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19 Aug - Core....look at the size of that !

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Position at 1200: 51 50.2° North, 010 41.3° West
Distance Travelled since Leith : 1578.2 Nautical Miles
Air temperature: 16.6°C; Sea temperature: 15.8°C

"Core......look at the size of that"

I am not sure that anybody actually said that during the successful cores last week but if they didn't then they should have! The coring has been very successful and everybody seems happy about the results they are getting. We even managed to have time at the end to fit in an extra vibro-core before we left.

Thankfully over the last week no more fishing boats sank near us and we did not speak to any yachts (see last week) but we did see Rockall which according to veterans of this area is pretty unusual. In fact we have been very lucky and had good weather the whole time up here......I say this with fingers crossed as we are not in Portsmouth yet!

So this weeks update is mainly just some images of the last couple of weeks since we started drilling....

Rockall at three miles.......recommended you click to enlarge! This was our view of the infamous Rockall, It is not quite what we were expecting.....I am sure in pictures it looks huge!

The aim of the cruise......

This cruise was designed to calibrate earlier seismic surveys by other ships, by collecting rock-cores, vibro-cores and gravity-cores from the different formations that had been seen in the seismic survey data. This allows a better picture of the regional geology to be built up and to provide samples for specialist studies of age dating etc. This is all done back on dry land at all sorts of places around the country but mainly at the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Edinburgh. The sites for the drilling etc. are carefully chosen before the ship leaves for the cruise.

A fine example of a core! Click to enlarge Just some of the cores. Click to enlarge

Core samples - some are quite pretty!
Click to enlarge

But to get these is no mean feat, first the ship has to stop on the spot (see last week). Then the rig is launched and lowered to the sea-bed. Following a bit of dark science.....(ie we don't know what goes on!) it is then announced from the little BGS shack on the aft deck that we can recover the rig. Once secured back on board the core barrel is taken out of the rig and taken to the infamous drill bench. This has to be one of the mose popular pieces of scientific equipment to be carried on this ship as it just happens to be a perfect height for leaning on! Perfect for those sundowners....... After this it is taken into the lab where it is logged, bagged and tagged and stored away in the hold, or in the freezer if it is mud.

Recovering the rig. Click to enlarge Carrying the barrel to the bench. Click to enlarge

The rig is recovered and the core barrel is taken to the drill bench....

Removing the core from the barrel on the bench. Click to enlarge Bob, one of the two geologists on board, examining the core in the lab. Click to enlarge

...the core is removed from the barrel before being examined in the lab (in this case by Bob).
Click to enlarge

The sea-bed, you can also see the leg of the rig. Click to enlarge There is a camera on the rig to enable the drill controller in the shack to have a look at what they are about to drill. To most of us these don't look like much at all, but they can tell us all sorts of things. Mind you who could argue they were wrong ?!

Some newly qualified drillers and winch drivers.......

Clara in the 'shack' during her drill site. Click to enlarge

Clara Mori gained the honour of being the first ever non-BGS person to drill a hole with their rig and was duly presented with her 'drilling ticket' by the BGS team.....and she would later claim it was the best core of the whole trip!

The morning shift. Click to enlarge

Eileen Gillespie was presented with her winch driving wings after a fine job driving the drill winch for the morning shift; pictured here. From left to right: Neil, Eileen, Bob and James

The afternoon shift. Click to enlarge

Pictured here is the afternoon shift....from left to right: Ali, Pamela, Dave and Clara. (Sandy is taking the photo!)

Click on images to enlarge

And all together at the end of cruise party......

The BGS team. Click to enlarge

From L-R: Oliver O'Cadhla, Ali Skinner (PSO), Neil Cambell, Dave Smith, Eileen Gillespie, Pamela Kempton, Sandy Henderson, Bob Gatliff, Clara Mori, James Glendinny and last but not least Mick Mackey.

The ships bit!

As promised last week Ian the second officer has written something on his impressions of the last three BAS ships, but he will explain.....

Way back in Newcastle I was asked to write about the three different ships I have sailed on with BAS. As I had only been on the JCR a short time at that stage, and had never been to sea on her, I managed to avoid writing anything. I thought I had got away with it but Paul has obviously had far too many hours sitting on the bridge thinking during science, and collared me again last week to write something. As he is very busy running about doing whatever it is he keeps himself busy doing I agreed to write a short bit. Foolishly I thought it would be no problem but the more I thought about it the more difficult a task it has become. So I won't compare or contrast the ships and I certainly won't cast judgement on which is the best, worst etc., I'll leave that up to you. All I'm going to do is tell you about the three BAS ships I have sailed on. Three ships, three years, three different ranks. They are three very different ships. Having sailed on all three I can honestly say that apart from the fact they are all painted red they are nothing like each other....


Bransfield at Rothera. Click to enlarge Some people reading this may never have heard of the Bransfield. She was taken out of service at the end of the 1998/99 season and replaced by the Ernest Shackleton. I did my first trip with BAS as 4th mate onboard the Bransfield, and although towards the end of her life with BAS she experienced some problems I have yet to meet anyone who has sailed on the Bransfield who does not have fond memories of her. She was a lovely old ship, with wooden decks all round, a kindly motion in the sea, a cast of thousands working on her and communal showers.( I am not so sure about this comment...Paul!)

As the crew (apart from the top four and the electrician) did the full Antarctic season onboard there was a great sense of achievement, and I suppose to the new recruits adventure, on a Bransfield voyage. You joined in the UK in September and took the ship all around the Antarctic re-supplying all of the BAS bases and then brought the ship back to the UK the following May. I'm sure if the walls of the three bars onboard that old ship could talk they would have many stories to tell!

Each summer the Bransfield went to dry dock for a while and then sat in Grimsby docks awaiting the return of her crew to load her up and take her south and in the end it was partly this time that lead to the demise of this old lady of the sea. BAS couldn't justify having a ship sitting in Grimsby for almost 4 months every year and just like a car, as it gets older it costs more to upkeep, so the long and successful 20 year career of the Bransfield drew to an end with her stealing away to an Indian scrap yard like a thief in the night. No great farewell for such a hard working and much loved old girl but she will always be remembered kindly by all those who sailed on her.


The Shackleton at Rothera. Click to enlarge The answer to the problem of losing the Bransfield was to find a ship that could still re-supply the bases but also work during the summer. This is where the Ernest Shackleton came in. Originally called the Polar Queen she is now on charter to BAS for the next 15 years or so and was renamed Ernest Shackleton after the great Antarctic explorer.

To say it was something of a culture shock moving from the graceful ladylike features of the "Branny" to the no nonsense, ultra modern, all singing, all dancing "Shack" would be a bit of an understatement! We went from an old style long narrow bridge with all stand-alone equipment and nice bridge-wings which you could sit out on and enjoy the stars, to a great big ball-room type affair. A fully integrated bridge with more buttons, knobs and flashing lights than you could shake a stick at, a 5 disc stereo system did something to break the anguish of no longer having bridge-wings but the piece de la resistance (as far as the BAS were concerned) was her dynamic positioning (DP) capabilities which in theory would allow her to work in the North Sea during the Antarctic winter.

The Ernest Shackleton is a fine ship and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Sure she will never be the Branny but the Branny could never keep up with the Shack. She works well in the ice, she has proved herself more than capable in the North Sea, all the cargo fits in......more or less! She is not as comfortable to sail on and very evidently a compromise ship capable of fulfilling several roles, but it's what we have now and all onboard are making the best of it.


James Clark Ross at Rothera. Click to enlarge How I ended up here is as much a mystery to me as it is to everyone else. I finished a year in college doing my class 2/1 in mid June and was just settling down to enjoy my summer at home before re-joining the Shack as 3rd Officer again when a letter came informing me I was to join the JCR as 2nd Officer on the 20th June.

Having come from the 'Branny' and the 'Shack' where it is very much a hands on job of delivering stores, equipment and people to the Antarctic bases, I was a bit daunted at the prospect of joining the JCR where science is the order of the day and rumour had it that they get dressed up for dinner! Well, once we finally got away from dry dock I learned that science, most defiantly is the order of the day (just look above!) and I had to remember how to tie a tie or I was going to starve to death! It is a different job on here, lots of ship handling and manoeuvring from one science station to the next. The people we carry are actually working as opposed to being passengers along for the ride to the next base. It's different but interesting.

So there you have the three ships. All so different yet all part of the same group. It isn't possible to compare them as no two are the same and their roles are vastly different. The Bransfield could never operate in the North Sea or do science, the Shackleton hasn't the science capability of the JCR and the JCR cannot carry as much cargo as the other two.

If I did have to try to compare them I would have to say the 'Branny' would be most like an old classic VW camper van, loved by all but not much good for going to work every day. The Shackleton would be like a Ford Transit van, a capable work horse, not particularly comfortable but versatile. The JCR would be a Land Rover discovery, capable of doing lots of work but not the most practical beast in the world. (N.B others would say that the JCR is a compromise of several different roles [e.g: cargo, many types of science, ice work, people carrier, tanker, all of which she fulfils very well indeed!!)

This weeks little helpers.......

Thanks to Ian, Hamish and all of the BGS crowd for photos and also for a good cruise.

Coming up...........

Well if you didn't already know, we are arriving in Portsmouth on Wednesday morning for de-mobilisation of the BGS Rockall cruise equipment, and for the International Festival of the Sea.

So lots of pictures next week (and probably the week after, which also happens to be our last weekend on the ship, as we are off on our hols soon!)