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North Sea July 2010

10 July, 2010

The RRS Ernest Shackleton has been through quite a bit since you heard from us. The trip north from the Falklands and arrival in Grimsby, a crew change and Dynmaic Positoioning (DP) trials.

Capt. Marshall’s team re-joined on the 20th May, after a two month break. The next day we headed out for DP trials. this was conducted just off the Humber estuary. The trials did not go too well and we headed into port with a small number of faults against the vessel. Attempts were made to rectify these faults but to no avail and we landed up sailing for Den Helder in Holland with the DP Engineer still with us.

Mobilisation commenced shortly after arrival in Den Helder. The Client being a local outfit called Blue-stream. Whilst in port, work on the DP system continued.

We eventually sailed for the work area and attempted to commence work which went well for a few days, unfortunately the DP system again played up and we headed to port once again for repair.

The ship landed up spending almost three weeks in Den Helder as the DP system was thoroughly taken apart and tested with numerous new components until eventually it was made to work again. The system is very old and the manufacturers  have informed us that they can no longer guarantee support of it due to the lack of spares. The net result of this is that we will go into re-fit early this year, mid August, to get a brand new system fitted.

The stay in Den Helder afforded some of the ships crew the opportunity to get ashore and explore the small town. We were lucky enough to be there during their annual Historic festival one part of which was a display of Vintage Vehicles in the grounds of the extensive Maritime museum. The museum itself has many interesting exhibits, sections of old wooden vessel from times gone by and even a complete submarine that can be boarded and explored. All who had the chance to get ashore enjoyed the Jazz and music festival that followed this.

We are currently on contract off the German coast providing accommodation for the construction crew of a huge offshore wind farm project. The first phase of the project will consist of eighty Wind turbines of five Megawatts each. There are plans to expand it beyond this if it proves viable.

The Turbines are mounted on huge pile-driven tripods that rise from the sea-bed and are joined into one column above the surface, which rises almost 100 metres out of the water. The blades are 60 metres long making a circumference of 120 metres for the whole propeller assembly. The generator units sitting atop the masts are about as big as an average house. So it is a huge engineering feat to get it all assembled. We observed them raising up one of the blade assemblies which took about six hours to get in place and securely attached.

Lynx helicopter from HMS Endurance landing on HMS Polar Circle.
Lynx helicopter from HMS Endurance landing on HMS Polar Circle.

We have been kept busy with daily helicopters between the shore and us. The personnel transfers from the Shackleton to the worksites are done by an interesting looking Vessel called Natalia Bekker. She is purpose built for this project, a catamaran design built to minimise the effect of the seas swell.

We are coming ot the end of our two month stint and will be relieved on or aorund the 21st of July.

Words: Pat O’Hara

Images: Dave Bailey and Pat O’Hara