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Dec 26 - Rothera and Back North

Rothera and Back North

And so it was that the ship was to make it's final attempt to get down to Rothera at the southern tip of Adelaide Island. It was at about 4am on 17th December that all systems were prepared. The Captains aim had been to head towards the coast, and for safety, the ship had been left floating in the ice, facing north overnight to watch its movement and give a chance to head straight out in an emergency. The ship was thus first turned to head south and we then tried the inshore route. Jenny Island, in view from Rothera itself, was passed at 14:45. The ship thus headed directly for Rothera with almost all new base personel on the Monkey Deck watching as their new home came slowly closer and closer. It was in full view of all those waiting and watching up above the jetty that the ship finally positioned itself at 17:00

A full Monkey Deck as we are heading towards Rothera
A full Monkey Deck as we are heading towards Rothera

The final ice sheet keeping us away from the jetty at Rothera
The final ice sheet keeping us away from the jetty at Rothera

A full gallery watching as we arrive
A full gallery watching as we arrive

And so the JCR was at Rothera at last. After an evening meal all on board had a brief from the base commander. The plan was to start the vast amount of cargo work first thing the next morning and for all new base staff to move into their new home after one further night on board. And thus it was that 4 solid days of heavy cargo work were started at 06:30 after an evening of entertaining those from base on board.

For many first-timers this was a great chance to have a proper look around the base and it's surroundings. Old-hats on base were more than welcome to show the ship's staff around, aswell as give them a chance, out of work hours, to head off and see some of the sights and to become a member of the Antarctic Skiing Society. A number of the ships compliment were invited for a full Roast Beef Sunday Dinner at base, especially in honour of Captain Elliott's l**t (dirty word again) visit into Rothera, and this was followed by a speech from the base commander and the presentation of a variety of base made presents.

Throughout the stay cargowork continued for both base and ships crew, some heavy duty cargo for the work to be undertaken there over the season, with other including the hundreds of boxes of provisions for the coming year, to be moved by hand. This was to occur right until the last minute, just an hour prior to sailing.

One event that obviously cannot be forgotten from this visit was the Base vs Ship football match which occurred on the final evening of the ships visit. On the pitch it was blatently apparent that the ship's staff had kept up a rigid fitness regime as they stormed into an early lead within the first two minutes of the game thanks to a goal from the Engineering Cadet Kieran. At the end of the match, the ship had by far shown the greater stamina, skill and commitment, with the final result reading 4-1. The other scorers had included two goals from Bins, the Bosuns Mate and one from Nuno, ship scientist.

A diving save from Gerry (2nd Engineer) Also included is top scorer Bins (far left) and Nuno (centre right)
A diving save from Gerry (2nd Engineer) Also included is top scorer Bins (far left) and Nuno (centre right)

And finally all the cargo work was completed by 16:30 on the afternoon of the 21st Dec. The aft deck was cleared and this was the when the whole of Rothera base had been invited onto the ship for a final time this visit. All were served glasses of mulled wine by Hamish, the JCR Purser, aswell as mince pies by the the rest of the catering staff. Chris Elliott made his final speech to base as Captain of the RRS James Clark Ross and then, just 75 minutes after cargo work had been completed, the ship left the jetty, not to return for a further couple of months with the ship's other crew. The ships leaving was to a background of saxophone music, played on the jetty.

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies with Hamish
Mulled Wine and Mince Pies with Hamish

Captain Elliott's Speech
Captain Elliott's Speech

Saxophonist on the Jetty at Rothera
Saxophonist on the Jetty at Rothera

The ship thus headed north, with a total compliment very different in size to that which had headed south just 3 weeks previously. On top of the ships crew there were just 8 members of scientific staff, as compaired to the 36 extra individuals on the last trip. The ship headed north, though ice, now much thinner and less tight to that which was present just 4-5days previous. It was on the evening of the 22nd that the ship arrived back at the Neumeyer channel, in weather conditions so much clearer to those first time. Many were out, either on the Monkey Deck, Forecastle or on the Bridge to see the passage through late into the evening.

Dougie (3rd Officer) at the controls, heading into the Neumeyer
Dougie (3rd Officer) at the controls, heading into the Neumeyer

Watchers on the Forecastle at the same point into the Neumeyer
Watchers on the Forecastle at the same point into the Neumeyer

The ship was very much due a lifeboat drill, and it had been decided that Deception Island would be a perfect, calm place to undertake this opportunistically. It was thus mid-morning the next day that the JCR headed past the rim of the volcano to get the lifeboats wet for the first time this season. Over a few hours, each of the lifeboats was lowered in turn and tested out, all in view of the visitors that were also present on one of the many tourist ships now frequenting these waters during the summer months. After just these few hours the JCR was back on her way to start the next portion of science on this years agenda. The journey out was accompanied by a multitude of penguins all around, aswell as the most Whales seen so far this season.

Lowering the lifeboat down off the ship
Lowering the lifeboat down off the ship

The lifeboat being tested infront of a tourist ship
The lifeboat being tested infront of a tourist ship

Chinstrap Penguins on the way out of Deception
Chinstrap Penguins on the way out of Deception

The ship was thus on its way to start further oceanographic work, this time off the South Orkney Islands. Starting time was due to be in the early hours of Christmas morning, making it a working Christmas for the crew and scientific staff. It was over the night of the 23rd though that more ice was again encountered for the first time after Deception, bringing the ships speed to just a third of that a few hours previously. Large detours would effect plans no end. The main question on board then was to whether the ship would be working on science on Christmas day, or be heading away from the ice towards South Georgia? Let's wait and see!