Southward Bound 2009

31 December, 2009 RRS Ernest Shackleton

Capt Marshall’s team joined the ship in Immingham, in late November, which was a surprise to us all as we had been due to join in Cape Town. We departed the same day we joined and headed down to Portsmouth in rough wintry weather to load aviation fuel. We finally bid farewell to the UK shores for the last time this year on the 23rd November and headed off into a blustery Channel and on to Biscay. The passage across Biscay was pretty grim and the ship took quite a pounding. However once we were off the South of Spain things calmed down somewhat and we were able to take stock and ease into the routines of the trip down south.

Once the weather improved we took the opportunity to have a barbecue or two, enjoying the mild tropical evenings. We had a mini crisis when we discovered that we had been left with hardly any charcoal to burn. We will have to have a word with the other team about this gross dereliction of duty. This did not deter us for too long as the Chippy got stuck into calving up all the Mahogany furniture from the lounges to ensure a good red hot coal or two for our Steak and Sausage. Only kidding we had lots of waste wood off-cuts on board to tide us through these trying times.

We arrived in Cape Town 16th December on a glorious sunny summers day. Our Stay in Cape Town was an all to short, two-day affair. We were lucky to be berthed in the Waterfront area with all its of its delights on our doorstep so to speak.

Some of the lads managed to get in a trip up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain and reported having a wonderful time as the “Table cloth” clouds obliged by lifting and giving them some spectacular views.

On Friday the 18th December we departed in calm weather and headed south. A day out and the huge Cape Rollers began taking their inevitable toll as the passenger lounge gradually emptied and see-sickness took hold on fresh landlubbery legs.

The seas subsided a bit after three days and we made good progress avoiding the worst of the frontal systems passing through.

Late evening in the ice
Late evening in the ice

On Xmas Eve Simon Gill and the rest of the Morison’s crowd gathered on the fore deck for a round of Christmas Carols sung with much gusto and not much else aided with a warm glass of mulled wine to keep the chill at bay.

Early morning ice
Early morning ice

A White Christmas was assured as we entered the pack-ice early that morning. The Lounges and Mess room were adorned with the usual Xmas Baubles and Bling.

Everyone gathered in the lounge for Christmas Dinner pre-prandials before we were seated for our Yuletide Feast.

Dave Bailey and his catering crew put on a spread worthy of any fine eating establishment, it was magnificent. Once the formalities of the silly hats, cracker pulls and toasting absent loved ones were over, we all tucked in heartily to a seemingly never ending meal.

We made steady progress in the ice for the next few days until coming to a stop on the evening of the 28th. A huge Iceberg many miles long blocked our path. We tried to go around it but the ice pressure was too great. We were more or less stationary for about 24 hours before the pressure began easing and we started moving again. We finally broke clear of the huge berg into open water to the south west on Wednesday (30th Dec) evening. We are currently off Stancomb – Wills Ice stream, a huge section of ice jutting out into the sea. From the Satellite images we are receiving it looks like it will be a difficult passage past this obstacle.

The Morrison’s lads have been kept busy with several talks on the various aspects of life, procedures and survival on the ice in preperation for their two month stint on the new base project at Halley. The doctor Mike Ramage has also been giving them First aid training.

We have received some good news from Halley. The Igarka which has all the building equipment on board for the new base arrived off Halley loading pont. We hope to be following in her footsteps soon.

Happy New Year to you all.

Words by: Pat O’Hara

Images by: Mike Ramage, Simon Gill and Andris Kubulins

Next blog entry – Arrival and Offload at Halley.