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16 December 2001 - Stanley Bound

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Position at 1200: 55°20' South, 59°12.7' West
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 17399 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 10.3°C; Sea temperature: 6.9°C

The week in brief....

The ice lets us free. Click to enlargeWhen we left you last week we were "stuck" in the ice once again on our way out of Rothera sitting in lovely sunshine waiting for the weather to change and give us a passage out to the open sea. Well it happened and we only had to wait until Monday afternoon, though it did require the ship to do a bit of backing and ramming when faced with one particularly stubbon piece of ice. Though we backed up and rammed the ice a mere three times before it allowed us to pass. It appears to be a year for awkward ice conditions as we hear that BAS's other ship RRS Ernest Shackleton has been meeting with mixed fortunes, ice wise, on her way to Halley Station; I'm sure you'll find out more on her diary page. The picture here shows our moment of freedom and our entry into open water once more.

The delays meant that we were some what behind with our schedule so Tuesday became a busy day with a visit to both Palmer Station and Port Lockroy. Though, as usual, things were not going to be straight forward as when we arrived at Palmer we found the bay full of ice. Luckily it was not compacted too tightly and so our launch was able to make it's way, somewhat slowly, to a beach near the station. Here the cargo was delivered and collected along with a special treat of a couple of bags of homebaked cookies from the station's cook, which were very much appreciated: Thank You!

The pictures below show the launch picking it's way out from the base with Robert Paterson (Chief Officer) at the helm assisted by Derek Jenkins, Dave Rees and a couple of poles to push the large bits out of the way. As we lifted the the launch back onboard we were left wondering if this was the last work for this boat, particularly in ice. This is because after many years service on this ship and her predecessor RRS John Biscoe the launch is due for retirement in the summer to be replaced with a newly refurbished boat from the RRS Bransfield.

Ice breaking launch style. Click to enlarge Is this the last ice for the launch?. Click to enlarge

The launch makes it's way out from Palmer station

Was this the last bit of ice "bashing" for the launch?

The pressure of time was beginning to tell, especially if we were going to complete our science programme, which was disrupted on the way south by the weather. So as soon as the launch was onboard and secured we were off for the couple of hours steam to Port Lockroy. Here we were once again met with a bay full of brash ice blown in by the weather, making boat work very difficult. So seeing a piece of fast ice, connected to the island the base is built on, the Captain was able to manoeuvere the ship into the ice and "park" as shown in the picture below left. Diana Coutts, the post officer, was then able to be lowered onto the ice and walk over to the base. Though I don't think she believed us when it was first suggested, so just in case her friends don't believe her; Yes that is Diana in the picture below right (click to enlarge) being welcomed onto the ice by Dave, Jo and Kenn - the Lockroy team for this year.

RRS James Clark Ross 'parked' in the fast ice. Click to enlarge Being lowered onto the ice. Click to enlarge

Russian cruise ship calling at Port Lockroy. Click to enlargeMind you it wasn't going to be a quiet call for the base staff as they started to walk back to the base a Russian cruise ship (see picture - click to enlarge) sailed and proceeded to attempt to make an opening in the ice for her boats to land. This took some time, allowing us to complete our work before their guests got ashore. We then took our leave and headed back up the peninsula to resume the science survey.

So this Sunday you find us a little south of the Falkand Islands due to arrive in Stanley later tomorrow morning to demobilse the cruises and unload the waste collected from Rothera. We will then spend most of the week in Stanley working on maintenance of the vessel before heading to Montevideo and handover.

Some of us have been here too long.....

One of the strangest photos of the week offered for publication in this esteemed journal goes to Mike Meredith and his picture of ice and Anvers Island reflecting in Lizzy Hawker's sunglasses. I must say there have been a few comments of "too much time on his hands"!!

Artistic picture of the week-reflection in sunglasses by Mike Meredith.Click to enlarge Artistic picture of the week - reflection in sunglasses by Mike Meredith. Click to enlarge

A spot of science: JR69

Route Map for JR69.Click to enlarge Route Map for JR69. Click to enlarge

What is it about?

The Earth has been experiencing global cooling for 50 million years. This may have been triggered by events at Drake Passage, involving the Shackleton Fracture Zone. In the map above the black lines are a previous survey and this survey is in red. Elephant Island can be seen as the black shape in the lower right-hand corner with the fracture zone being the red shaded area resembling a line running away from it towards the top left.

The Shackleton Fracture Zone is an active plate boundary. It is where the edges of the Antarctic and Scotia plates (a plate is a fragment of the 100 km thick outer shell of the Earth) slide past each other. The Shackleton Fracture Zone is therefore a major active fault, just like the San Andreas fault, and, like the San Andreas, it produces earthquakes each year. It also represents the scar left by the departure of South America from Antarctica since about 50 million years ago.

What are we doing?

We are using the Simrad EM120 echo sounder and shipboard magnetometers to examine and date crust formed during the earliest phase of Drake Passage opening, to see when and how the passage opened. The survey lines should take about 16 hours each at 10 knots.

Why are we doing it?

The existence of a deep water pathway is crucial for the establishment of a circum-polar current, the last obstacle to which was probably the connection between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. Once a circum-polar pathway was established, polar seas were cut off from warmer, tropical waters, and Antarctica became glaciated.

Some scientists believe that a deep water connection between the Pacific and Atlantic was prevented by overlapping slivers of continent, one of which is the ridge adjacent to the Shackleton Fracture Zone. We aim to show that this ridge formed after Drake Passage opened, as a result of tectonic deformation. Hence, the deep water pathway was established much earlier, at around 33 Ma, correlating with Antarctic glaciation and global cooling.

The resulting bathymetric data will be combined with data from past and future expeditions, to create a new, high-resolution, map of the Scotia Arc.

Roy Livermore in front of the EM120 Swath bathymetry control display. Click to enlarge Roy Livermore in front of the EM120 Swath bathymetry control display. Click to enlarge

Men Of The Week

Doesn't two years pass quickly? So it's time to include George and Dave once again as men of the week and suprisingly enough they are seen at Palmer Station once again!

George Stewart (Bosun) and his 'Mate' Dave Williams on deck. Click to enlarge George Stewart (Bosun) and, his 'Mate', Dave Williams on deck. Click to enlarge