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02 Mar - Hello and Goodbye

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position: 59° 39.3 S, 62° 38.4 W)
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 24662.5 Nautical Miles
Air temperature @ Noon today: 2.7°C
Sea temperature @ Noon today : 3.9°C
Weather: Good, E, 4, 482.4 mb

Hello and Goodbye

The James Clark Ross was sad to say farewell to lots of people this week. Over the last 7 weeks of the biosciences cruise we have had the pleasure of a large and fun gaggle of scientists who had certainly made the cruise interesting and special. It is always fascinating to watch all the new scientists boarding at the beginning of the cruise as new and eager faces climbing onboard often not knowing anyone on the ship. Then over a period of a few weeks make friends and establish some sort of social order amongst the group before departing in their own separate ways for homes spread across the globe, hopefully with a few more friends than when they started out. There is a slight element of Big Brother about it all (but no one gets the chance to vote people off the ship! - Ed) and certainly entertains the amateur sociologists amongst us! Good luck to Angus and his team in writing up all their results.

Scientists on the JCR - Click to enlarge
The JCR Scientists
Click to enlarge

The prize for longest time aboard of any member of the crew on this seasons voyage goes to Joanna Cox. Jo left Grimsby in September with the JCR and has been with us ever since as a cadet. She loved it so much that she has stayed stuck to the ship, limpetesque, ever since and even managed to prolong her stay for the last cruise. Having given a massive contribution to the success and enjoyment of the season, Jo's hard work, professionalism, enthusiasm and fun will be greatly missed by everyone. Revelling in the scientific spirit onboard, Jo has spent the last 6 months making a detailed study of tea making and shall shortly publishing a definitive paper on the subject in the Mariner's Handbook. It's been a hectic few months so click here for a taste of the mad people Jo's met and places visited! Take care and happy sailing. Watch out for swimmers in the channel!

Jo Cox - Click to enlarge
Jo Cox
Click to enlarge

Well it's not all sad goodbyes on the ship this week as we have a couple of new additions to the crew. Lester Jolly has joined as an able seaman and Raymond Collins as second cook. Both are itching to get down to the Antarctic and so are looking forward to the next cruise to Pine Island Bay.

Lester, it says so on his jumper! Click to enlarge Ray with Brabant Island behind - Click to enlarge

The week has been taken up with demobilizing JR82 then loading everything needed for the next cruise, JR84. Coming up is a trip to Pine Island Bay to deploy the autosub. More of this next week. Sunday afternoon leaves us gently rolling our way across a benign Drake's Passage on the way down to the Antarctic Peninsula munching on tabnabs in the bar and listening to the Cup Final on the World Service.

Sea Lion Island Jolly

As ships doctor, I can happily discharge medical care of the crew to the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Stanley when the JCR gets back to the Falklands. It also means I can enjoy a short break from the heavy weight of responsibility! Arriving in Stanley I was very excited to meet my 'adventure partner' as she likes to be known (fiancee to the rest of us - Ed), Claire, who had come down for a holiday in the Falklands.

Together we flew off for 4 days on Sea Lion Island in a tiny Islander plane. These 9 seat aircraft run daily taxi flights around the islands from Stanley, delivering people and mail to the different settlements scattered thoughout the Falklands. The flights are low level and bumpy in the typical Falklands gale but are great fun and landing on the grass runways is always entertaining. The whole experience is slightly 'white knuckle' but gives great views of the islands below.

Sea Lion island is the most southerly inhabited island in the Falklands and is a wildlife reserve. There is a huge density of wildlife on the 5 mile long island including one of the rarest birds of prey in the world, the striated caracara. There are colonies of elephant seals, sea lions, gentoo and magellanic penguins and a huge range of birds including ubiquitous skua, geese, ducks, striated and crested caracara, peregrine falcons and smelly king cormorants. While we were there the weather was warm with long bright days that were perfect for long walks round the cliffs at the top end of the island and beaches to the east. The island has such an abundance of wildlife that it almost seems as if you are in a zoo with each bay that you walk into containing different species of animals. It is also quite magical to be able to sit and watch the wildlife for hours, sea lion pups playing in the surf, caracara trying to steal your lunch, penguins trying to land from the surf and 'hop' to safety and small rock wrens coming right up to you feet. After a hard day of picking our way through the tussock grass and avoiding the lurking sea lions you can then retire to the bar and watch the gentoo penguins returning to their chicks after a day of fishing. The small lodge on the island is very homely and a great place to chill out.

Gentoo penguin - Click to enlarge Magellanic talking to a Rockhopper - Click to enlarge Cliffs, Claire and cormorants - Click to enlarge

Old baleen whale skull on the beach - Click to enlarge Pereguin falcon in flight - Click to enlarge

Above: Clockwise from top left: Gentoo penguin, Magellanic 'talking' to a Rockhopper, cliffs, Claire and cormorants, pereguin falcon in flight and an old baleen whale skull on the beach. Click the images to enlarge them.

After 6 continuous months on the JCR it is great to have a break from the ship, stretch the legs and catch up with my loved one from home for a few days and forget about everything. These few short days went far too quickly and we were soon on the 35 minute flight back to the 'big smoke' of Stanley and the JCR waiting for me. After another round of goodbyes it was back to the ship for the remaining 4 months of the season, refreshed but very sad to be leaving Claire again!

Escape to Victory

This week Vince (2nd engineer) was innocently completing his rounds when the door closed behind him, breaking its locking mechanism in the process and imprisoning him in the chamber. After banging on the door he was eventually discovered by the passing cook, Richard. Read on for his conspiracy theory!!

"Saturday at 0940 I was locked in with Air Handling Unit No7. The door had mysteriously closed behind me, then locked itself. Was this an isolated incident or is the arm of certain security agencies longer than we think? I was fortunate, the 'cell' was on the JCR and an escape committee was soon formed to take the door frame off and release me. Obviously the names of the escape committee shall remain a secret in case of future reprisals. Whilst incarcerated it gave me time to reflect and thankfully I had carried out all the usual ablutions that morning and was therefore biologically stable. As the total incarceration time was only 100 minutes, I remained stable. It has been suggested that in future all compartments should have a biscuit tin and toilet roll for just such an emergency. Perhaps some emergency rations and a copy of the Gideons bible would also be useful. What about those other innocent prisoners kept locked up around the world, did I feel a closeness with them, NO. What went through my mind most was that I was missing smoko and I hadn't got the fridge readings for the log yet. On release the plot continued, the chief electrician (could be a spy) tried to poison me with tea with sugar in it!!!"

Vince can't get out! Click to enlarge
Vince 'Houdini' Blocke
Click to enlarge

Many thanks to the following:

  • Richard for raising the alarm
  • All the engineering staff for taking the door off, and laughing so readily
  • Anybody else who thought it was funny

Vincent 'Houdini' Blocke

Thankyou this week: to Jenny Luxton on Sea Lion Island, Angus and his JR82 team and Vince's escape committee!

Coming up next week: Well we don't really know as there are no charts where we are going!! Probably yellow submarines, ice and lots of whales!!!!

Alex Ramsden
Ships Doctor