11 January, 2010 RRS Ernest Shackleton
New Years Greetings to you all.
After a difficult final passage through compacted pack ice we finally broke through into open water and made our way down the coastline towards Halley on New Years day. We arrived at Creek 3, the designated loading point for this season, that afternoon and were greeted by the sight of the Igarka busy offloading cargo for the new Halley VI base. The Captain found a suitable spot for us to tie up and soon the crews were sent ashore with assistance of Halley personnel to dig and drill out holes for the mooring posts to tie the ship up too.
Only essential cargo was sent off from our vessel initially, mostly fresh fruit and vegetables and mail for the base as the priority was to get the Igarka offloaded as soon as possible. The weather remained good for the next few days and the temps hovered either side of zero deg C. Balmy conditions compared to the weather reports we have getting from the UK and Europe.
By the evening of Thursday 4th Jan, the final items were discharged from the Igarka. The job had gone incredibly well and the base building project could now go full steam ahead. The relief on the project Managers Carl Tuplin’s face was palpable.
As soon as the Igarka was finished, the focus switched to our vessel and the offloading of Aviation fuel commenced, followed by the rest of the general cargo we had for the base. This operation continued around the clock until Saturday the 9th of Jan, when the final back load of dunnage was swung on board.
Some of ships personnel were afforded the opportunity to visit the base later that day and were given a really good tour around the old base and the building site for the new base, which was very impressive indeed. The sheer amount of parts and equipment and vehicles scattered about, mostly in neat depots, is staggering.
They already have three modules well on their way to being fully clad and the big Red Module’s steelwork was being to put together like a giant Mecanno set as went through the site. They are hoping to have all the modules fully clad by the end of the season. We wish them all success in their endeavours.
During our stay we heard that a big piece of ice had broken off at the Windy Creek penguin colony. This unfortunately orphaned quite a few chicks and we saw some forlorn looking chaps floating past on pathetically small bits of ice.
They still have too much down covering to swim and fend for themselves and their survival is highly unlikely in these harsh conditions. However after a day or two of seeing them float back and forth with the wind some of them did somehow manage to make it onto the bay-ice where we were moored. At least for now they were not in danger of having to swim for it. Some of them even made it up the ramp onto the ice shelf and were seen waddling in the direction the Halley base.
We finally departed on Sunday the 10th and made our way up past the various creeks inspecting the ice for potential off-loading points for our return journey before heading off towards Stancombe Wills hoping to get around the point and into open water as soon as possible.
We made pretty good progress initially but by Monday morning were once again in the thick of it as it were. Nine tenths ice attempting to block our way. From the satellite photo’s we can see that once we get through this sticky patch things should improve dramatically and we’re hoping to clear of it all within 48 hours.
Our next port of call is Cape Town for brief visit to back load and pick up some Norwegian scientists for some science work we will be doing prior to returning to Halley.
Images: P’ O’Hara and Dr. Angharad Jones