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Nov 2 - Tropics to the Falklands

And so, after passing Fernando de Noronha, the ship, at a distance and out of site, reached the north-eastern tip of the Brazilian coast. This was the start of the long journey down along the Eastern coastline of the whole of South America. Despite our relative proximity to the continent, the closest point of approach was actually 100 miles, well out of visual range.

Our closeness to land though was apparent by the sudden change in the wildlife accompanying us. For the first 3 days or so down the coast we were accompanied by a host of tropical species of seabird including Boobys and Frigatebirds. Also, passing over the Vitoria-Trindade Seamounts brought us into more prosperous waters, giving some members of the crew views of Tropical Whales breaching well out of the water, within just a few hundred yards of the ship.

Frigatebird on Mast
Frigatebird on Mast

Masked Booby
Masked Booby

After passing east of Montevideo, at about 35 degrees south of the Equator, on 26th October, the ship passed into the much deeper and colder water of the Argentine Basin. This lead to a very sudden change in air temperatures, at least in comparison to the sauna like conditions of the previous week. An atmospheric depression at the same time also lead to the first proper ocean swell the ship had encountered on the trip. This was also the start of a further change in accompanying birdlife. The tropical species now absent for several days were to be replaced with an ever increasing number of birds that should be with us for many months to come.

Atypical Horizon in Swell
A typical Horizon in Swell

Giant Petrel
Giant Petrel

Cape Petrel
Cape Petrel

And so, early on the beautifully bright, if slightly breezy, morning of 31st October the James Clark Ross came in sight of land for the first time in well over 2 weeks. After calling Fishops (Fisheries Operations) to let them know that we were soon to arrive, the ship headed into Port William Sound, passing between Mengeary Point to the North and Cape Penbroke with it's lighthouse to the South. The ship turned to port into The Narrows, Engineer and Navy Points to either side, taking us into Stanley Harbour and at last giving us full view of our destination. Since the JCR has to Berth on her starbord side, Captain Elliott reversed her into position in the centre of FIPASS. In full view to forward was the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth, one mile away in Whalebone Cove, and in the far distance to stern, past Stanley itself, was the other end of the harbour, Moody Brook.

The first view of the Falkand Islands at first light
The first view of the Falkand Islands at first light

Stanley Harbour seen through the Narrows
Stanley Harbour seen through the Narrows

FIPASS stands for the Falkland Islands Port and Storage System. This consists of 7 large pontoon barges linked together and connected to shore by a causeway. In total this system allows for 305 metres of berthiing and even has a rollon-rolloff ramp at its eastern end

The Lady Elizabeth with the JCR behind
The Lady Elizabeth with the JCR behind

The Lady Elizabeth, as shown in the photo is the wreck of an old Iron Ship. She was built in Sunderland in 1879 and when registered was 223 feet in length and had a weight of 1208 tonnes. She first came to grief passing around Cape Horn in 1913 carrying a cargo of Oregon Pine, losing four of the crew in the process. She limped to safety, though, at the very last, hit a rock on the way into Stanley Harbour. This was the final straw and she was condemned and sold, with her cargo of timber, to the Falkland Island Company for £3350. She was moored up and used as a floating warehouse for over 20 years before breaking free during a storm in 1936 and drifting to her final resting position in Whalebone Cove.

Having taken on 4 new members of the ships crew and 22 'scientists' the next journey for the ship was possibly one of the shortest of it's career, a distance of approximately 100 metres taking a grand total of 14 minutes. This was simply to allow room on FIPASS for the JCR to be joined by a large cargo ship. This short voyage probably went unnoticed by many a member of ships company who was not up bright and early on the morning of 31st October. In total the ship was to be berthed at FIPASS for a total of 3 nights and 4 days. For the crew, this was a solid 4 days of working cargo, while for some members of BAS staff, this was the last chance to enjoy a few of life's simple luxuries prior to up to two and a half years in the field.

Loading cargo in the wind and rain
Loading cargo in the wind and rain

The next, and slightly longer leg of the ship's season in the southern hemisphere was scheduled for 4pm on 2nd November. All 51 members of the ships company thus had to be on board by 3pm to allow the gangway to be lifted clear and let the ship set sail for it's next, slightly colder port of call, Signy Base.