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May 11 - Norwegian North Sea

Date: Sunday 11th May 2008

Position @ 1200 Local (BST+1): 59°34.51 North, 001°55.41 East. Offshore on the Alvheim Field, Norway..
Next destination: Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.
ETA: Wednesday 14th May 2008.
Distance to go: 195.0 nmiles.
Distance Traveled since Immingham this North Sea Season. : 471.9 nmiles.

Current weather: Blue Skies with Scattered Cloud, Sunshine and Breezy..
Sea State: Slight Sea State..
Wind : Northerly, 11 Knots.
Barometric pressure: 1022.1 Hpa
Air temperature: +12.0°C
Sea temperature. +9.2°C

Click to Enlarge.
Click to Enlarge.

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

The Shackleton

The RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived on location in the Norwegian North Sea on Tuesday lunch this week (06th). We have been on the Alvheim field ever since and commenced working with the ROV's immediately we arrived.

Click to see what we saw on arrival
Click to see what we saw on arrival

Not that we KNEW we had actually arrived. Thank goodness for Radar and Global Positioning Systems, because left with the Mark I Eyeball, we certainly would not have been able to tell you that we were on the same location as a rather sizeable FPSO and an accompanying Oil Rig. ? The one aspect of balmy sea conditions and warm temperatures ... is FOG. For the first day of our time on location, we could have been 3 feet away from a bevy of bikini-clad beauties in a liferaft, just waiting to be rescued, and we would never have seen them. But 'hey Presto' the following lunch saw the miraculous appearance of rigs and platforms on the horizon and the Floating Production and Storage of Oil facility very near by.

Click on Image to see what we viewed 24 hours later
Click on Image to see what we viewed 24 hours later

The Alvheim is a new installation which extracts product from the natural wells below and refines and stores it ready for distribution in Norway. This Drillship is held in position by a spider-leg array of anchor chains and among the many things to survey on location, the Shackleton's suite of ROV's have been inspecting the anchor chains too for position and integrity.

The advantage of being on location and into the 'shift system' is that you can fall into a steady routine day in and day out and the time simply slides by. Apart from doing the survey work there is the ongoing maintenance of the vessel and it is not too early to start preparing those 'handover notes' for the end of the month. Yes, for the Capt Harper crew, the end of a tour is in sight as we plan to handover to Capt Marshall's crew sometime at the end of May. The exact dates are still to be determined.

After hours, quite a few of the crew have also fallen into the routine of training in the Gymnasium and feeling very righteous about it too. Attending the exercise bike and the rowing machine whilst we are alongside in port, is always fraught with dangers ! The Restaurants, the Pub, the Cinemas, visitors and friends all vie for attention when you are alongside, yet out here surrounded by water, water and more water it is much easier to get motivated.

Wavey Davey's Weekly Wit Spot

Unfortunately, Wavey Davey's offering this week was so terrible, that I cannot even bring myself to repeat it.

In his own defence, it is nearing the end of the trip, but we'll see if we can entice something printable out of him in time for next week's pages.

Marine Life

We are not the only visitors to the Alvheim field this week. Due to the excellent weather and flat calm seas, you could easily detect the passing wildlife. I was engrossed by the sight of a pair of seagulls bothering a cruising seal as he was trying to enjoy his snack of fish. The seagulls were pretty insistent but he soon saw them off with a stern word and then he continued to swim around between ourselves and the Alvheim FPSO.

I did not get any photographs of the encounter unfortunately, but we did get a request from the FPSO to redirect our webcamera this week. They must apparently have been watching themselves from OUR perspective. To that end, I moved the camera from forward-facing, to face the Starboard side and here are a couple of results as the camera pans left and right every hour. To see actual views from our conning tower, don't forget to log onto http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/images/webcams/rrses/index.php

Click for a panoramic view
Click for a panoramic view

and all lit up at night.
and all lit up at night.

The Weather

and of course, we cannot let a week go by without some comment on the weather ! This week has been exceptional only in the glorious sunshine and temperatures we have been enjoying offshore. The word from the Office is that England has been enjoying much the same. For the best part, the sea has been like glass and it has been one of those weeks when it is a pleasure to be a mariner and work at sea.

Click to see the FPSO in balmy conditions.
Click to see the FPSO in balmy conditions.

A final picture shows the Shackleton in close proximity to another neighbour out here, the Deep Sea Bergen semi-submersible drilling rig.

Click to get closer to the Deep Sea Bergen.
Click to get closer to the Deep Sea Bergen.

The Future Movements of the Shackleton

The work here on the Alvheim field is going very well. So well infact that the proposed 10 to 20 day job is now almost finished and we are already looking towards our return to port after only 8 days at sea. Of course, this is open to change at the shortest of notice. Likewise our forthcoming itinerary.

What I CAN disclose is that our Charterer Hallin, are bidding for a job that is not exactly in the realms of the North Sea. But where ?

I can only say that the future looks interesting for the RRS Ernest Shackleton. Crew-change may now take place at a place other than Aberdeen, Peterhead or even Bergen. I cannot be any more specific just now, but Baklava and Ouzo may well be on the menu as we pass through the disembarkation airport !

If you think I am being devious and evasive, you may be correct. The 'Galley Radio' * is constantly abuzz with rumours and suggestions about what is going to happen to us. It's the biggest form of entertainment on the vessel at ANY time during a voyage. If you want to know anything about our operations, contact the Galley Radio. And if THEY don't know 'what is what', fear not.... They will always MAKE IT UP !

(*) Galley Radio = 'scuttlebutt' generated by the Cooks and the Stewards which generally is more exact than anything coming out of the Captain's Cabin !

Forthcoming Events: Finish the seabed surveys on the Field and depart for Aberdeen mid-week. After dropping off certain personnel we will proceed to Southampton on the UK South Coast to mobilize equipment for the next job. Then sometime next weekend we may depart to pastures new ? Don't forget to tune in next week for further details.

I re-iterate, these suggested moves are subject to change at any time.

Contributions This Week : Grateful thanks to the weather for being brilliant all week and to the Galley Radio for lots of good rumours this week !

The next North Sea Diary No.3 should be produced in the next week or two subject to operations.

Auf Wiedersehen.

Stevie B
Radio Officer.