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02 December 2001 - Deception Island, Port Lockroy and lots of snow and ice!

RRS James Clark Ross Diary


Position at 1200: 67°42' South, 69°49' West
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 15822 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 0.9°C; Sea temperature: 0.4°C


The fun starts here....

In a nutshell - A bit of science, a lot of bad weather, a glimpse of Deception Island, lots of snow, a museum opening and our first pack ice.

As cruise JR67 came to an end so too did the brilliant weather we had been experiencing - slowly coming to it's inevitable close. Last Sunday we reported leaving Elephant Island behind and heading back out into Drake passage to commence a SWATH survey of the Shackleton Fracture Zone. Back to happily mowing the lawn once again ! We managed to collect data for two days before the heavy weather set in reducing the amount of useful data to a minimum and the decision was made to break off the survey. We will attempt to complete the box Northbound so we shall leave further information about that until a later date due to the amount of other stuff this week.....which without any more fuss we shall describe.


An unexpected bonus - Deception Island - well almost...

Unfortunately the closest our BBC team got to Deception. Click to enlarge As we had broken off the science early we had a little time on our hands, a most unusual scenario. The BBC crew had requested to go into Deception Island so they could conduct an interview with David Walton in front of the remains of the old British Antarctic Hut and as it was enroute off we pottered in that direction. The entrance to Deception Island is most impressive, as is shown in the photo, and is weather dependent in getting in. Once again the weather reared its head and going in was not an option. Instead all we could do was look into Neptune's Bellows and at the surrounding ridges before pottering off to Port Lockroy. It appeared very much like Mordor for all those Lord of the Rings fans out there!



Port Lockroy

Neumayer channel through the cloud and snow. Click to enlargeWe eventually arrived in Port Lockroy on Thursday morning. Blizzards and low cloud all the way unfortunately masking most of the famous landscape. Though it was occasionally possible to guess at what lies behind the white out; hopefully you can make out the channel in this photograph below of the Neumayer Channel through the snow (well I think so!) Click to enlarge.


As it turned out the weather further delayed our entry into Port Lockroy due to having to wait for near white out conditions further north to clear and allow us a safe passage. So we arrived mid afternoon and everyone launched into getting the equipment ashore to allow Dave Burkitt, Ken Back and Jo Hardy to open the base as a living historical site for visitors and the second most visited site by cruise ships after Deception Island itself. The picture, below left, shows some of the local inhabitants with the base in the background. The one on the right shows the most effective method of getting equipment up to the base i.e. on a sledge, although we suspect the sledge crew enjoyed the ride back down to the tender more than the pushing up!

Base 'A' Port Lockroy and some of it's residents. Click to enlarge Moving equipment upto the base by sledge. Click to enlarge

Jo Hardy being interviewed by the BBC regarding the effects of touists on the 'locals'. Click to enlarge However, our brief stay also contracted the time available to the BBC team to collect all their material for a forthcoming series of articles and here we see Jo Hardy being interviewed.


Should you want to find out more about Port Lockroy then a brief history is posted on a previous page or you could look on the website of the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust.


Mail run to Vernadsky

The post office in Stanley had handed us some personal mail for the Ukrainians so we always try to get it through to them, along with some fresh provisions as at this time of year they would not have seen any ships since the previous season. So as we headed off down the Lemaire Channel those who could spare the time congregated to see the sights and as happens on these occasions people break into two distinct groups. There are the bridge watchers (below left) and the more hardy souls who feel the need for the full Antarctic experience and head for the bow (below right).

The Bridge Watchers. Click to enlarge The Bow Watchers. Click to enlarge
The Bridge Watchers and the Bow Watchers
Click to enlarge

Once again we were thwarted as the ice was too thick just South of the Lemaire channel so we had to turn around. Had we had the time and the definite need to get there of course it would have been possible, but as our main objective is to get to Rothera we have had to defer our call at Vernadsky until Northbound in about 10 days time.


A Visit to Palmer Station

The American Research station 'Palmer'. Click to enlargeRetracing our steps from the Lemaire northwards so that we could then head west and gain the open sea, meant that we would now be passing the American research station of Palmer. We had a requirement to visit Palmer at some point to drop off some equipment for a scientist who would be working there later in the season. A picture of the station is shown here as seen from the ship.


During our few hours stay there was an opportunity for people to visit the station and station personnel to visit the ship, an experience that we hope everyone enjoyed and we'd like to thank some of the shore-goers who remembered to bring back the chocolate brownies for those who remained onboard! Though we did have to settle for just seeing the large slices of pizza on photographs so we thought we'd tease you all by the pictures below.

We believe everyone came back though some people did make themselves right at home. We can see in the bottom left photograph with Mike Meredith and Athena Dinar relaxed in the big comfy chairs in the TV lounge; and did Lizzy Hawker just walk out of the huge TV set? (bottom right) as we all thought she would fit!

Pizza feast at Palmer station. Click to enlarge. One of Palmer base staff zodiac driving in true American style. Click to enlarge.
Athena and Mike enjoying the big comfy chairs. Click to enlarge. A suggestion was made that Lizzy Hawker could actually have walked out of the TV set.... Click to enlarge.


I think you'll agree that we were left in no doubt that we had arrived on an American base when their zodiac coxswain arrived topped out with a stetson in true American style!

We'd all like to thank the staff of Palmer Station for making us all so welcome and hopefully we shall have the opportunity to visit again real soon.


And so to now.....

On leaving Palmer we headed down the Peninsula once more trying to gain access to a remote monitoring station on Trump Island. This very quickly proved to be impossible because even if the ship could get there, the sea would be full of ice so preventing a landing. So this job will also have to wait until a little later in the season. We then headed southwards towards the bottom of Adelaide Island on which Rothera lies, but we must gain access around the bottom to reach the station. However, we were blown down the coast by a strange north-easterly gale which has temporarily tightened the pack ice up again. The Captain brought the ship into the ice early this morning to test conditions, but it was tightening all the time so very soon we retired towards the edge to begin a waiting game. The wind is presently quite light and hopefully things will ease in the near future as no one is keen to repeat our experiences of two years ago.

Movie of Twin Otter fly by Later in the morning one of the Twin Otter aircraft from Rothera flew by us while reporting ice observations to the Captain so that he can plan his tactics for the forthcoming ice campaign. Click on the picture here to see a movie of the aircraft taken this morning.



Other Pictures from the Week - Snow Time!

What did we expect coming to the Antarctic except to encounter a little bit of snow? Well, snow it has covering the decks several inches deep on each occasion. It has then been met either by the deck crew clearing it away to make life easier or by Sarah, the Doctor, and her merry band of helpers who appear to be in a more creative frame of mind. Though it was suggested that Sarah was out to make new friends, but this could be taking it a bit far... We'll let you decide from the picture below right.

Snow on the after deck. Click to enlarge. Sarah making new friends. Click to enlarge.


Man Of The Week

By Special request here's John.... Just so his Mum knows that he can help with the housework when he's next on leave!

John McGowan preparing for Captain's rounds. Click to enlarge John McGowan on mop duty before Captain's rounds.