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25 February 2001 - It's a Tough Life Down South

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position : 67° 44' South, 69° 55' West.
Distance travelled since Grimsby: 22,457 nautical miles
Air temperature @ noon: 1.9 degrees Celsius
Sea temperature @ noon: 3.1 degrees Celsius

Swathy Bathy

Question 1 : Where is the roughest sea in the world (allegedly) ?
Answer : Drake Passage, between the tip of South America and Antarctica.

Question 2 : Where shall we do a Swath survey ?
Answer : See question 1.

You by this point may well be wondering what we are going on about. Well last summer during the vessel's refit period a state of the art Swath Bathymetry system was fitted to the vessel. This is detailed in the pages of that period, but in brief it is a suite of sensors in the hull of the ship and some fancy electronics that enhance our ability to understand the topography of the seabed and the structure of its sediments in far greater detail than ever before. See the JCR diaries for 30 May 2000, 4 June 2000, 11 June 2000, 18 June 2000 and 2 July 2000.

This cruise is in fact two cruises rolled into one as they are doing similar work, they are JR56 and JR59. Cruise JR56 was put off from earlier in the season until now and continues the survey in Drake Passage that the Spanish research vessel Hesperides started during the 1997-98 Antarctic season. To date we have managed to do two of the four days allowed for that survey. The plan is to complete the other two days on our way back to Stanley when maybe the weather will be a little kinder to us; we live in hope as ever. This is mapping an area of the sea floor near an area called the Shackleton Fracture Zone and is hoped to help establish the sequence of events that led to the opening of Drake Passage when Antarctica and South America moved apart. The survey went well considering the weather the ship had to put up with, and those onboard spent most of the time being buffeted around.

The vessel has now moved down the Antarctic Peninsula to the area between Alexander Island to the south and Adelaide Island to the north to look at the sediment and debris flows left behind by glacier movements over history. The ship should have been working in an area near the Larsen Ice Shelf and James Ross Island at the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula. This was open water at this time last year, but is still ice locked this year. Just one of the problems of working in this area of the world and having to remain flexible to enable scientific objectives to be met.

Map of work area. Click to enlarge.This is a map of the work area and also shows Rothera Station where we plan to call tomorrow to deliver and collect some cargo as well as drop off a Kongsberg Simrad Engineer, Kjetil Aaseklær, who has been setting some things up and helping with the cruise. We also hope he will be finally reunited with his luggage that entered the black hole that is Schipol airport in Amsterdam on his way down here.

We hope to bring you more details of the science and some of the wonderful seabed images that are being produced over the coming weeks if we can only wrestle them out of the computer in a form for the web.

STOP PRESS : Some images have appeared from that computer thing down aft and we are grateful to Peter Morris for the Cruise track (left) that we have completed so far and hopefully bring more meaning to the map above. Then on the right we have a contour map of the Drake Passage section which I'm sure any budding cartographers will enjoy seeing.

JR59 Cruise track to date. Click to enlarge. Contour map of the Drake Passage Section. Click to enlarge.

Life on Board

Galley staff. Click to enlarge. Ready to serve. Click to enlarge.

Here we have Frank (Second Cook) glazing the bread and butter pudding, while Tony Dixon, alias Geordie, (Messman) lends advice !

Ken (Chief Steward), Cliff (2nd Steward), Ken and Jimmy ready for the evening meal.

Wildlife Corner

We saw whales we did. And they were Fab. There woz lots of them and they waved to us.

Some Whales. Click on to enlarge A Whale fin. Click on to enlarge

Just for Chris aged 26 and a bit, Our computing type person...
(See Chris we weren't lying, you can see whales at sea)

Sundowners - The Hardcore

Come rain or shine, snow or freezing fog, there is only one place to be at 17:00. On the after deck enjoying a social beer, olives and fine crisps. OK then, maybe not the freezing fog ! We may be in the uncharted wilds of the deepest South, but we aim to keep civilised throughout !

Sundowners. Click to enlarge.A rare sunny day down aft. David (2/0), Pippa (Doctor), Scott (3/0).

If the picture looks similar to our regular readers, take a look at 14th Januarys Update and you realise Pippa has succeeded in her quest to continue sundowners after the crew change, and just proves that she'll be on hand to supervise anybody having a quiet drink when off duty.

Weekly diary entries