Monday, November 27, 2006

A Run Ashore- Montevideo

After several weeks at sea, unable to walk further than 20 metres in any direction and given that since I was small looking at world maps I have always been fascinated by the name Montevideo, it has been good to get ashore. We arrived in Monte on the 23rd and within half an hour of clearing formalities, nearly the whole crew could be found in the Mercado del Puerto, known to the ship as the meat market. Essentially, innumerable stalls with large paradillas (grill-like barbecues) cooking the best steaks I have ever tasted and almost every other part of an animal, including my first sweetbreads (molleja).

Mercado Del Puerto (The Meat Market)

I was fortunate to be invited along with a number of the crew to a dinner hosted by the Deputy Head of the British Embassy, a strange contrast to living in the informal environment of a ship. Montevideo is not a big city with a population of only around 2 million people and yet contains half the population of Uruguay. With a couple of days ashore, I had the opportunity to spend a night away in the old Portugese colonial town of Colonia (more information), west up the Rio Plato, a wide estuarine river, which forms the border with Argentina. Filled with old cars and vivid flowers- a sleepy alternative to the bustle of a South American city. I post the photo at the top as much to remind myself in the winter what other colours exist bar white.


Montevideo itself, feels like it could be a faded Spanish city with dilapidated grand buildings, vibrant shops and Spanish signs everywhere; as my first visit to South America, it was not quite what I was expecting. The busy main square (Plaza Independencia) is dominated by a statue of General Artigas- the founding father of Uruguay- underneath which lies his mausoleum, eerie in its contrast to the bustle above ground.

Plaza Independencia

General Artigas's Mausoleum

The city is a traditional stop off for the BAS ships on its way south to take on fresh food, more FIDS and on this occasion a crew change. The ship is crewed by two separate crews of around 20 people, who each do four months on- four months off. The rest of those working at Halley join either here or at the Falkland Islands but given problems with flights, the majority are joining here for the months journey south. So from there being only six of us, the numbers will swell to forty and along with a new crew, will mean many new faces in a ship that was just beginning to feel like our own.


From here the next stop south is Mare Harbour in the Falkland Islands, a mere five days away.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Sun came up upon the left, Out of the sea came he! ...

Dolphin Off The Shackleton's Bow

As we continue to close in on Montevideo the sun continues to beat down, though increasingly cooler. Aside from painting the ship, there is plenty of marine wildlife to pass the time. Off the fo'c'sle there are plenty of flying fish and occasional schools of dolphins. These photos were taken off the bow of the ship as a pod appeared to surf through the spray created as the ship pressed on. (The second picture courtesy of David Evans- Halley Met). I think they are Common Dolphins but I am probably wrong!

Unfortunately the breaching humpback whales visible through the binoculars, never came close enough for a good photo.

The RRS Ernest Shackleton, though it has some capacity for science work in the Antarctic, is mainly a re-supply vessel, while the RRS James Clark Ross, which left the UK a good two months prior to our departure, carries out the majority of BAS's marine work. Every last space on this ship is turned over to store cargo. The vehicles in the
picture below are destined for Halley and the building works for Halley VI.

Containers and Cargo on the Heli-deck

Despite all the hard work there is still always time for a sun-downer at the end of the day.

...And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Crossing the line

As we head south over the equator, tradition insists that all those who are crossing for the first time participate in a ceremony presided over by King Neptune. In reality, not only were all the FIDS brought before the court but also various crew, either because they were crossing for the first time, were leaving the ship or a range of other excuses.

On the arrival of King Neptune with his bride on the aft-deck he was greeted by the Captain, who ceremonially accedes authority on the ship.

Captain Marshall greets King Neptune (above) and
King Neptune (Julia- Steward) with his bride (Danny- 2nd Cook) (below)

At this point, all celebrants scatter to hide on the ship to avoid the wrath of King Neptune. Given that we outnumbered the 'policmen' (other members of the crew armed with rubber truncheons and fortified by beer), we stuck to a pre-arranged plan and took hold of the highest point on the ship, 'Monkey Island', which lies above the bridge deck.

Flour and water bombs along with eggs were enough to dissuade the policemen for a while. Eventually, beaten back by the use of fire hoses- welcome given the heat- a quiet tête-à-tête resulted in us being brought before King Neptune's court.

At Neptune's Court

After being tried on charges, which invariably include crossing the line without Neptune's permission, a summary conviction leads to swift justice. Despite being required professionally elsewhere, I could not avoid the (now mock) haircut administered by the 'barber', medicine (chilli and vinegar) from the 'doctor', before being covered in slops which had been brewing for days in the galley assisted by yeast and various other special additives.

Before and After Slops

Several days on and I have yet to get rid of the stench. Otherwise, we sail on, on as yet calm seas with flying fish all around; all being well we should be in Montevideo, Uruguay for the 23rd November.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shorts and T-shirts

Having transferred off a few passengers by boat while offshore from Vigo, it has been a run south through the Atlantic. The Bay of Biscay was fortunately calm and so far we have yet to experience bad weather. As we travel south, we pass close to various islands: Madeira, The Canaries and most recently, the Cape Verde Islands.

Madeira (with Tula, our cargo tender in the foreground)

To prevent us getting to idle as the ship settles into a routine all the FIDS out helping to re-paint the ship or at work in the engine room. (the Falkland Island Dependencies Survey was the predecessor to BAS and is used to describe all those sailing who are non-crew). Unfortunately, the paint seems to mostly end up on us rather than the ship. However, good weather has also meant Saturday night barbies on the aft deck.

This is situated under the helicopter deck (not currently used for helicopters as it has half a dozen heavy vehicles destined for Halley stowed on it) and cannot be more than a couple of feet off the water, which you can just about see in the dark above.

Rememberance Sunday was marked here by the crew and FIDS gathering for a moment of silence and a measure of rum. Being on a ship such as this is a reminder, at this time, of those merchant seaman who have lost their lives in time of war alongside the other services.

We continue south at about 11 knots per hour, from the Cape Verde Islands we head towards Fernando de Noronha off the Brazilian coast, this may all sound circuitous but is a surprisingly direct route. Before that we must traverse the equator and with that 'crossing the line'...