the crew will conduct the weekly drills during the daytime when everybody in on-shift and when there is the minimum of disruption to the crew's sleep pattern.  However, you must remember that during the current phase of operations for the RRS Ernest Shackleton, we operate 24 hours a day.  So at any given hour of the clock, it is someone's day time and conversely, someone's night time.  Therefore it was deemed 'fair' to give the poor chaps on the 18.00pm-06.00am shift the opportunity to have an Emergency drill during the middle of their 'day' !

At 03.00am the bells sounded and a lot of bleary-faced day-shift workers all blundered their way to their Muster stations for yet another drill.   This is not as sadistic as it may sound, because most workers would be up in just 2 hours more at 05.00am to start their shifts at 06.00 and anyway, who says that in the event of a REAL EMERGENCY, it would occur between the hours of 9 till 5, Mondays to Fridays and no chance of an incident during the Weekend ???

The drill went well and as smooth as clockwork with the exception of the weather.  The wind and waves were increasing as an area of Low Pressure descended into our area and therefore the weather was too unfavourable to take to the lifeboats as we usually do.  Verbal instructions were given instead, and once everyone had been briefed, it was back to bed (or to work) accordingly.

 Back at work with friends all around.

And the weather became inclement.  Wind, Rain, Squalls, Plagues of Locusts ....   well, maybe not the plague of locusts !

Since our return last Friday, we have just been working away alongside the ULA Oil Platform.  We do not have a great deal of contact with our Offshore Colleagues up there, except the morning calls to confirm Permits to Work and Permissions from the OIM (Offshore Installation Manager).  And only the brief of pleasantries pass between the other vessels in the area.  And what a collection we are having this weekend.  Other ships of all shapes and sizes hove over the horizon, visit the rig, complete their worktasks and then disappear whence they had come from.    There is an exception in the Edda Fjord which is equally doing ROV work on location here at the ULA and I had the opportunity to shoot some photographs of her in operation under the legs of the rig.  Notice that just as she looks close to the installation, we look equally close to those on the Edda who are peering in the direction of the Shackleton.

 Edda Fjord ROV support shipThe Edda Fjord ROV support ship.

  Unusual ViewAn unusual aspect of the Edda taken from the Yellow Room Window.  It shows how closely the vessels work in close proximity to the Oil Platform.

We are also expecting to see our fellow ship, the Reibers 'Polar Bjorn' when she comes on location to join us for a workscope here after the weekend.  The Bjorn will look like our twin sister when she comes on location and I hope to capture some photographs for next weeks webpage.

Which is which?

The Shackleton and the Bjorn, - but which is which is which ???

Stern on

Click to Enlarge the Comparisons.


We are oftentimes blessed to work with a whole variety of colleagues in the North Sea and Antarctica.  In Antarctica it is the Scientists and Support Staff that we take in and out each season.  These are 'the FID's'.

But in the North Sea, it's ROV pilots, ROV techs, Company men, Survey Team, Dynamic Positioning Operators, and these chaps ....

.... North Sea Stewards !

Russel Dusts Click on Images to Enlarge.  Russel up close

May I introduce to you this week's Shackleton Crewmember, Mr Russell Covey, our North Sea Steward.  Russell - like our own Julia Forde (on the opposite crew) - has joined the British Antarctic ship to assist in the extra workload of the Catering Department in the North Sea.  Julia loved it so much that she applied for a full-time position and now joins us annually for journeys to the Penguins.  Have we convinced Russell that he ought to do likewise ?.

Russell has a history ( ... but we won't say anything more about that ! ).  Seriously, Russell comes to us from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary where he has spent many years and many miles going around the world as Steward onboard the Grey ships.  But Mr.Covey has settled in and become 'one of the Family' here on the Shackleton and you cannot move down the corridors without hearing the rustle (no pun intended) of his duster, nor the singing of his vacuum cleaner.  And no nook or cranny is beneath Russell's notice.  I managed to snap him at his work in the yellow room while he wasn't looking !  Luckily, he was sporting a clean duster and his very best smile !!!

Seriously, Russell is a great addition to the Catering Team and although the end of the Charter period is looming large in only 3 weeks, it will be sad to see him depart the ship for some well-earned leave. Let's hope we see more of him and his cheery demeanour on the Shackleton in future.

Russell's hobbies (must) include a little bit of Campanology !   That does not mean to say that he is to be found every morning on the Monkey Island peeling musical sounds out of the ship's bell, but if you have ever caught him at the tea point each day, with a teaspoon in one hand a mug of coffee (slightly sweetened) in the other, he can peel out a cadence as good as any Village Bell Ringer that you have ever heard.

Dingaling-a-ling ... It must be Russell sweetening yet another cup of Coffee !!!

Forthcoming Events: Continue working on with the ROV's on the legs and risers of the ULA Platform for the rest of the week, and then move off to another location just to the South of our present location.  The next Port of Call is scheduled to be Stavanger, which is extremely near to Stavanger in Norway !

Contributions This Week :  Thanks to Russell for appearing in the pages.

North Sea Diary No.5 should be produced on Sunday 26th August - operations permitting. To be Published on Monday 27th.

Stevie B

Radio Officer.