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13 Oct - Bird Island and King Edward Point

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position: 54.14.65 Deg S, 36.24.71 Deg W - 737.9 Nautical miles from the Victory Bar, Stanley
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 8031.5 Nautical Miles
Days since leaving Grimsby: 33
Air temperature @ Noon today: 4.7°C
Sea temperature @ Noon today : 3.0°C
Weather: Good, light air, 998.6


Bird Island and King Edward Point relief

This week on the JCR has been hectic and entertaining. We have managed to drag everyone away from the bright lights of Stanley, fit in a relief of Bird Island (BI) and King Edward Point (KEP) and are now steaming out to sea for some science. There is a lot to fit in on this weeks diary but I'll try and remember everything......


Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday

We picked up another 12 people on Monday afternoon who arrived on the Tristar flight from Brize Norton into Stanley. Thankfully this arrived on time and by Monday evening everyone was accounted for and the good ship slipped away from Stanley in the early evening. I had a very pleasant morning being shown around the impressive King Edward Memorial Hospital by the clinical director of the hospital and then a chance to get out on my bike for a bit of fresh air (Kite flying would have been easier - Ed). With all our esteemed scientists and FIDs onboard we made good progress towards South Georgia with strong following winds. A few of our guests did get a bit seasick but there were lots of icebergs and even a fire extinguisher practice to keep their minds off things. Click the image for a larger version.

There's a pot gold somewhere on the aft deck!  (Carli's Dad...Click to enlarge)

'Bring out the gimp.........'  (Carli's Dad...Click to enlarge)

On board everyone is issued with a sea survival suit in case of emergency. They are particularly unflattering and most amusing to watch other people putting on. Hopefully they will keep you warm in the very cold sea if we had to abandon ship. Here they are modelled by a couple of allegedly handsome chaps onboard. Click the image for a larger version.


Up on the sheltered bridge wings we enjoyed the fine weather whilst South Georgia took a bit of a battering. The satellite image shows the JCR in the fine weather whilst the bases are in a grip of a nasty bit of cyclonic weather. Looking at the bottom of the picture one can see Signy still surrounded by sea ice. We are hoping it breaks up a bit before we get there!!

Satellite imaging of local weather systems.  (Carli's Dad......Click to enlarge)

Dave King - Angel or Devil ? (Carli's Dad......Click to enlarge)

We even had the chance to observe an impressive low atmosphere optical phenomena. A halo was seen around the sun caused by the refraction of light by ice crystals in the atmosphere (in this case cirriform clouds). They can appear in a variety of shapes but we saw a simple circle at 22 degrees from the sun. It appeared as a luminous ring with the sun at the centre. The sky within the ring appeared less bright than the sky outside and the ring developed colouration. The edge nearest to the sun having a red tinge (long wavelength) and subsequently passing through yellow, green and then a violet (short wavelength light) fringe around the outside. It is postulated that the refraction of light is caused by hexagonal prisms of ice in the lower atmosphere. Associated arcs are sometimes seen but we unfortunately couldn't see any. It was very difficult to capture on camera but here is a picture of Dave King's own personal halo! (or so he likes to think - Ed).



Thursday and Friday

We arrived at Bird Island at 1000hrs on Thursday morning and slowly manoeuvred into place beside two large icebergs. We dropped one anchor (of more later) and held the ship on it dynamic positioning system. This clever bit of kit controls the ships thrusters, steering and propeller to keep the ship in a constant position in the water. The anchor is there for double safety in very confined waters. We then began the fun of relieving BI. BI is a over-wintering base that has a staff of 4 in winter and up to 9 in the summer. Situated several hundred meters off the North West end of South Georgia, BI is a nesting site for large numbers of birds including breeding macaroni and gentoo penguins, breeding black-browed, light mantled sooty, grey-headed and the magnificent wandering albatross. Maggie Annat (Base Commander) runs a wide range of scientific research into the albatross and penguin colonies there. To find out more visit the Bird Island diaries.

Bird Island - Click to enlarge

Relief consists of depositing personnel, food, fuel and spares on the jetty from the JCR cargo tender then removing all their accumulated winter detritus. The over-wintering team are happy to get some different people to talk with and we entertained them to a slap up meal courtesy of Hamish our Purser. Maggie certainly looked pleased to be back and organized a bit of jolly for FIDs in between tender visits. A brief escorted trip to the albatross colony was put on to say thanks for the cargo work. It was certainly an amazing experience to see huge albatross chicks sitting on nests in the snow waiting for mum and dad to come back and feed them a fishy meal. This birds are not frightened of humans and one can get very close to them, about one pecking beaks length! Looking round the inside of the base it was really cosy - helped by copious cups of tea and a nice Aga to warm up against!!

Initially we unloaded the important personnel in quite strong winds, and everyone got very wet in an exciting ride in the Humbers. Once the VIPs and the mail were ashore we brought up the rest of the troops in the cargo tender to help with the unloading. We had to make 5 journeys in the cargo tender and worked until nearly dark on Thursday then again, early on Friday morning.

Doc, Tracy and Paul get ready in the humber (Carli's Dad.....Click to enlarge)

Boarding the humber

Troop deployment BAS style (Carli's Dad.....Click to enlarge)

Troop deployment - BAS style!

Jo with a few oil drums and her Marigolds! (Carli's Dad...Click to enlarge)

Jo, in the dark, with some oil drums!
Click images to enlarge them


Unfortunately on Thursday evening we had a bit of a hitch (pardon the pun) pulling up the anchor when the anchor chain became looped around it's own stem. This twist in the chain meant that it would not slide up the hawse pipe and sit snug against the bow. Using a few cunning bosun tricks we managed to unravel it the next morning.

There's a knot in that mate...(Carli's Dad....Click to enlarge)

A highlight of the cargo work was to see a couple of leopard seals amongst all the furry seals. Leopard seals look almost reptilian and have a very evil looking grin on their faces most of the time. They are bigger than furries and it is unusual to see them this far North at this time of year. Click here for a video clip


Saturday & Sunday

On a beautiful calm day we edged into Cumberland Bay after the overnight passage from Bird Island. King Edward Point (KEP) was sparkling under a recent heavy dump of snow as we docked. The fantastic weather was a photographers dream and the only sound in the quiet bay was the whirr of motor drives and the belching of elephant seals. Opposite across the bay lay the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken, Ernest Shackleton's grave, the South Georgia museum all situated under the impressive Mount Hodges. There cannot be many more beautiful places in the world than this.

King Edward Point - Click to enlarge Mount Hodges and Grytviken  (Carli's Dad.....Click to enlarge)

King Edward Point (L) and Mount Hodges and Grytviken (R)
Click images to enlarge


The crew hard at work  (Carli's Dad....Click to enlarge)

As soon as we landed Howie bounded off the ship, jumped into the JCB and started racing around in the snow. Looks like he's back in his element! We unloaded more cargo (straight onto the jetty this time) and dropped off 3 new base members as the FIDs disappeared with cameras in hand to sample the delights of KEP such as elephant seals with their day-old babies, the snow, mountains, skiing, museum, whaling station, graveyard, post office and generally stretch their legs.


The crew of the JCR worked all day discharging cargo, taking KEP provisions out of the science hold and from the bond while two of the FIDs made it to the top of Mount Hodges. An impressive effort and the views must have been stunning. Later that evening we invited everyone from KEP and Tim and Pauline Carr (Curators of the museum and SG legends) on to the JCR for a buffet and social do. Everyone seemed to enjoy the fun.

JCR at KEP seen from Mount Hodges - Click to enlarge

There was however a very strange disease that affected the party. I cannot begin to explain how or why but everyone's hair suddenly started growing into very strange shapes and styles. Andy grew some hair on his head for a change (normally he is completely shaven (or is that bald - Ed)). Jeremy Robst, our gentle giant computer programmer sprouted what can only be described as a 'monster 70's disco afro' to prove he can groove with the best. Tracy Leeming's hair just became more out of control than normal....... See images below - click on them for larger and scarier versions!

Happy KEP lady - Click to enlarge

Happy KEP lady

'This is all the rage in Sunderland!'  (Click to enlarge)

Andy grows some hair!

Any one for Sly and the Family Stone, brothers....(Carli's Dad please click to enlarge)

Jeremy with afro

I forgot my shampoo....(Carli's Dad you must have the hang of it by now.....)

Tracy's hair gets out of control!


I'm sure all this strange behaviour could be explained by looking at the worst affected section of the community. One person in this picture actually has his own hair!!

Care in the community?  (Click to enlarge)


Department of the week

If an army marches on it's stomach then the JCR certainly sails on 28! The catering department try to keep our little engines burning with vast quantities of delicious food. The only complaint I have ever heard about the catering on board ship is there is too much! (Some people are never happy - Ed). We have 3 meals a day served in three places on the ship. We have two cooks who bake fresh bread everyday and prepare the delicious food. We gorge on cooked breakfasts, 3 course lunches and 4 course evening meals. Everything is served to a very high standard and we are lucky to have fresh fruit and veg all the time (unlike the bases!). The department also supplies the bases with food whenever we visit. Danny is the chief cook and has a passion for vegetarians (Eating or serving? - Ed), Will (2nd chef) is on his first JCR cruise and has been an instant success, Riff is a galley steward who helps out in the kitchens (Galley you landlubber! - Ed). Shady looks after the food and bar upstairs. Nick is "Mr Versatile" having worked as a motorman and AB on the last two voyages and is now stuck serving the Captain's dinner! Geordie is the 2nd steward and organizes the football pools. Hamish is the purser (chief steward) and keeps the whole lot going whilst trying to organize a socialist revolution in his spare time!

The Head Grocer  (Click to enlarge)
Hamish the grocer

The Stewards department
L to R: (Danny, Riff Raff, Shady, Will, Nick, Geordie)
Click images to enlarge them


On behalf of Terry Lay (our resident postman for the trip) we would like to congratulate Rachel and Declan Brolly on the birth of their baby daughter. She was born on the day Terry joined the ship in Stanley and he was very sad to miss the birth of his first grandchild. Best wishes for the future from Terry and all on RRS James Clark Ross


Thank-yous this week......

Thanks to Tim and Pauline Carr for a great museum and a fine cup of tea!

Coming up next week......

Science, axe men, railway wheels and other strange goings on!!