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Nov 16 - Rare Sighting

Date: 16th November 2003

Noon Position: Noon position lat 54° 03.2S long 39° 23.5W
Distance Travelled since Immingham: 12101 NM
Air temperature: 3.7° C
Sea temperature: 1.7° C

The JCR This Week

This week started very early on Monday morning as we arrived at the anchorage off Bird Island at 4 a.m. This call was to do a personnel transfer and remove some of the rubbish that had accumulated. We would have called at a little more civilized time except that the weather forecast wasn't very good. So with the early start and two runs to shore of the cargo tender, we were on our way again by breakfast time. This wasn't a moment too soon with the wind getting stronger even as we lifted the tender back onboard. The picture below shows a few of the team spending the summer on Bird Island this year and some who have been there a long time already and will be escaping in the new year.

Some of the Bird Island Summer 2003 Team. Click To Enlarge. L-R: Graham, Sarah, Ben, Nick, Jaume sending us on our way. Click to enlarge

From Bird Island we headed north with the intention of picking up one of the two mooring buoys that are working out here. However it wasn't to be, as by the time we had completed the calibration of the instruments and were ready to recover the buoy a large ice-berg had come into the area. During this time the wind had continued to build, so that by the time the area was clear it had become too rough to risk a recovery. Defeated, for the moment, the ship set sail once again for King Edward Point. The offending berg can be seen below.

Iceberg passes the mooring site. Click To Enlarge. Iceberg passes the mooring site. Click
To Enlarge.

We arrived in Cumberland Bay in the early evening and anchored for the night as the fisheries protection vessel Dorada was moored alongside the jetty. The picture below shows the Dorada sailing the following morning to continue her patrolling duties. This left the jetty clear for us to go alongside and deliver the new personnel for the station.

The Fisheries Protestion Vessel Dorada departing KEP. Click To Enlarge. The fisheries protection vessel Dorada departing KEP. Click to enlarge

Our job list this time only required us to stay one night, but the station staff fulfilled their promise to treat us to a BBQ next time we called. This was very pleasant indeed and we can see a couple of pictures below. The left hand one shows Howie Owen (boatman) acting as chef for the evening, though some comments were made regarding the close supervision being made by Jenny Corser the station doctor. Is there something she knows that we don't? The right hand picture shows some of the ship's science party enjoying the evening. L-R: Jim Fox, Claire Allen, Steve Mack and Geoff Hargreaves (where did he get that hat!)

Jenny, KEP's Doctor suppervising the cooking skills of Howie the boatman. Click To Enlarge. Jim, Claire, Steve & Geoff (nice hat!) enjoying the BBQ. Click To Enlarge.

After sailing on Wednesday morning we headed for the western end of South Georgia. The intention was to recover the moorings we had abandoned earlier in the week. Once recovered, these were then redeployed after the data had been down-loaded. Since then we've been steaming along survey lines during the day time, conducting an acoustic survey of the biological life in this specific area. This particular survey is carried out three times each season, and as we'll be doing this all over again before we get off in January we'll leave the details until then.

The buoy is recovered, reset and then prepared for redeployment on the aft deck. Click to enlarge.

Recovering last year's buoy. Click To Enlarge. The new buoy is prepared. Click To Enlarge.

Doctor's Jollies!

This has been a week of icebergs and sunshine after the mist and snow of Signy. We must thank Peter Enderlein and his department for choosing such a pretty area for us to do our science this week. With spectacular views of ice-floes and the majestic Willis Islands, who could want more? Thanks Pete.

At KEP a request was made that the newly spruced-up starter motor for the JCR's work-boat (fondly known to all as Sooty), be given a good test. With conditions in Cumberland Bay as near perfect as possible, there were plenty of volunteers to take her for a run. So, out we went up Moraine Fjord to the tongue of the Harker and Hamberg glaciers, giant rivers of ice which take thousands of years to flow down from their origins on Sugar Top Mountain, 7623 feet above sea level. The smaller of the two, the Hamberg glacier, ends in a giant ice fall which cascades dramatically straight into the sea.

The Humber catching up. Click To Enlarge. Hamberg overflow. Click To Enlarge. Front of the Harker glacier - can you see the boulders on top? Click To Enlarge.
Boat trip up Moraine Fjord to the Hamberg and Harker glaciers. Click to enlarge.

A short walk from the base are tussocky hillsides where light mantled sooty albatross nest. These are (in my opinion) the prettiest of the albatross family. They are small and dark, with sooty brown heads and grey rimmed eyes. They spend most of their lives searching for a mate, and once found, the two of them perfect formation flying together. Their haunting call is their most remarkable feature and they can be heard clearly calling to each other, one high pitched, the other low.

Light mantled sooty albatros pair. Click To Enlarge. Nesting pair of light mantled sooty albatross. Click to enlarge

Click here to hear Sooty albatross calls.

The colour of the sea at different points along our route has been changing dramatically. While at Signy it was the brightest blue, and out in the deep ocean it is dark blue, almost black. The reason for this is that there is very little life in the ocean to reflect light, which is therefore well absorbed by the water, leaving it looking dark. Red is the wavelength which is absorbed first, giving the ocean its blue colour. If you cut yourself under water, blood looks green due to the lack of red light at even quite shallow depths.

The water around KEP on the other hand is startlingly green, and becomes even more so this close to the glaciers. This is due to the mixture of minerals and algae in the water, which itself is a mix of fresh glacial melt water and sea water. Craig, our resident composer, has described it as "a peppermint sea dressed with incredible sulphur blue icebergs".

Green green water. Click To Enlarge. Shackleton's Cross showing the incredibly green water of Cumberland Bay behind. Click to enlarge.


While a lot of medical equipment is disposable, someone needs to tell the staff at KEP that the doctors are not (preferably before my contract finishes).

Sue, KEP doctor. Click To Enlarge.Sue Dowling the outgoing KEP doctor, clearly past her sell-by date. Click to enlarge.

The Catering Department

Our departmental guide to the JCR continues this week with an almost complete run down of the catering department.

Purser/catering officer

Hamish Gibson - Purser/Catering Officer. Click To Enlarge. At its head is Hamish Gibson, who seem always to be glued to his computer processing all the things that make his empire tick along.


Duncan MacIntyre is our chef. It's his first trip with us, but he is already getting the blame for expanding waist-lines onboard. Duncan MacIntyre. Click To Enlarge.

Second Steward

Cliff Pratley - Second Steward . Click To Enlarge. Cliff Pratley is the second or senior steward. His duties included ensuring the service in the saloon is efficient and making sure that all the accommodation is clean and tidy.

The Stewards

Ken Weston. Click To Enlarge. Jimmy Newell. Click To Enlarge. Derek Lee. Click To Enlarge.
We also have three stewards; left we have Ken Weston who this trip is hanging out in the galley assisting down there and keeping the crew and duty messes ship-shape. Jimmy Newell (centre) and Derek Lee (right) serve in the saloon and assist Cliff in keeping the rest of the accommodation spick and span.

Wildlife Corner

We had planned for another bird week to continue our theme of a few weeks ago. That was until early Thursday morning when we had the pleasure of a Southern Right Whale alongside the ship. The pictures below were captured by the mate, Robert Paterson, from the bridge. In the centre you can see Emma our doctor practising her bedside manner as the whale surfaces alongside her.

Southern Right Whale. Click To Enlarge. Dr. Emma and the whale. Click To Enlarge. Southern Right Whale. Click To Enlarge.
A Southern Right Whale. They are normally between 11.0 and 16.4 metres long and can weigh up to 30 tonnes. These whales are distinguished by the absence of a dorsal fin and the presence of callosities on the head. The forward facing blow is also a good identifier.

A final thought until next week...

If the weather holds our transect lines will be completed by Monday evening. Then after a brief stop for some calibration work we should be Stanley bound, where we hope to arrive on Friday. However, just before we go we had a rare sight this week of the Willis Islands. This is a set of islands at the western end of South Georgia. It's not that we don't often pass by them, it's just that they are normally covered in cloud. This week's rare sighting made a very pleasant change.

The Willis Islands - in the clear for a change. Click To Enlarge. The Willis Islands - in the clear for a change. Click to enlarge