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May 04 - The Brazilian Coast and then on up through the Tropics

Having left Montevideo, the James Clark Ross headed up the eastern coast of Brazil, to increasingly tropical temperatures and the engineers working increasingly hard to keep the air conditioning system working at full tilt. Monday 24th saw a man-overboard drill, with a dummy thrown over the side of the ship, leading to full activation of all on board to practice their appropriate roles, all the way through the process from how to raise the alarm if someone was seen go overboard, launching the rescue boat and through to management of the casualty in the ship's hospital. All of this is important to prepare everyone on board for such an eventuality.

The JCR's passage past Fernando de Noronha, to the northeast of Brazil
The JCR's passage past Fernando de Noronha, to the northeast of Brazil

On Thursday 27th April the James Clark Ross headed away from the northeastern tip of the Brazilian coast and out into the Atlantic. The next morning the ship passed to the east of Arquipelago Fernando de Noronha, in view of the largest of the 21 islands, Fernando de Noronha, the only one actually inhabited. It was discovered just over 500 years ago and is 10km in length, with a particularly uneven terrain, the highest peak being Morro de Pico at 323m. The remaining uninhabited islands, along with a portion of Fernando de Noronha make up part of a National Marine Reserve, only able to be visited with an official licence from the Brazilian Government. Noronha has the largest breeding colony of seabirds of all South Atlantic tropical islands, and the ship was accompanied for a short period by a variety of seabirds diving for fish in its wake, or chasing flying fish on the wing.

Masked Booby in flight alongside the JCR - Picture by Dave Farrance
Masked Booby in flight alongside the JCR - Picture by Dave Farrance

As stated above, the JCR undertakes drills throughout the season to ensure that all on board are appropriately prepared for any eventuality, be it mechanical, medical or socio-political (stowaways/piracy/bombs) and on the morning after passing Noronha it was the turn of a Major Medical Incident drill. In cases such as this, every single individual on board has an important role to play, be it in the engine control room, on the bridge, on deck or in the hospital. Drills such as the mock 3-casualty boating scenario undertaken that morning give all on board the chance to think about how such situations can be managed appropriately, so if similar was ever to happen, everyone on board would be prepared for it.

And so the JCR headed out into the tropical, open Atlantic Ocean. Temperatures had sored by this time, though the breeze had picked up a little and the air conditioning was at full speed, making life much more bearable. The ship passed across the equator at 0230 on Saturday 29th, whilst most of the ships company were asleep in their bunks. The next evening was to be marked, though, by a barbeque on the aft deck, with some of the wonderful meat still present in stores after Montevideo.

Sunset over the Atlantic - Picture by Dave Farrance
Sunset over the Atlantic - Picture by Dave Farrance

Late on the afternoon of 2nd May the JCR passed to the western side of the Cape Verde Islands. These islands were uninhabited until discovered by the Portuguese in 1465, from which point becoming a colony of Portugal, until 1975, when the Islands became independant. There are a total of 15 islands, which have distinctly different characters, the westernmost being characterised by their mountainous landscapes, with the remainder renowned for their long sandy beaches. Santo Antao, to which the JCR passed closest , is renowned for it's high, inaccessible landscape intersected by footpaths.

The Ship's Passage to the west of the Cape Verde Islands
The Ship's Passage to the west of the Cape Verde Islands

After this, the JCR now continues its passage north, still in tropical warmth though the temperature and humidity continue to become more pleasant and bearable by the day.

Next Stop and next week, Portland UK


P.S. Very many thanks to Doctor Dave Farrance for his excellent and much-appreciated efforts to write the JCR diaries for these past several months. In addition, since he will be departing from the ship in Portland after his full ‘Voyage of Discovery’ from September 2005 to May 2006 on board the “James Clark Ross”, a great many thanks to Dave from all of us on board for his ministrations and for keeping us (relatively!) healthy throughout that period. We collectively wish Dave all the very Best for his future.
Capt. Jerry Burgan