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04 May - Variety is the South Georgia of life

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position: 53° 15.5 S, 44° 59.5 W)
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 33716.5 Nautical Miles
Air temperature @ Noon today: 4.5°C
Sea temperature @ Noon today : 2.5°C
Weather: Good, light airs, 1009.9

Variety is the South Georgia of life

An enjoyable and hectic week on the James Clark Ross has gone in a blur of extremes.  Extremely bad and good weather.  Extremely sad to be saying goodbye to a couple of old friends.  Extremely good celebrations.  Extremely complicated science work and the normal extreme haircuts.  Such is the great life onboard the JCR......

A sad farewell

Next week marks the end of an era on the James Clark Ross.  Two stalwarts of the ship who have served a combined total of 39 years with BAS, are retiring.  Ken Olley, (purser, straight talking Geordie, man of great stories and guardian of the right hand bar stool) will be heading back to South Shields after a long service on the John Biscoe and James Clark RossNorman Thomas, (electrician and co-designer of the JCR ) should be settling down in the West of Scotland having also worked on the John Biscoe, Bransfield, Ernest Shackleton and James Clark Ross over a 22 year career with the British Antarctic Survey.

Ken Olley adopting his normal position at the bar! Click to enlarge Norman Thomas - Click to enlarge

Above: Ken Olley (L) and Norman Thomas. Click the images to enlarge them.

A retirement party was held in the officer's saloon on Saturday night to officially thank the pair for their long service.  All the officers and crew were present and a good night was had by all as Ken and Norman entertained us with a selection of stories!

The usual suspects - Click to enlarge Some of the officers and crew - Click to enlarge Steve Eadie, man of style and sophistication - Click to enlarge

Above: L-R: The Officers, some of the Officers and crew and Steve Eadie. Click the images to enlarge them.

Trawling for buoys

Yep it's at least 3 months since we were last at South Georgia so it was again time to retrieve one of the moorings that we deployed at the end of February.  These are a couple of buoys the float 200m below the surface of the sea and look upwards at the water above them, recording information on the water column. Every four months or so, they are recovered and the data downloaded, before they are redeployed.  For further information see previous diary entry.

In February we could only deploy one buoy as there was a mega iceberg several miles long over the site of the second mooring.  We therefore thought we would have a quick job to retrieve the shallow buoy from only 300m of water.  The mooring is held 200m below the surface by weights (railway wheels) that sink to the seabed.  We can release the buoy by triggering an special release mechanism attaching it to the weights.  Responding to an acoustic signal from the ship above, the release frees the buoy, which slowly floats to the surface for recovery.  Easy.

Not quite......

The problem
After we gave the acoustic signal and had heard a response from it, telling us that it had released, no buoy appeared.  Where had it gone?  Precisely no where.  We found it using our echo sounders which could 'see' the buoy still in it's exact position on the sea floor.  Problem.  Why was it not coming up to the surface?  After much thought it was decided the most likely explanation was a heaving line (rope) that had been tied onto it to aid the original deployment in February.  This may have become tangled between the buoy and the weights and therefore holding the buoy down.  What could we do as the problem was 300m below the ship?

The plan
After a council of war, a cunning plan was devised.  While the JCR marked the position of the buoy accurately, the crew dug out 3 long cables.  The plan was to suspend two cables (250m) from the bow and the stern of the ship, letting it hang down in the water weighted down with railway wheels.  The third cable (100m) was then hung horizontally between the ends of the two vertical cables (see diagram below).  The ship would then sail sideways over the buoy's position, catching the buoy in the cable.  The buoy would then either be released or snared and brought to the surface!

Diagram of the plan - Click to enlarge A reminder of the design of the buoy - Click to enlarge

The execution
The cable was paid out by Simon on the aft deck, dragged forward and secured at either end of the ship.  Once in position the ship slowly moved sideways across the site of the  buoy dragging the cable underneath it hoping to catch the buoy.  The ships track can be seen in the picture below as it moved sideways with the position of the buoy marked in the superior part of the picture.

Simon and his wire - Click to enlarge Heaving out the wire to the forecastle - Click to enlarge Ships path and buoy - Click to enlarge

Suddenly the buoy popped up on the starboard side.  The cable had caught and released the buoy allowing it to float up to the surface.  It was then matter of bringing in the cable and buoy without getting anything caught around the propeller.

Lester guiding the winch - Click to enlarge Tango team - Click to enlarge
At last! Click to enlarge Antarctic heroes? Click to enlarge

The evidence
After examining the buoy and release mechanisms, the worst fears were confirmed.  The heaving line had indeed caught around the weights and release preventing the buoy from returning to the surface.  A very relieved Pete Enderlein can be seen below with guilty party.

Peter and the evil rope - Click to enlarge

The end
Following the eventful recovery of the buoy, the data recording was down loaded from the sensors on the mooring.  Everything seemed intact and the data looks good on initial viewing.  Further analysis of the data will take place in Cambridge to augment that already reported from the Western Core Box over the last 5 years.  The buoy was then redeployed in exactly the same spot several hours later, without the heaving line!!  Watch this space...........

Weather update

As the white horses of South Georgia receded into the maelstrom of history, the warm sun of recovery burst out from the gloomy sea spray of seasickness.  Lounging on deck, soaking up the rays and basking in the balmy heat that was Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed a bit of calm for the first time this cruise.  Even a couple of penguins, whales and lots of sleepy seals came out to celebrate.

Video clip No 1 - Click to enlarge Latest design of window washer - Click to enlarge Video clip No 2 - Click to enlarge
Mike in tropical mood - Click to enlarge Video clip No 3 - Click to enlarge A calm sunset, a rariety these days - Click to enlarge

Aye, Aye

This season the JCR has been watched by many animals on its travels from the Falkland Islands to Antarctica.  A quiz was held onboard this week to see who could identify most of the beady eyes that have been keeping a track on us during our voyages.  Below is a selection of pictures of animals.  See how many you can identify.

Quiz (click on picture to enlarge)
Click to enlarge

The answers are at the bottom of the page.  Good luck!

King Edward Point Emergency

On Tuesday we were hove to again, riding out another storm to the north of South Georgia, only a few hours steaming away from King Edward Point.  It is the start of the fishing season around South Georgia and the island government is currently issuing fishing licences to the collection of long liners and squid jiggers that work the waters around the islands.  Each ship must pick up the paper work from the fisheries officer, based at the King Edward Point.  Unfortunately as the storm passed through, three fishing boats were forced onto the rocks in the area.  One boat was refloated but two more were abandoned (Moresko and Lynn) and are thought lost.  The Falklands fisheries protection vessel, Sigma, was moored at KEP and gave assistance as did BAS personnel in efforts to rescue the ship's crew and refloat the vessels.  The James Clark Ross listened to proceedings with great interest but our assistance was not requested and we are glad that all the crews involved were safely rescued.  King Edward Point base then had 80 assorted Koreans, Chinese, Indonesians and Vietnamese as guests for the next few days.  We wish all our fellow sailors a safe homeward journey.

Dead bird flying

The JCR often sees strange sights and this week was the view of cattle egrets flying past the ship despite being hundreds of miles from land.  These elegant white birds have been seen in the Falkland Islands since 1976 after arriving from South America and are now thought to be resident on the islands.  Unfortunately, these birds are not designed for a seafaring life as they normally live on land, eating grubs and insects and following cattle herds.  They are susceptible to strong winds (not a good survival strategy in the Falklands - Ed) and often get blown out from land and head for ships to land on for a rest.  During the storm on Thursday night two cattle egrets were spotted and eventually crash landed on the fore deck.  Christened Lucky and Unlucky, they sought shelter from the foul weather overnight.  Unlucky lived up to his name and had left for a better place by the morning but his little friend, Lucky, was still surviving, cowering under the forecastle.  Derek (recovering from his darts humiliation - Ed) and Dolly took it in and placed it in a box to dry out and warm up.  Lester, our resident birder, tried to feed it but it continued to sicken.  The exhausted bird couldn't fight off the inevitable and died during Friday night.  He was sent to a watery tomb with a burial at sea.

The animal lovers - Click to enlarge Lucky the cattle egret - Click to enlarge

During stormy weather we get birds landing on deck on a regular basis.  The birds are either exhausted and land for a rest or are confused by the bright lights of the ship during the night and crash into us.  They are often found in the morning, hiding away in nooks and crannies on deck, unable to take off again due to the high bulwarks on the ship.  Seabirds can keep warm and dry and can often successfully be re-launched by throwing over the side into the wind.  Indeed this week several birds were thrown back into the air including two elegant kerguellen petrels.

Steve Eadie, PhD

Sunday afternoon saw Professor Eadie giving a tutorial to the younger members of the crew on JCR bar etiquette.  After completing his training at the University of Halley and the now defunct Stonnington Polytechnic, our erstwhile tutor gave a lesson in rehydration using a double barrelled drinking hat given to him as a present last Christmas.  It was Norman and Ken's last tabnabs and a hilarious afternoon was spent listening to Ken's salty stories from the 43 years of his colourful career.  'Ultimate tabnabs'.

Steve, leader of the largernauts - Click to enlarge

Birthday Boy

Norman had another reason to celebrate this week.  On Friday it was his birthday and he joined with all the other engineers for a party on Friday night.  The entire engineering department can be seen around Norman who is proudly holding his leaving present.

L to R - Dave, Simon, Mark, Steve, Norman, Charlie, Gerry and Vince. Click to enlarge

Haircut mystery revealed

Some people think that I will go to any lengths to get my photo on the website but artistic haircuts are not one of them!  So I can proudly reveal that the owner of such an inspirational hair masterpiece is...............Johnnie Edmonston, legend of the IT world.  Why did you do it Johnny?

Johnnie Haircut - Click to enlarge

"Why did I do it?  You’d think that with the amount of times I’ve been asked that very question throughout my life Id have some kind of idea on how to answer it.
I have no idea. Sometimes I have to guess at what’s going on in my head at any one time, or after the fact, but pretty much I surprise myself sometimes.
Here's what I do know:
· Hair grows back, or at least it does at the minute.
· I was going to have a blue saltire, and the doc was going to get a St Georges cross on his head and dye it red.
· I suspect the idea came from the 3-legged toad, but he’s keeping quiet on the whole subject.
· The go-faster stripes are anyone’s guess.
· It seemed like a good idea at the time.
· The doc didn’t get a St Georges cross."

The quiz answers

Thankyou and good luck this week to: Ken and Norman

Coming up next week: End of cruise, Stanley and a crew change.

Alex Ramsden
Ships Doctor