54 17'S 036 30'W. South Georgia, Southern Ocean.

Follow Matt Kenney during his deployment in South Georgia, working as a Boating Officer and Coxswain for the British Antarctic Survey.

Read Matt's posts with news, reviews and extracts from his Journals, and see photo and video posts to show you some of the work the Antarctic Survey are doing in the Southern Ocean, and also provide an insight into life on a British Antarctic research station.

Matt will also provide accounts of his work at sea and ashore on Humber Destroyer RHIBs and 11m twin jet drive Pilot vessels along side the team at the King Edward Point research facility.

Matt arrived in South Georgia on the 28th October 2010.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Navy Support, HMS Clyde and the Royal Wedding.

This week, we have been visited by two Royal Navy vessels; the "Type 42" Destroyer HMS York, and the Offshore Patrol Ship HMS Clyde.
The Pilot Launch with HMS York.

The York, with her compliment of approximately 280 military personnel had just completed a voyage to Libya to undertake taskings on behalf of the British Government with respect of the fresh tensions in the region.  Her crew were therefore very pleased to be in South Georgia to take a brief period of R&R and see some of the spectacular sights the island has to offer.  As usual the marine team here at KEP provided boat support to ferry the Sailors, Royal Marines, Army Soldiers and RAF Bomb Disposal (EOD) personnel ashore.
Bringing the pilot launch away from the York at speed.  My crew Matt is visible on deck.  Photo: Sam Crimmin

The RAF EOD team were here for the annual clearance of recorded items of Ordnance (E.G. Machine Gun rounds, Rocket Venturi, Smoke Grenades, Flares etc) from the hills around the BAS travel area.  These items are relics of the South Georgia conflict in the early 1980s and the subsequent occupation of King Edward Point as a British Armed Forces Garrison until it was re-occupied by BAS personnel in 2001.  This year, two of the items of ordnance were reported to government by myself as I had come across some items during hikes.  Our standard procedure for reporting potential ordnance is to firstly mark the position with bright orange ribbon which we carry in our packs.  To avoid disturbing the item, it is usual to tie the ribbon to a rock close by.  Then a position is taken.  This is by GPS, or geographical reference to nearby landmarks.  A photo is taken if possible and then given to a Government Officer on return to base.  Here are some of my photos:
A British Army Smoke Signal Grenade.
A Falklands War Rocket Venturi.

The RAF EOD were a great bunch of lads and we all had a few beers together over the few nights they stayed ashore.  During the day, the peace and tranquillity was periodically interspersed with deep, ethereal booms as the team exploded another item in the mountains.  
We were lucky enough to be invited to a demonstration by the team where they explained how the equipment worked.  There are two different types of disposal charge.  A "high order" charge which will set the device off, or blow it up completely.  The charge is set above the item on a tripod and a copper slug is fired into the device, where it will obliterate the innards.  This results in a large explosion and total destruction of the item.  A "low order" charge will simply penetrate the device slowly and "fizz" the detonator, rendering the device harmless without a large explosion.  This sort of charge is apparently used in the vicinity of buildings and other sensitive areas.  Fortunately, our demonstration showed the "High Order" technique, and Tommy, the electrical engineer assisted the team in blowing a hole in a piece of 5/8th" thick steel plate.  It was a great advert for the PE4 plastic explosive used, as the gut thumping bang was generated by a mere 20 grams of the stuff!  The team are hoping to apply there skill clearing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) once again back in front line theatre in Afghanistan toward the end of July this year.  Best of luck to them all, we will be thinking of you.
HMS Clyde in the evening light. Photo: Sam Crimmin
The visit was finished off on a huge high as Lieutenant Commander Wisemann of the Falkland Islands Protection Vessel HMS Clyde invited Rob (Base Commander), Tommy (Electro Eng), Katie (Team Fish), Robert (Government Officer) and myself aboard for a 2 day tour of the East Coast of the island. The vessels "rigid raider" boat (normally used to land Royal Marine Commandos into battle) came to pick us up from the wharf at 0730 on Thursday morning.  We spent 2 fabulous days on board, with free access to the bridge (on the request "officer of the watch, bridge please") and great tours around Husvic, Jason Harbour, St Andrews Bay and Drygalski Fjord, 60 miles south of here near Cape Disappointment (so called by Captain Cook when he realised South Georgia was merely a small island rather than the great new land he had hoped) 
HMS York in Drygalski Fjord.

Drygalski Fjord is a stunning 6 mile deep fjord on the South of the island.  It houses a number of Glaciers and the coves, including Larsen Harbour.  The mountains jut straight out of the sea and rise to 6000 meters in places.  Our visit was in poor weather, with 50 knot winds blowing out of the Fjord, which unfortunately meant we were unable to go exploring on the Pacific 22 rib and Rigid Raider.
We also enjoyed a fly past by an RAF C130 Hercules over Cumberland Bay.  The aircraft had made the 3 hour journey from Mount Pleasant Airbase in the Falklands to here to air drop some supplies to the Navy, however, there was a problem in finding the correct paperwork at MPA and the required authorisation could not be given to drop.
RAF C130 Hercules over Cumberland Bay

The bridge of the Clyde is a busy place with the Captain, Navigating Officer, Weapons Officer, XO, Midshipman and afew others often in attendance.  They navigate to a high degree of accuracy using a combination of old techniques and cutting edge technology.  In coastal waters the team of warfare officers will carry out fixes every 6 minutes, whereby a three point fix is achieved using the azimuth, or if 3 visual landmarks are not visible they are augmented with radar ranges.  The fixes are fed into the Warship Electronic Charting Display and Information System (WECDIS) and compared with GPS data.   6 minute fixes are reduced to 3 minute and 1.5 minute fixes approaching anchorages or other tricky areas.
An Azimuth bearing finder on Clyde's Starboard bridge wing.
Our trip was finished off by toasting the new royal couple with a special lunch in the Petty Officers Mess.  Union flags, commemorative flyers and napkins were laid and we had fish and chips with a bottle of wine.  So there we were celebrating a Royal Wedding aboard one of her Majesties warships in a patriotically decorated POs mess eating fish and mushy peas with officers of the Royal Navy listening to Land of Hope and Glory on the stereo!  What better way to toast the flag!  The mood was light hearted, and we had a good laugh. . . . . The conversation eventually turned to spending cuts and RN job losses...
Toasting the new Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge in the PO's Mess.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Fishing Season has begun

Despite its reputation as probably the most formidable of seas on the Planet, the Southern Ocean hosts a valuable fishing industry, and is fished by vessels from many countries throughout the world.  The government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands are responsible for the management of fisheries in two defined areas of the Southern Ocean.  The first being South Georgia, otherwise known as Sub-area 48.3 and the South Sandwich Islands, or Sub-area 48.4.  Vessels who wish to fish these areas must apply for a license to do so, and the number of licenses issued is based on the quota for the year.  The quota is a joint effort between CCAMLR (Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) and the South Georgia Government, and is based on scientific data relating to the abundance of target species in the area.  It is a principal reason for the base here at KEP as our scientists assist in the study and management of the South Atlantic Ocean.  In addition the vessels themselves must operate within strict standards and prove that they are doing so.  Before the vessel begins her season in South Georgia waters she must first present herself here at KEP for a thorough inspection.  The inspection will look at the safety equipment aboard, scrutinise the fishing equipment to ensure correct specification, and ensure that by-catch mitigation measures are in place to reduce as far as practicable the killing of sea birds and other marine life.  The season is beginning now and 6 vessels in total will begin longlining for Patagonian Toothfish.  Toothfish is very sought after and is marketed all over the world.  It is the case that toothfish have been overfished worldwide, however South Georgia is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable due to the stringent management in place, and measureable stocks.  The vessels will deploy a line (or long line) weighted at both ends which has attached to it numerous hooks and lures.  The line is laid and buoyed and left to "soak".  Then the vessel will return and haul the line hoping to find an abundance of Toothfish.  The fish will be gutted and filleted on board and will then be trans-shipped, usually in the falklands, to ships which transfer the catch to market abroad.
Departing the cove on a flat calm evening bound for the ARGOS GEORGIA waiting offshore.

Coming away from the Long Liner ARGOS GEORGIA after boarding Robert and Kieron to carry out the inspection.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Winter is here!

Just a photo post to announce the official beginning of winter.  These photos were taken on Saturday when Fisheries Biologist Sue and I took to the mountains to enjoy the sunshine and the snow!  We took a route up bore valley and ascended the North East face of Hodges up to the plateau and frozen lakes.  Once at altitude the snow is already deep and at times you disappear up to your waist!
Spindrift off the North East Ridge.

In such remote areas, the snow is perfect and untouched for miles.

The snow helps by allowing you to dig your toes in whilst climbing.

Climbing keeps you warm enough!

A perfect snowdrift

Deep snow for the unsuspecting!

The frozen lakes at Hodges.

Last Call and the Beginning of Winter!

The RSS Ernest Shackleton has been in for "last call" before the winter.  She is on her way back north after collecting BAS personnel who are not wintering from Rothera, Halley and Signy.  She bought with her some supplies but her main duty was to collect all the outgoing cargo which includes scientific samples, waste and a 40 ton Volvo Excavator.  The volvo was the largest thing the Shack' has ever lifted with her 50 ton crane, and it was a slightly tense moment as she took the strain and heeled perhaps 15 degrees to starboard as she took the weight.
As an aside, I took a small group of personnel out on the jet launch to give them a tour of the local area while disposing of food waste in the bay.  I had an unusual addition to my passenger list though, as a large Winnie the Pooh came aboard.  It turns out this particular bear is quite a celebrity having climbed Everest and having been to the South Pole.  I put a life jacket on him (strict BAS policy, that ALL passengers and crew wear one!) and took him to the Nordenskjold Glacier for a photo opp.  See if you can see him sat on the wharf supervising the lifting of the Digger in the photos below.
As she is carrying a number of BAS people from different stations it is tradition here that there is a party held for the ship.  We spent an afternoon converting our Boatshed into a party venue (see photos) and the compliment of ships crew and passengers came ashore and helped us drink a dinghy full of alcohol which was kept cool with Glacier Ice (see previous post) We had a great weekend that even included the wedding (although slightly unofficial!) of two of Shack's crew, a deckhand and a cook.  The bride and groom were thrilled to be able to tie the knot (no pun intended) at the church at Grytviken.  The captain exercised his ability to wed them.
And so winter begins.....

The very impressive bridge of the Shack.

HMS Dotty showing her 3.3hp engine and her unusual cargo :-)

The Boatshed Ball!  the parachute is an old army one from the days when supplies to KEP were airdropped from Hercules aircraft.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Jet Boat Slipping and G&T on the Rocks!

This month Ashley and I had to slip both the Jet Pilot Launches and bring them into the Boatshed for repairs and servicing.  The jet launches are around 6 tons gross weight, therefore they have very sturdy, specially made launch trolleys which are attached to a winch wire and the JCB.  On this occasion it was my job to pilot the launch on to the trailer, allowing ashley to secure it and drive the telehandler and the boat back up the slipway.  Both went very smoothly, and a lot of work was carried out including servicing of the Jet Propulsion units, changing anodes, changing oil and filter on the Yanmar Turbo Diesels, Inspecting the ground tackle (anchor), scrubbing the hull (they were exceedingly weedy this time around, so much so that George the last boatman {currently working with the SGHT rat eradication} said he had not seen anything like it in his 2 years here.  It was decided the unusually warm summer had prompted greater than average growth)  Tommy the awesome electrician also fitted a repeater alarm to the outer helm position for the Fire Flood and Overheat alarms.  Oh and one cool thing, the red waterproofs im wearing in the cheesy photo below were once worn by Sir David Attenborough on his visit to South Georgia in 2008!  I was truly humbled by this experience!
Once the boats were re-launched I took them to sea for sea trials and while I had this free time, took the opportunity to collect some glacier ice from the bay for use in Gin and Tonics!  Its the best ice available in the whole world.

Bark Europa

As the summer season draws to an end, so too the number of visiting vessels wanes.  One of the last to be visiting us before winter is the square rigged sailing ship the Bark Europa.  She was built in 1911 in Hamburg, and began her life as a light ship on the River Elbe.  Europa's transformation to her current form was completed in 1994 when she had 3 masts fitted and was fully converted for ocean sailing.  Today she girdles the globe with a crew of 14 and up to 48 "guest crew" providing passengers a unique way of reaching remote parts of the world, like South Georgia and the Antarctic Continent.  Robert the GO, Ashley and Myself went round on a wet and fridged morning to tend her lines.  We had great fun trying to find things large and sturdy enough to tie her too.  Much of the old jetty has collapsed, and stout looking lumps of concrete are about the best bet.  Bits and bollards are not always bolted to the ground anymore!  It was an interesting spectacle for us, as when she was alongside at Tijuca Jetty at Grytviken she really did look like the whaling ships of old, and the cove was cast back to the pioneering early days.  She did not stay long, and that very afternoon she cast off bound eventually for the Antarctic Peninsular.  She celebrates her Centenary in August this year.  See http://www.barkeuropa.com for more info.

Matt Kenney 2010.