Dec 21 - Elephant Point and South To Rothera
The Last CTD of the Drake Passage Transect was finished at 2300 on the 11th December just north of the tip of Elephant Island, so famous as part of the Journey of Ernest Shackleton. After this the James Clark Ross did a U-turn to Port and headed up to the final piece of science on this part of the trip. The required buoy was recovered from it's position and a new hydrophone deployed, all done by 3am. Now was for the start of the true run south.
We passed by the tip of Elephant for the second time at around 7am and continued in the lee of the island and then on passed King George Island. We headed into the Gerlache straight in the early hours of the 13th, with a large proportion of those on transit up on the highest point of the ship to get the best views possible.
On the way in to Port Lockroy that morning there was a total of 6 ships that were passed, presumably all eager to get ashore at the Antarctic Heritage Base once it had been restocked and opened for the season by ourselves. The ship got into position at Damoy Point, off Lockroy, and the tender was launched at 11.00. The first run in with the new occupants of the base and a few from the ship to help with the manual cargo work was just half an hour later. All on ship pitched in to get the base re-opened, with only the weather hampering all our efforts. With the wind picking up and the tide very low it was nifty boatman work and hard effort from all when the tender was close in-shore that meant that everything was easily finished on time. The 3 new residents of the base were waved to as the tender finally left for the ship at about 4.30pm and all those who had assisted were back on deck, with the tender just 30 minutes later.
The ship was scheduled for a visit to Vernansky Station, previously know as Faraday prior to being handed over to the Ukrainians, at around 8am the next morning. The ship was therefore anchored up overnight at Damoy point, in full view of Port Lockroy base, allowing a pleasant night anchored up with lovely views around the ship to be had by all. Pre-departure checks were started early, 4am, the anchor was brought up, and the ship headed off through the amazingly impressive Lemaire Channel in low cloud. Just as the JCR was about to enter the channel it was accompanied by a group of 5 Minke Whales breaching close by, before heading off into the distance.
This stop in to Vernadsky had been requested by the team from the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. Members of this team had been working as part of the Drake passage work and continue to this day to be involved in the work looking at water levels at Vernadski even though the base itself is now under the occupancy of a Ukrainian team of scientists. About a dozen of the 65 strong compliment of the James Clark Ross were lucky enough to see the once British base. Much of the now near legendary carpentary undertaken during the British occupancy of the station, previously know as Faraday, was still to be seen, kept almost pristine by the new occupants.
After no more than a few hours ashore, it was back to the ship. By just 11.30, Sooty, one of the ship's motorboats, was back on deck with all of the ships compliment. It was then to head south, into the ice, in an attempt to get to Rothera. The first actual ice the ship actually passed into was that afternoon, though we were clear of that in no more than a few hours, leading to a night's course through open water.
The next lot of pack ice encountered was to the west of Adelaide Island, less than 100 miles from Rothera Station. The JCR made good headway through this, though at slow speed until 1pm. At this point the decision was made to stop and assess the direction of iceflow and await a flyby with news by the Dash from Rothera. The ship was left to drift overnight, allowing assessment of the movement of the ice.
Bizarrely being still in the ice lead to the opportunity to bring out the Christmas decorations and a real seasonal atmosphere developed as everyone got into the spirit of things and prepared various areas of the ship for coming festivities. The main question though was 'Where would everyone on board be spending christmas?' Would those due for Rothera be there? Would those heading back north from Rothera be back in the UK? Would we still be sitting in pack ice. For that one evening at least, people really didn't seem to care, making it a perfect evening in the Officers and Scientist Saloon.
And finally........The two JCR cadets (also known as the Gadgets) after a hard day's work decorating their bosses' cabins (not that the Mate or the Second Engineer were aware of this at the time)