Thursday, December 28, 2006


I hope you all have a fantastic party tonight. On board the ship (and this will be my last post from the ship!) the party is going to be slightly subdued as we are now only 5 or so miles from arriving at Halley. Looks like work to unpack the ship and bring all the new supplies up to base will be kicking off tomorrow morning at 7ish, so my plan is to try and avoid the normal raging hangover, although the chances of that actually happening are probably quite slim. It's going to be a seventies party on board, and I'm planning to go dressed as a space hopper. Hmmm.

On our sunny Christmas morning we had a visitor, one of the twin otters (planes on skis) from Halley flew overhead to wish us a Merry Christmas and to look for a way through the ice.

Since Christmas we've been getting off the ship most days to play in the snow. The ship moors up to a nice solid chunk of ice and we either get taken ashore in a speed boat, or lowered over the side, clinging onto a giant fishing net type thing, called a 'Wor Geordie'. If anyone knows why it's called that, please let me know!

Down on the ice, in between snow ball fights we've had time for a bit of training. I was let loose on a skidoo (my main method of transport for the next year- great!), and also learned some rope work and rescue techniques for travelling on the ice. The picture below is me, honest.

Christmas dinner came a couple days late, but it was well worth the wait. We had a five course affair, with large quantities of red wine that was felt for days afterwards.

Finally, this is pretty similar to the view out the window at the minute, low stormy looking dark clouds, and lots and lots of ice. But we are edging closer and closer to Halley, and by the time you read this, I'll probably be up on base!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A White Christmas!

Happy Christmas, and a Merry New Year to one and all.

I'll be thinking of you back home over the next few days, somehow Christmas doesn't quite feel right with 24hr daylight. We sang carols, drank mulled wine and ate mince pies in the blazing sunshine last night! This was my last sunset, just before we crossed into the Antarctic circle:

A few days after this sunset, the ship got stuck in the ice. We're going nowhere fast. It's quite exciting actually, we'd planned to be at the base by now, but global warming has forgotten us, and we're now well and truly stuck in the worst ice seen in these parts for many years. It's about 7 metres thick and covered in beautiful mounds and pressure ridges, with a few giant icebergs poking out here and there. The ice casts amazing turquoise shadows, especially in the crevasses in big icebergs. Sometimes we see the burrows of the snow kangaroos in the ice cliffs. The odd seal or Emperor penguin rears its head from time to time, and then quickly dives out of the way of the ship, until, that is, it realises that we're actually going backwards! We keep running out of steam as the ice proves too much for us, so we back up and take a longer run up. Here's the ice cracking as the ice strengthened bow shows what shes made off:

The latest plan seems to be to sit here in a nice open pond within the ice until the wind changes direction (hopefully within the next few days), and then the ice should blow offshore opening up our way to Halley. Looks like we're likely to be spending New Year on board too!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


A week since our last port of call, and it's been an eventful week on board. Friday last week was a cheese and wine night, which carried on well into the early hours, followed by a horse racing night on Saturday. My first time at the races and I more than doubled my money! You can see and hear more about all the events on board on the Shackleton diary pages if you follow the link to the British Antarctic Survey website (click on living and working, then diaries).

For the past few days life has been made somewhat challenging by the hurricane force winds and the 8 metre waves they brought along, as we hit by far the stormiest weather of the trip so far. The seas looked really impressive, especially when you could see the waves churning and breaking over an iceberg that was being tossed this way and that. Other meteorological firsts for this week included the first time I officially recorded snow, my first sea ice, and also the first probes fired off the back of the ship to measure the temperatures down to about kilometre below the surface.
I still don't know when I'll get to Halley, it depends on how much ice gets in our way! Earliest ETA is Friday 22nd, but in the ship's sweep stake the chief engineer put his money on January 15th, so who knows...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I was completely blown away by South Georgia. We only had a day there, but I had saw some of the most beautiful views I've ever seen. Everyone who'd been there before said it was magical, hopefully the photos can show how right they were. This was a fitting place to stop as the man who gave his name to the ship I'm travelling on ended his journey here.

Four of us climbed up Mount Hodges and looked out over to the bay where Shackleton finally sought rescue, then slid back down the snow and ice and went for a swim in the recently defrosted Gull lake.

After a long days exploring, we enjoyed a BBQ, and with the weather staying remarkably warm, we chatted and danced by the ashes until the early hours. It was such a special place that I was reluctant to sleep at all; I watched the king penguins grooming themselves at sunrise before finally retiring.

Just two days bumpy sailing from Signy, The Shackleton arrived at Bird Island, a miniature jurassic park just to the west of South Georgia. The place was absolutely teeming with life. On arriving, you had to negotiate hundreds of angry fur seals before you even reached the base. I found myself stranded halfway up the met mast at one point as several protective parent seals circled ominously below. One of the scientists onboard was attacked as he stepped onto the peer by a lurking seal, and ended up with a nasty bite.

Slightly more welcoming than the seals were the giant wondering albatrosses, and the thousands of macaroni penguins in the bigmac colony, with their crazy yellow hairdos.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

SIGNY (South Orkney Islands)

When I woke up on Thusday, that's all I could see: big ones, small ones, blue ones, grey ones; all shapes and sizes. In the distance I could see sunchine glacier as the Ernest Shackleton approached her first real Antarctic destination of the trip so far. Sometimes, as the ship approached the ice, there would be a flurry of black and white, as the little Adelie penguins scrambled into the water ahead of us.

The ship had to moor up out in the bay, but I was lucky enough to get ashore along with fellow Halley meteorologist, Dave, to set up a new weather station for the Signy Base Commander. As we brought the new cargo ashore, lying amongst it we spotted 5 or 6 giant elephant seals, huddling together for warmth as they malted. You could go right up to them without them batting an eyelid, but every now and then the friendly exterior was broken by a comedy roar that could be heard a mile away.

On day two we were givena tour of the colonies of Adelie and Chinstrap penguins nesing at the other side of the island by Signy's resident penguin expert, Mike.

The chinstraps were still guarding eggs, but these Adelies had already hatched tiny weeks old chicks. If you look closely, you can see a glimpse of the tiny grey bundles of fluff.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It was news to me that the number 38 bus stops at Stanley, the Falklands, made me feel right at home. I also saw a stretch limo full of lasses in army camouflage gear on a hen night, so it really is just like mini Britain.

I saw my first penguin! Hooray. As we sailed into the Falklands, I saw this little black and white thing, much smaller than I'd expected, gliding along by the side of the ship. That was it. Yesterday though, I went for a walk to a beach called Gypsy Cove, across the bay from the main town of Stanley, and there I saw loads of the buggers, waddling about in happy oblivion.

These ones are Magellenic (I think), different from the ones I'll see in Antarctica, they live in burrows:

The water looked so inviting we had to go for a swim, this is Rob and some new found feathered friends...

It was bloody freezing. Colder than the north sea in January, so needless to say, our 'swimming with penguins' experience was somewhat short lived.

The Falklands looks like a cross between the Carribean (the beaches) and the cheviot hills of Northumberland, but with land mines. It was quite eery walking in the hills that were so recently battle fields. A lot of the beaches are inaccessible because they're still mined too. On one trip, we found an old British Army canteen, with powdered vegetable soup dated 1982.

This ship was built in Sunderland, but ended up at the other side of the world. There are loads of relics like this in the bays, and the local pubs have maps of the ship wrecks over the years.