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04 November 2001 - Relief!

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Position at 1200: 53° 14'S, 37° 48'W
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 12225 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 4.8°C; Sea temperature: 1.4°C

The week in brief

The first iceberg of the season. Click to enlargeThe week started with the first iceberg sighting of the season for most people in the grey weather of a Monday morning as we sailed for South Georgia. Unfortunately the photograph here does not show too well the sight of this ten miles long piece of ice, standing thirty metres out of the water, as it appeared through the drab conditions. We expect that we will be able to show better pictures of the odd berg or two as we sail further South, but whether they are as big remains to be seen.

Despite the rough weather encountered on our passage from the Falklands, and the subsequent modifications to the underway science program that occurred because of this, the vessel arrived at King Edward Point on Tuesday afternoon. The ship remained there until Thursday evening when we made our way to Bird Island at the north western end of South Georgia to await dawn to see if weather conditions were suitable for us to start the base relief . This was not to be on Friday so we spent the rest of day doing some survey work scheduled for this period of the ship's programme. Saturday, however, started calm and allowed about two thirds of the work to be completed before the weather changed and the Captain recalled us back to the ship. As we write this on Sunday afternoon another day has been spent on the survey work as this morning the weather looked tempting, but all the signs indicated the wind was backing to an unfavourable direction i.e. south of west and freshening; thus the Captain made the decision not to resume cargo operations. The forecast is reported good for tomorrow, but only time will tell whether or not we shall finish our work then - watch this space for the 2001 annual saga as Bird Island relief continues....

King Edward Point (KEP)

Late Tuesday afternoon saw our arrival at King Edward Point (KEP) Research Station, which we had left back in March after taking part in it's official opening on March 25 2001. So many of the people there were known to us, though probably none better than Howie Owen the boatman, who used to sail on the ships as an able seaman. We now know that Howie has now become a fully integrated base member having undergone a wintering hair make over, which we called the Badger look. We'll let you make up your own minds when you see the picture below left.

Howie after a winter!. Click to enlarge A 'small'item of cargo for KEP. Click to enlarge

Immediately after tying up, the discharge of the heavy plant commenced so that it could be commissioned and moved away from the dockside before the main part of the relief was due to start in the morning. The heavy plant including the excavator (shown above right) is there as part of the redevelopment of King Edward Point by the South Georgia Government. The new research station and it's associated facilities was the first part and now the second part is to remove the redundant buildings to clean up the area. The main building to go is Shackleton House, pictured below, which was the BAS base when we last had a permanent presence at KEP before the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict and so is showing it's age.

The last view we shall have of Shackleton House. Click to enlarge Shackleton House before demolition starts. Click to enlarge

Early morning light in Cumberland Bay. Click to enlargeThe base relief was almost finished on Wednesday, but we needed to stay there to allow handovers between base personnel to be completed for those then due to sail with us. This allowed the rest to take advantage of the beautiful weather conditions to go for a walk in the surrounding areas even if the wind freshened as the day went on. However, as Dave Rees' (AB) photograph shows, the best time was early morning around dawn as the day started absolutely still with mist lying in Cumberland Bay itself outside the cove - absolutely stunning.

Such is the beauty of the area and it's wildlife it would be impossible to show it all, but we thought we would include a few more images in a postcard format.

A Postcard of views a round Grytviken. Click to enlarge A Post card from King Edward Point. Click to enlarge.

STOP PRESS:- Coming to a website near you soon the KEP diary. Hopefully they will be starting their own base diary in the next month or so.

Bird Island Relief - Part One!

Sundowners ?Bird Island may be a wonderful place to study birds and seals, but to most of the ship's company relief is something to get done as quickly and safely as possible as it is always at the mercy of the weather. This year has proved no different, but at least when the wind is in the wrong direction we have the science programme to do, thus keeping the ship busy.

At present some wit has put a scoreboard on the bridge which presently reads Bird Island 2, JCR 1 as we've had two days when we've tried and failed and one day (Saturday) when at least we got most of the cargo ashore before the weather chased us away again. However, we live in hope that Monday will improve our fortunes and we may call it a draw for this year, only time will tell.

Saturday morning started early for everyone with the ship anchored just off Jordan Cove. It was possible to make out the land through the mist; this is generally a good thing here as mist means little wind and calmish seas. The cargo tender was loaded over breakfast as we can see Dave Rees and John McGowan doing in the picture below left, these were then relieved by the tender crew for the day of Marc Blaby, Derek Jenkins and Jim (poseur) Baker pictured below right between crane loads.

Starting to load the cargo tender. Click to enlarge Marc, Derek and Jim await the next load. Click to enlarge

The tender was able to do four runs during the day to the new improved jetty at the station before the weather turned. This allows all the cargo to be loaded directly from the tender on to trolleys and wheeled along a walkway to the base building, rather than the beach landing, thus reducing to some extent the physical handling. The picture below left shows the tender at the jetty about to head back to the ship being "guarded" by one of the resident fur seals. The one on the right shows the inflatable in front of the jetty. The tender has just departed having unloaded a whole pile of food boxes onto it and those on base watching us go.

Cargo Tender alongside Bird Islands jetty. Click to enlarge As the weather closes in the tender leaves with the inflatable following. Click to enlarge

A number of people travelling on the ship were asked to go ashore and help with the cargo operations, but when the tender was back at the ship being loaded again they did have the advantage of being able to take a walk up the hill to see the albatross nests and their chicks. The picture below was taken by Jeremy Robst of a chick trying to practice it's flying and this time even took to the air just above it's nest.

A young albatross practicing flying on it's nest. Click to enlarge An Albatross chick practising it's flying. Click to enlarge

For a short history of Bird Island written by Iain Staniland please see the diary for 14th November 1999 or for the latest news check out their own monthly diary page.

And Finally

Headline - "Intrepid Mountaineer in action."

Martin Bell on top of Hodges Peak looking down on Grytviken and Cumberland Bay. Click to enlargeWe felt we had to include this ground breaking event that occurred during our stay in KEP, when Martin "Sherpa" Bell led a successful ground breaking attempt on Mount Hodges above Grytviken. Well when we say ground breaking we mean that they were the first that day, but as we can see they enjoyed a breath taking view. The importance of this feat by Martin was made all the more amazing as despite several winters in the Antarctic there are various rumours around that his previous highest peak was the stool at a local bar, we however could not condone such scurrilous rumours and despite the photograph having a distinct digitally enhanced look about it the editors are assured that it is genuine!