Oct 15 - Gibraltar
After one further short stop for the testing of the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) equipment, The next stop was Gibraltar, a first for RRS James Clark Ross. Arrival was at first light, with the rock itself steeped in thick cloud. After getting the Gibraltar Pilot on board to assist in safely navigating into the dock, the ship was back attached to dry land after only six days at sea. The stop-off, an essential part of the the smooth running of this years operations down south, was actually for the loading of aviation fuel on to the ship. This obviously can only be done at a certain speed and so all personel on board not specifically involved in the transfer process were able to make the most of such an unusual, if only brief trip ashore.
In total, the visit allowed 6 hours of shore leave for free members of the crew to nose around the British Dependant Teritory of 300 hundred years. Whilst some took to their mountain bikes, brought along on board to ease travel in Falklands, a few did take the chance to explore the rock on foot, though most, certainly given time restraints, took one of the many tours available from the centre of town.
The Rock of Gibraltar, derived from the Arabic 'Jebel Tariq' (Tariq's Mountain), was named after the Berber general Tariq ibn Zayad from the 8th century and is covered by many sites of historical interest, some of which the crew got to visit.
The Great Siege Tunnels of Gibraltar were excavated at the end of the 18th century during the American War of Independance by the British, defending the rock against attack by the French and the Spanish
The Monument to the Pillars of Hercules looks out over the southern tip of Gibraltar and documents the rock as a religeous shrine of the ancient Greeks and the end of the known world.
The Barbary Macaques (actually tailless monkeys) of Gibralatar are probably one of it's most recognised features. As the only free living monkey in Europe it is thought (who will get the banana first) to have been brought over from its native Morrocco as a pet during the time of the early British garrison.
And so, after just a few hours, the grey and overcast Rock of Gibraltar we had arrived to first thing in the morning, was departed from in the perfect sunshine of early evening.
The first two days heading south, after leaving Gibraltar, between the Northern tip of Morrocco and reaching the Canary islands, were, despite perfectly clear skies, accompanied by a moderate swell, fairly brisk winds and a significant quantity of small migrant birds. Our leaving of Gibraltar on schedule appears perfectly timed, given the subsequent route of Hurricane Vincent, the 20th Hurricane of this season. Having been down-graded to a Tropical Storm, it passed near to Madiera and then 50 nautical miles to the south-east of Cabo de Sao Vincente, the south-western tip of Portugal, at 0300 on 11th October. By then only a Tropical depression, it made history as the first ever tropical cyclone on record to make landfall on the Iberian Peninsula. Our passage had thus taken us directly across the course of Hurricane Vincent only a couple of days prior to the depression itself.
The passage of the JCR past the Canaries ended up being by the cover of darkness, between Gran Canaria and Tenerife. The popular tourist resort, was missed by all of the crew, bar a small number on watch duty overnight. By first sunlight the ship was sailing in perfectly calm conditions and the islands, possibly the last sight of land in the northern hemisphere, themselves already heading into the distance.