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Nov 30 - The Past 2 Weeks...

Date: 30th November 2003

Noon Position: Noon position lat 57 51.4S long 64 30.7W
Distance Travelled since Immingham: 13686 NM
Air temperature: 1.9 °C
Sea temperature: 4.6 °C

The News in brief.

Firstly we must apologise to our usual readership for the lack of service last week. This stemmed from a very quiet week at the "office", so there wasn't a lot to speak about and Emma (the Doc) was away from the ship researching items for the "jollies" section. (A very arduous task I'm sure. Ed)

We'll therefore briefly give an account of our movements since our last diary. The day after our last update saw us completing the science programme off South Georgia. This done, we were Stanley bound once more. Our passage was a little rough to say the least and we had to heave-to for a period before finally reaching Stanley on Friday the 21st. This was a couple of days ahead of the stated itinerary, but HQ had asked us to do this to save the science party sitting in Stanley for a whole week before they could fly home.

This meant that we were going to spend a whole week in the Falklands on this call. It was always going to be a longer stay than usual, as we had to load the rest of the cargo for Rothera. This cargo had been brought from the UK onboard BAS's other vessel, the RRS Ernest Shackleton, which we were scheduled to meet here in Stanley.

The day the Ernest Shackleton (ES) arrived at FIPASS, Stanley's dock, it looked like a red and white ship convention was in progress. The picture below left shows what we mean, the JCR is at the left hand end with the ES in the centre and the fisheries protection vessel Sigma being accommodated at the right or eastern end of the jetty.

RRS Ernest Shackleton at FIPASS this week. Click to enlarge. RRS Ernest Shackleton heading for the Narrows on Friday. Click to enlarge.
RRS Ernest Shackleton at FIPASS this week
and heading for the Narrows on Friday.

A busy period then ensued whilst ES discharged the cargo for us and rearranged that which was remaining onboard before slipping away early on Friday morning to refuel elsewhere in the islands. The picture above right shows her departure, it was a cool morning as the scattering of snow in the background bears testament to. Someone said summer was here, but the gales and rain/hail squalls gave a very different picture to the weeks deck operations.

A special event occurred onboard on Tuesday evening which was the culmination of several weeks of secret operations between the ship and a certain member of the BAS Stanley office. At the end of this Antarctic season Myriam Booth, our agent in Stanley, who has been with the Survey for 43 years, is retiring. This ship's company will be back on leave when this momentous event takes place in April so we wanted to give Myriam our own personal send-off. Plans were therefore hatched for a party on the bridge during this call under the disguise of a birthday party for Pauline Sackett, who is going to be Myriam's replacement. Doubts were expressed as to the chances of keep something on this scale secret in a place the size of Stanley. It is however our pleasure to report that it all went splendidly as the picture on Myriam's face showed when she walked in, she didn't have a clue. Unfortunately in the excitement the cameraman failed to get a good shot, but we do have two below. The left hand one shows Myriam displaying her life long invitation to Friday lunch fish'n'chips when ever the JCR is in Stanley, which is one thing she never misses. The right hand one shows the framed chart of our area of operations which an artist had annotated with wildlife sketches and a signed photograph of the ship's crew taken recently in South Georgia.

Myriam displaying her life long invitation. Click to enlarge. Framed chart of our area of operations. Click to enlarge.

With formalities complete, a pleasant and enjoyable evening was had by all. We, however, could not turn down the opportunity of showing our Bosun (George Stewart) and his mate (Dave Williams) all dressed up and not in boiler suits for a change. That is even if they insisted on spoiling it with a dodgy deck engineer (Simon Wright) in the middle. i.e. one of the web authors.

 Our Bosun (George Stewart) and his mate (Dave Williams). Click to enlarge. Our Bosun (George Stewart) and his mate (Dave Williams). Click Image To Enlarge.

Once all the cargo was loaded and secured, the new scientific parties onboard along with all the personnel for Rothera and Port Lockroy, it was back to sea once more for us. Mind you after a week of the wind blowing it was never going to be comfortable. You could say the ship was very quiet on Friday evening! However, as sea legs have been gained and the weather subsides life is returning once more to all onboard.

We have headed from Stanley towards the South Shetland Islands with our ultimate destination being Rothera station, but first some science. On this leg it's sea bed mapping using the swath bathymetry system in the hull. This will be combined along with some dredging for rock samples to understand and define the make-up and history of the sea floor in this area. Hopefully we'll report some success next week.


Stanley is presently in the grip of its summer tourist boom with vessels arriving daily and sometime more than one at once. The relatively small ones tie-up alongside FIPASS which makes life a little easier for the passengers as they can be bused directly to the town and the areas of interest. The larger vessel anchor outside the harbour in Port William and use their tenders to shuttle passengers to and from the main town pier. The pictures below show the World Discoverer alongside FIPASS, whilst the right hand one shows a cruise ship tender collecting its passengers.

The cruise vessel World Discoverer alongside FIPASS. Click to enlarge. World Discoverer. Click to enlarge. A launch collecting it's passengers from the public jetty in Stanley. Click to enlarge.
The cruise vessel World Discoverer alongside FIPASS. Click to enlarge. A launch collecting it's passengers from the public jetty in Stanley. Click to enlarge.

What ever happens the Public Jetty is probably the focal point for many visitors coming to Stanley as it is from here that most of the towns facilities are easily reached on foot. The four pictures below show the immediate area of the jetty. The yellow and red building is a gift shop itself, but immediately behind it is the new visitors centre. Then top right is the Globe Hotel, which along with most bars in Stanley cater for the visitor with both food and liquid refreshments. Bottom left we have Jubilee Villas, which make up, I think, one of only three rows of stone built houses in Stanley dating from the 19th century. Finally we have the view east along Ross Road towards Christchurch Cathedral and the rest of the town.

Gift shop. Click to enlarge. Globe Hotel. Click to enlarge.
Jubilee Villas. Click to enlarge. View east along Ross Road towards Christchurch Cathedral. Click to enlarge.

This time while we were in we had a view of days of old, when a Russian tall ship entered the harbour. It reminded us of Stanley's early history when many such callers would arrive on their way either to or from Cape Horn. Indeed Stanley was the last resting place of many when they were condemned after being damaged by the weather and remain here used for storage or to make up the jetties.

Russian Tall Ship entering the harbour. Click to enlarge. Russian Tall Ship entering the harbour. Click to enlarge.

This one was due to moor alongside us, but unfortunately the wind was too strong and so she anchored off.

Doctor's Jollies

Once in Stanley, I found myself off duty and able to make the most of the opportunity to escape the ship, exchanging the JCR for a Britten Norman Islander aeroplane. These planes are the Falkland Islanders' main form of transport and the only means of travel between the many islands. Every day at 6:15 the local radio station broadcasts the names of those flying the next day. So I duly listened out for my departure time and made my way to Stanley airport to catch a flight to Bleaker Island. As we departed, the pilot radioed ahead to warn the residents to clear the grass airstrip of sheep and geese, erect the windsock and stand-by.

 Islander. Click to enlarge. Islander aeroplane. Click to enlarge.

Bleaker is the most south easterly of the islands and is a small island, 16 miles long, 2 miles wide and 70 feet at its highest point. The settlement comprises three houses, one occupied by Ron and Iris Dickson, the other two let to holiday-makers such as myself. The islands other residents are cattle, sheep, horses and 39 different species of sea bird.

Bleaker Island Settlement. Click to enlarge. Bleaker Island settlement. Click to enlarge.

There are no trees on Bleaker Island, and hence no shelter from the 40 mph winds, snow, rain and hail (and this is apparently the summer). Unsurprisingly the main source of energy for the settlement is a wind turbine.

In a howling gale I found a colony of gentoo penguins doing impressions of bedouins on the beach. These comical penguins were having a great time jumping in and out of the surf before disappearing up the beach to their partners nesting serenely amongst the swirling sand. I also found a King penguin, a few miles away from traditional nesting grounds on East Falkland and slowly being buried by drifting sand.

Gentoos. Click to enlarge.
Bedouin gentoos.
Gentoo penguin. Click to enlarge.
Solitary King. Click to enlarge.
Solitary King penguin.
Penguin footprints. Click to enlarge.
Penguin footprints!

Tearing myself away from these comical characters I stumbled into a field with the oddest sight...

 Eh? Click to enlarge. That can't be right! Click to enlarge.

...and into another field where a colony of birds known as Imperial Shags or King Cormorants has set up home. These birds have a whole island to nest on but insist on cramming themselves as closely together as possible. Some were still nest building. Apparently the taller your nest, the more special you are!

Shags. Click to enlarge.
King Cormorant colony
Shags. Click to enlarge.
Nesting King Cormorant. Note the bright orange caruncles specific to these birds.
Collecting nest material. Click to enlarge.
s Collecting nesting material.

The surprises were far from over, as there came from around the corner a familiar, pungent smell... that of penguins. At dusk the rockhopper penguins emerge from the sea, returning after a hard day in the office to their own nests. They get their name from their habit of nesting on rocky shorelines and even rock stacks, onto which they hop in an awkward two-footed manner designed it seems, purely to provide entertainment!

Rockhopper nesting. Click to enlarge.
Nesting rockhopper.
Rockhopper penguin. Click to enlarge.
Rockhopper penguin.
Rock hopper in action. Click to enlarge.
Rockhopper in action.

The day all but over, I put my head around a corner and discovered yet more birds, this time Rock Shags, clinging to their nests on the edge of a cliff. These birds disperse after breeding in the Falkland Islands to more northerly latitudes in South America.

 Rock cormorants Click to enlarge. Rock Shags. Click to enlarge.

Tired and cold, I returned to my cosy, wind-warmed house just in time to hear the news, the weather forecast (sheep chill factor 94) and the plane timetable for my return to Stanley.

A final thought until next week...

As we head once more for the land of ice and snow we thought we'd finish with a picture of Falkland Steamer ducks and Stanley to keep us going through the white of the ice to come.

 Falkland Steamer ducks on Stanley harbour. Click to enlarge. Falkland Steamer ducks on Stanley harbour. Click to enlarge.

How much ice and how tough it will be to get through this year is something that this week shall reveal. We like your good selves will just have to wait and see... Tune in next week to find out how we get on.