12 May 2002 - Crew Change
RRS James Clark Ross Diary
Position at 1200: 53° 8'S, 37° 50.1'W
Distance steamed since Grimsby: 41787 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 2.9°C; Sea temperature: 3.3°C
Current, frequent weather observations reported back to BAS Headquarters in Cambridge is used to plot the ship's current position and recent track. Meteorological data are also available from this page. The callsign of RRS James Clark Ross is ZDLP.
Back once more
Last Sunday saw the vessel change crews once more as Captain Elliott's team finally arrived to take over. After having completed another four month leave period doing all those other things we enjoy doing with our lives. Regular readers might be a little confused as to why Paul Clarke said goodbye from the webpage two weeks ago and we are just getting around to updating you now. Well the truth is we should have arrived on the 1st May, but due to technical problems with air transportation to the Falkland Islands we sort of got stranded on Ascension Island for four days, so we did not arrive until last Sunday which must have been very frustrating for Captain Burgan and his team who were anxious to get home to their families. There was nothing we could do to alleviate the problem, so just had to pass the time on the island as best we could and some details of that are described a little later.
To do the introductions your Editor for the next four months will be Simon Wright the Deck Engineer, that's me. Though as my usual partner in crime of previous trips, David Gooberman, has jumped ship to the Ernest Shackleton I shall no doubt be looking for any likely volunteers during the voyage to assist whenever possible. Finally I'd like to thank Paul Clarke for the excellent pages he has produced over the last four months and hope I can keep up the variety.
The week in brief.....
Having joined on Sunday afternoon and completed the usual activities of handover Captain Burgan's team departed for the airport in the early evening and from all accounts had a less eventful flight home than ourselves did joining, which I'm sure they were grateful about. Monday morning brought refamiliarisation drills and testing of equipment before heading to sea just before lunch. This is quite a late in the year departure from the Falkland Islands for the vessel, but still there is science to complete. To this end the ship headed for South Georgia once more to do the final acoustic survey of the season. This is a survey that for the last couple of seasons the ship has done, one as early as possible in the season then again during the main biology programme (usually January) and one at the end. Readers might remember it being mentioned during the voyage to open the new fisheries station on South Georgia at the end of March 2001. So the last four days have been spent using the acoustic sounders to measure the amount of biomass (fish and krill) that are in this area at this time of year. The results from each survey can then be compared back in Cambridge to give a health check for the ocean. The survey is being completed this evening and then we shall head north for warmer climes. Though the weather has not been as bad as we might have expected the nights do draw in at this time of the year. It's been dark from half past four until seven in the morning, all very different to what we expect around here. The image shows the Willis Islands at the north end of South Georgia in a little sunshine. Click to enlarge.
As mentioned before we had to endure a four day extension to our travel plans to the ship with a stay on Ascension Island. This was an island that we visited with the ship on the voyage south in September and in which we included a brief history. Once it became clear that we would be on the island for a few days various plans were plotted and hatched to make the most of our stay with the main targets for exploration being Green Mountain and Georgetown, the islands main centre. Green Mountain was always going to be popular as it is the highest peak on the island and is very lush and green (hence it's name) when compared to the volcanic nature of the rest of the island. Also another big attraction was the fact that it is relatively cool as well, on the day we visited it was about 24 °C on the mountain compared to 34 °C at the RAF station where we were staying, making it very pleasant to spend some time there.
As you climb the mountain the sheer range of vegetation is quite amazing and all irrigated by the clouds that envelop the mountain top most of the time. In such a dry climate water has always been a major commodity for the people stationed here to the point in the early days they even built a dew pond to collect some the mountains moisture for future use and then laid pipes down the mountain so that it could be accessed. Today the dew pond makes a habitat for water lillies to grow, as can be seen the picture below right. The picture below left shows Bill Kerswell (2nd Eng) and Norman Thomas (Electrician) on the path near the pond. Which despite being on the top of the mountain is still surrounded by huge groves of bamboo. The middle picture shows the view from the top of Green Mountain. Click on the images to enlarge them.
A much dryer walk was the one down from the camp across the volcanic plain to the coast and Georgetown which took about one and a half hours. Most found coming back easier as we'd split into smaller groups and most got a lift at least some of the way back which considering the heat of the day was most welcome. The picture here shows the trek across Donkey Plain with some volcanic mounds in the background. Click on the image for a larger version.
The buildings in Georgetown are very colonial in style and well kept. St Mary's (below left) is a lovely church and built for the climate as it was nice and cool inside though the tablets adorning it's walls indicated that Ascension had been a less than safe place for sailors to dwell in it's past history. In between the church and the old barracks block (below right) is a very English requirement for life in the colonies. That is a flat strip of earth 22 yards long that makes up the cricket pitch, you might be able to make out both ends in the pictures below.
Generally most people made the most of their enforced stay on Ascension Island and taking the chance to see an Island that normally is only seen from the sea or the airport. A lucky few even manage to arrange a evening ride out to one of the beaches to see the Green Turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs which I understand was amazing.
If the real sunsets weren't enough on Ascension, three of our team even managed to find a sunset in the only cafe in town to relax in front. They are Robert Paterson (Chief Off.) Dave Cutting (Chief Eng.) and Bill Kerswell (2EO) taking it easy in Georgetown. Click on the image to enlarge it.
Northbound Once More
Tonight sees us head north from South Georgia to finish of the BAS science and deploy some pressure recorders before we head for Montevideo to drop off our Science party - hopefully next Sunday....