Personal November 26: Montevideo-Falklands

I’m on the ship! It’s great. Big ports, big boats, black oil on your

hands, real people, really real people, gritty town, hot weather, bumpy

seas. It’s real and it’s great.

Bought four cheap watches in Cambridge before leaving: two analogue, two digital.

Daft really; didn’t stop to think that the analogue will be only half helpful

where we’re headed. Two am or pm? Does it matter? There’s still night and day

here though… not even as far south as Britain is north. I have a cabin with

a porthole (that even opens) and our own shower and loo. Height of luxury.

Twenty-one of us travelled from Heathrow to Montevideo and we only managed

to lose two bags and a passport along the way. No-one went AWOL in Monte despite

the local attractions and we’re due to pick up another 10 or 20 in the Falklands.

This is on top of the crew who number about 20 as well I guess.

The men are fantastic,- really nice. Mandy (personnel), Penny (dentist), Jo

(senior scientist) and myself are the women aboard so far but that’s going to

increase too so it’s not as biased as people imagine. And I’ve seen albatrosses

(black browed), dolphins (or porpoises?), penguins and petrels already. Sunburn

and seasickness allowing, I could stand on that bow forever. Over.

PS: The Shackleton’s website

is updated weekly… with pictures! You can also email

me (make sure the subject line says ‘personal’) or leave a comment below.

As for books, I’ve been drawn to two that aren’t read-alongs, I’m afraid. Stupidly

left Magnus Mills’ latest

on the plane but will hopefully get a replacement soon so that’s the one to

start with. Unless you can get your hands on the latest by Dave Eggers. Hope

you’re all okay.

14 thoughts on “Personal November 26: Montevideo-Falklands

  1. Why did you buy four watches? Where did you see the penguins? Do you really think you’ll get confused, during the long summer, as to whether it’s am or pm?

    And as for the porpoises, penguins and petrels ñ I think it’s now time you found an animal beginning with the letter q…

  2. four watches because cold+batteries=bad. penguins swimming like ducks by

    the boat. ducked and paddled away but I’m worried might have got eaten up

    by the boat. Sorry, ship. And it’s galley, foredeck and arse-end to you.

    Yes, I’ll get confused but maybe that’s why I’m going… no quails yet but

    I’ll keep you posted. Albatrosses are the most amazing. Don’t call them

    seagulls, that’s bad too. Rh.

  3. porpoises, penguins and petrels – I think it’s now time …

    No, let her go on. She hasn’t mentioned the pigs, porcupines, possums or parrots yet !

  4. I am sure someone will wake you during AM. Typical Mum question: What is the food like on board? Still real fruit and vegies left?


  5. Hey Rhian!

    Sounds awesome there! Hope that after … (how long does journey take??)

    days on the boat it’s still half as exciting as in the beginning…

    I’d thought that most groups would fly in ANtarctica, but do you guys

    have so much equipment that you’re goig by boat, or what’s the reason/ (I

    think it’s great to go by boat; don’t get me wrong, just thought it was

    less common in this hasty world). As for the time, I guess looking at the

    place of the sun in the sky wouldn’t work there either?

  6. It is awesome, yes. And I’d far rather the boat too but I know what you

    mean about a world in haste. The jouney takes a few weeks…hope to arrive

    around christmas or new year. The truth is, Halley is still a very remote

    place and though you can fly in, it’s only possible by twin otter via

    Rothera, a base on the antarctic peninsula. You have to land on skis so

    only little planes are possible. This is expensive on fuel, often results

    in being stranded in Rothera due to weather and also is expensive in money

    and time. During the summer season, there will be abut 60 of us there so it

    just wouldn’t be logistically possible to fly people in. The VIPS and most

    important workers go in early to wake the base up but since all the cargo

    is on the ship (for instance my lab and all the steel posts for raising

    buildings) there’s not much point in arriving before the ship. Not to

    mention all the years food and fuel that we’re carrying. So yeah, it’s a

    coastal site for a reason. Last year was the first year since 1956 that the

    ship hasn’t been able to get in (too much sea ice) and we’re all

    desperately hoping that was an anomaly and not start of a trend.

  7. To continue the questioning, here’s another one: First time since 56 that

    ship couldn’t get to the coast due to sea-ice: More sea-ice could be due

    to cooling (cool->more ice), but more likely it is actually due to warming

    and the melting of ice-caps and huge sea’s of ice such as happened last

    year; was the melting of that B_shelf something ice-shet indeed the reason

    for the increase in sea-ice?

  8. I’m picturing Shackleton’s some what scary adventure alright! a room with your very own port hole* what extravegant lodgings! when you are back from this trip could I have you come into my classroom as a guest speaker??? teaching is going well…..doing lots of learning and doing the best I can with the teaching part! i’m sooo excited for you rhian and hold you in my thoughts always. be safe! love kelly.

  9. Well, I know where I’d rather be! Even though Cornwall is nearly as wet…I am prone to exaggeration! How cool that we can contact you on board ship! Isn’t this world amazing….seen any quails yet?!! What’s your typical day like?

  10. Sorry for the delay in replying..we’ve been having a jolly in Stanley for

    the last few days and I thought I’d save (and savour) emails for the days

    at sea. Bart, yes, I think most people agree it’s related to climate change

    (and I much prefer the time ‘climate change’ to ‘global warming’ since it

    is more accurate in its ambiguity). Last year the increased sea ice wasn’t

    necessarily due to cooling or warming but rather wind direction. During the

    winter, the sea ice around Antarctic increases as the water freezes. During

    the Spring the sea ice melts which is why we go in now. However, the

    melting/breaking up of sea ice such that we can get to Halley is also

    dependent on winds from the South/East blowing that broken-up ice out into

    the open water. Last year, the winds blew fairly consistently from the open

    ocean towards the land and so compacted the ice into the bay. (If you look

    on a map, Halley is located on the side of the Weddell sea…other bases

    such as Neumayer further around the coast didn’t have this problem I don’t

    think). So the ice stayed near the coast and, come winter, refroze. Now,

    possibly for the first time, we have ‘multi-year ice’ to contend with. i.e.

    ice from last year as well as this year. Hence the concern about getting

    in….The plus side is that the ship is stocked with a lot more fuel than

    she was last year so that we can stay in there and keep trying. Around New

    Year last year they had to turn back to the Falklands in order to

    refuel..and so had to leave the area around Halley for a few weeks. It’s

    possible that a lead appeared and refroze during that time. As for the

    Brunt Ice Shelf…the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the areas in the world

    with greatest warming of late so, yes, that was climate change and will

    have no doub t resulted in more sea ice and icebergs floating around. I

    don’t think that was related to the Halley situation though. (Aside: I’m

    typing this off the top of my head and not as an expert…there are others

    at BAS I can check with if you want more reliable answers!)

  11. Mum: food is actually great. There are three chefs on board since a couple

    are going in for BAS to cook at Halley plus the one emplyed for the ship.

    We had an amazing spread of salad today that I felt I should fill up on as

    it’s splendour will no doubt decline with time. Plus, we’ve only just

    started moving again so everyone’s tums were still fairly stable! On other

    days, it’s more like school dinners but then we get nostalgic for custard

    and chocolate sponge so that’s alright too. Three meals a day though and

    not a lot of exercise means we’re all getting fat. So much for coming home

    fit antarctic heroes!

    As for fruit and veg..yup, we loaded up at Monte and now also at the

    falklands so there’s lots. There was also a line of people wrapping fruit

    and veg in paper this morning in an attempt to make it all last longer.

    Apparrantly at Halley last year they even managed to have a few potatoes,

    onions and oranges survive until mid-winter (June 21st).

    Kels bells, I would love to talk to your kids but aren’t you somewhere in

    the north west corner of canada? That sounds more remote than the

    Falklands! If you would like, I’m happy to answer questions from them over

    email though…but DON’T give them my email address…just send me a list

    of questions you’ve compiled or send them to Felix to post here. What size

    are they?

  12. hmmm..typical day….haven’t really had one yet although routines are

    starting to develop. Got thrown a bit while we were at the falklands though

    as we had all the joys of LAND and ESCAPING to entartain us.

    The day seems to be defined by food times I guess, and eating. And

    drinking. Not surprisingly. Breakfast 7:45-8:30, lunch 11:45-12:30, dinner

    5:45-6:30..mainly set so that crew can eat either before or after shift

    changing times of 4, 8 and 12 (am and pm). The time in between is filled

    variously. I love it on deck so spend quite a bit of time out there. Saw

    dolphins playing around the ship this morning which was wonderful. In

    rougher waters most people hole up in their beds as it definitely feels

    better horizontal. Even sitting up in bed is a bit of a struggle on bad

    days. There’s also a mini gym (exercise bike, rowing machine , weights

    thing) that I’ve attempted..and email ofcourse. Haven’t yet sunk into any

    of my many books, except the ‘Tibetan Art of Living and Dying’ which is

    great for short bursts and contemplation durig the rest of the day. Music

    has also been a godsend when stuck in bed. Saying that, I’ve generally not

    been too bad though I hear the seas are going to get much worse. In the

    evenings, most people sit around chatting and playing games. Backgammon and

    cribbage seem to be the current faves. Didn’t take long for them to

    discover my lack of numeracy skills. And momentary daydreamers have already

    been known to be asked “gone to Rhianland have you?” Discovered again.

    Darn. (Snap recollection of Elaine calling me spacy kasey on the Scilles).

    Anyway, hope Cornwall dries up a bit..I think I know where I’d rather be


  13. I have just been to the official website, Rhian, just how many photos can you manage to sneak into?!!! The ice sounds very exciting, very exciting, oh, were you excited by the ice by any chance?!!! It snowed here (briefly) and I was very excited by a wee flurry, so I cannot possibly imagine what it must be like to crunch through acres of the white stuff! Keep writing, I like this excitement by proxy!!! xxx

  14. Hey Rhian, on searching the BAS website trying to find the answer to my question: how far south-east (?) is the CASLab from the main station, I came across this site, so I hope it’s ok that I’ve left a message for you. Been thinking about you and Katie. Hope you are both ok. Have you met up with her yet? Keep imagining that I am coming too! Then remember, boo…

    All sounds amazing. A few things I was wondering…how long were you in Uraguay for, what was it like? Are the Falklands a strange remote extension of England or do they feel more South American?

    OK, take care, keep warm and eat your greens!

    Sarah x

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