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06 App - Goodbye Antarctica

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position: 51° 47.1 S, 57° 41.3 W)
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 31161.5 Nautical Miles
Air temperature @ Noon today: 9.6°C
Sea temperature @ Noon today : 9.3°C
Weather: Moderate, NNE, 4/5, 9951.1

The Antarctic Peninsula - Monday 31st

After completing the remaining cargo work we left Rothera at midday. We were leaving behind 22 people who are left there to keep the base and science running over the 6 month long winter. Unusually this year the Dash 7 and Twin Otters are still remaining on base after the ships have gone and they are due to fly out in two weeks time. It was sad to leave some friends on the base but they are all very excited about spending the winter in Antarctica. The base will not see any other ships until the JCR is due to return in November. Hopefully we'll remember to bring them a new flag!!

Rothera's flag - Click to enlarge Rothera say goodbye - Click to enlarge

Above: Rothera's flag (L) and saying goodbye to Rothera. Click the images to enlarge them.

Leaving Rothera we steamed across Marguerite Bay and out round the north of the spectacular Jenny Island. This route is named the Elliott Passage after our very own captain. Place names in Antarctica have been controlled by the Antarctic Place-names Committee since 1945. Within the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) there are 4350 accepted place names that have been given to various places and features during voyages of discovery, sealing and whaling operations and scientific expeditions since Captain Cook's voyage in 1772-5. The official list of place names in BAT reflect the achievements of a small number of significant individuals who have contributed to exploration and research here. Captain Elliott has been working on the BAS ships since 1967 and had the passage named after him in 1986. There is a fascinating book onboard that lists all of the place names recognized in BAT and what or who have they been named after. It contains a full listing of the Elliott Passage and all the other place names such as the unforgetable Fullastern Rock found by the John Biscoe in 1963. Other evocative names illustrating the difficult navigation in Antarctica include Puzzle Islands, Moot Point, Despair Rocks, Delusion Point, Point Circumcision and the Forbidden Plateau.

Captain Elliott in his passage - Click to enlarge
Captain Elliott in his passage
Click to enlarge

Tuesday 1st April

Taking the shortest route back towards our next call conveniently meant the ship would be sailing through the spectacular Lemaire Channel. We were all poised ready with our cameras to capture the 'Kodak gap' at the southern end of the channel and as the fog cleared we were rewarded with beautiful blue skies when we passed beneath two 4,500ft tall towers of rock only 300 hundred metres from either side of the ship. Even a couple of humpback whales and some penguins arrived to complete the scene. Below are some photos that cannot do the views justice in anyway.....

Looking back down the Lemaire - Click to enlarge
Why we are here - Click to enlarge Five of the Autosub team - Click to enlarge

The passage opens out towards the north and the end is marked by a famous Antarctic landmark. A couple of rock towers, 2,500ft tall, guard the exit to the channel. They are officially called Cape Renard but they are more commonly known by a rather more vernacular term - allegedly after a similarity to a certain Stanley barmaid's notable anatomical features! We'll let you use your imagination!!

Jeremy Robst with Cape Renard behind - Click to enlarge Cape Renard - Click to enlarge

Just as we were reloading our cameras with film we nipped up through the Neumeyer Strait past Port Lockroy and into the Gerlache Strait. They were all stunning in the soft evening light and meant we burnt off even more film. Oh to have shares in Fuji!

Wednesday 2nd April

Nipping up the inside route of the Peninsula allowed us to call in at an Argentine Base. On the south side of King George Island is a year round base called Jubany. There were 3 German scientists to be collected, who had spent the summer there looking for krill larvae (remember the things we never found in the Scotia Sea!) along the Antarctic Peninsula. They didn't find any either. Jubany has no jetty and so beach landings had to be made in our rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). Making the whole operation more difficult was the 70 cases of equipment that were coming out with the Germans. Arriving in the small cove next to the base offered little protection from the 30 knot wind whistling of the Bransfield Strait. With the JCR anchored in the bay, two RIBs and the work boat were dispatched to pick everything up. Bins, Dolly, Mike and I were quickly soaked in the RIBs as they bouched over the waves but got ashore and ferried the cargo back to the waiting work boat. There was so many cases it took three trips for the work boat to complete the work. Mean while the JCR's anchor was slipping in all the mud on the bottom of the bay and had to be repositioned twice.

Jubany base as seen from the JCR - Click to enlarge Mike and Dolly - Click to enlarge Bins, Spock, Dolly and Mike preparing the boats - Click to enlarge

After a hard morning of work with all the cargo and passengers were safely stowed onboard the JCR, we were just steaming out of the bay when one of the German scientists remembered that she had forgotten her crucially important frozen specimens. Doh! So we had to turn around and go back in to Jubany so Robert and Bins could dash back to base in a RIB and pick up the samples much to the relief of the scientist.

Cargo at Jubany - Click to enlarge Tango Doc - Click to enlarge Cargo and passengers approach the JCR - Click to enlarge

Finally we got away and headed up the Bransfield Strait, turning north past the end of Kind George Island and setting a course for Stanley. With a tear in our eyes we said goodbye to Antarctica for another season as the sunset and Cape Melville faded away to the south. We have three cruises left, two around South Georgia and one coming back through the tropics. It was certainly a fitting way to say goodbye with a fantastic 3 day adventure up the Antarctic Peninsula.

Thursday 3rd was spent racing across a calm Drake Passage before arriving at Stanley on Friday lunch time. We have just completed a 4 week cruise that has seen us sail 6,500 nautical miles, equivilent to 2¼ crossings of the Atlantic between the US and UK. We have used up 594 cubic meters of fuel (510 tonnes) at an approximate cost of just over $200,000!

Sunday 6th April

Day trip to Volunteer Point. 8 of the crew and scientists organized a trip to several large penguin colonies about 3 hours drive from Stanley. The penguin colonies and sandy beach at Volunteer Point is one of the most popular tourist sites in the Falklands and to get there is a tough drive across open moorland with no tracks. 4WD is essential especially at the moment as the moor is very wet and it is easy to get stuck which we did once. Fortunately we had two jeeps so one could pull the other out. Our guides, Patrick and Graeme made the driving look easy across the very boggy and wet moors and peat hags. We passed several reminders of the Falklands War in 1982. Below is the wreckage of a Argentinean Chinook destroyed in a British Harrier attack.

Overland exploration - Click to enlarge Bits of Chinook - Click to enlarge

At the beach there are 3 different types of penguins. Several hundred gentoos reside close to over 500 hundred breeding pairs of king penguins. Magellanic penguins live nearby in burrows under the grassy banks. King penguins have a strange breeding cycle and rear a chick every 14 months. That meant that there were a range of different chicks from very young to old. They are amazing bundles of brown feathers and comical to watch when they hop after their parents trying to get Mum or Dad to regurgitate food for them.

King Penguins - Click to enlarge King penguins and chicks - Click to enlarge One more for the road - Click to enlarge

It is great to get off the ship after a long voyage and get away from Stanley.  Despite the overcast weather everyone had a great day and learnt lots about the Falklands from Patrick. The Falkland Islands continue to impress with their rugged beauty and incredible wildlife and are certainly an amazing place to visit. A suitable end to a great week in which we have to keep pinching ourselves to realise that we are getting paid to be here!! We are very lucky to be seeing things that very few people can get to see and if they do, they pay a kings ransom for the privilege!

Weird Beards

The traditional Antarctic hero is seen by many as a rugged looking bloke sporting a vigorous growth of beard surrounded by snow and ice. Many of the chaps who come down to Antarctica use it as an excuse to grow all sorts of weird styles of facial hair. The last cruise was no different as several people on board grew (or attempted to! - Ed) beards. Toby certainly won the beard competition with the ecosystem he had developed on his face over the last 20 years!. Ziggy's beard was compared to Texas ('massive but with huge wide open spaces'). Chris's effort combined with the dark shades qualified him as a South American revolutionary (if you hear of social unrest in Santiago, he's the man). Someone else's just went ginger (Better than the normal grey. - Ed). See below for the variable standards of manliness!!

Paying homage to the uber beard - Click to enlarge

Thankyou this week: to Jeremy Robst for his photos, DVD's, computer games and company during the last month.

Coming up next week: I swath, he swaths, they swath, everyone swaths.........

Alex Ramsden
Ships Doctor