Oct 05 - Southbound
And so, at last, the crew of the RRS James Clark Ross, under the Captaincy of Chris Elliott, set to sea aiming for southern waters. After a final night out on home British soil, preparations were made the following morning of 2nd October. On a nice blue skied morning, with minimal breeze and scattered cloud, all final checks were undertaken, and it was around midday that the gangway was craned back onto the ship. This crew, having been on leave since landing in Portland after returning from Antarctica last season in May, have, at last, had to remember how to do such things.
After the gangway came the large fenders, which had been saving the ship from damage whilst moored up at Immingham. These were also initially craned onto the deck before being lifted high up onto the top deck for storage whilst at sea. The ship was manoeuvred away from its space for the last week and into the port's huge lock. Due to the lower level of the water outside the dock, about 6 feet needed to be drained prior to the ship being able to hit open water and say good-bye to UK soil for a further 8 months or so.
Throughout all of this, on board was one of the many Spurn Pilots operating out of the Vessel Traffic Services Centre at Spurn Point. This is necessary for the safety of the ship as it is passing through the busiest foreign trading estuary in the country. The mere fact that there are 40,000 shipping movements in and out of the Humber Estuary each year make it a essential to draw on the experience of such local pilots and the radar system which monitors all vessels in and out of the Humber, 24 hrs per day from the VTS Centre. On leaving the confines of the estuary the pilot was transferred back to one of the VTS's own vessels, leaving the James Clark Ross to head south in beautiful conditions to our next destination of Gibraltar.
The JCR, in fine weather and minimal swell, then headed down the east coast of England, passed the cliffs of Dover around first light on 3rd October and on past the north-western tip of France, subsequently passing into the Bay of Biscay on the morning of 4th October.
The sea was calm and the weather was glorious, perfect for the first undertaking by BAS technical staff mid afternoon, when the ship stopped in deep water in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, to test equipment to be used later this field season on the JCR. The aim of the test was to check the function of certain transmitting and tracking equipment, which will, in the future, be used in conjunction with a remotely operated vehicle. The 'dummy' ROV was lowered deep into the water, enabling the ability of the ship to communicate with and track the equipment to be tested.
And so, on down to Gibraltar for Saturday 8th October.