skip to primary navigation skip to content

Captain's Letter no. 4

Captain's Letter no. 4


July 2006

Dear Friends of SPRI


Last time I wrote we were in an Argentine dry-dock; this is yet another letter from an all too familiar hole in the ground, albeit this time in Portsmouth! ENDURANCE is back in Portsmouth in the midst of a frenzied maintenance period (almost a mini refit) in preparation for her inaugural 9 month deployment for the 2006/07 season. As I explained to many of you at the Friends of SPRI Summer Lunch in June (thank you for your hospitality and an excellent day by the way), the idea is to maximise the ship's time in the ice during the austral summer. A 9 month deployment enables us to achieve 5 work periods in Antarctica and South Georgia as opposed to the traditional 3.

The passage home from Argentina was relatively uneventful, with fine weather for the bulk of the time. We departed Puerto Belgrano in late March leaving behind many friends in the Argentine Navy and local population for a 3.5 week, 5500 mile transit to Lisbon - it's a big old world when you go by sea! Pausing briefly in the vicinity of the Canaries for passenger transfers and coastal navigation training for our young officers, we arrived in Lisbon for a 5 day visit in late April. This was an unusual visit for ENDURANCE, an opportunity to relax and for families and friends to join us. The final passage through the Bay of Biscay was flat calm (quite the opposite of the transit in October 2005) allowing us to arrive in a timely manner off Spithead, Portsmouth, on 5 May. The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth welcomed us home, the local press gave us good coverage and, of course, the Round Tower and the jetty were packed with our families and friends awaiting our arrival. It was a great day for everyone and was followed by a period of well earned leave.


We achieved a significant amount during our 6 month deployment. The Multi-Beam Echo Sounder (MBES) was a real success as I have reported in previous letters, enabling a 10 fold improvement in our surveying output. The 3 dimensional 'fly throughs' of surveyed areas are particularly eye catching, indicating the quality of the information that we have gathered and providing data for a new generation of charts in South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. We have also much improved our knowledge of the system's operation and potential which will be put to good effect in subsequent seasons. Our surveyors are busy putting the finishing touches to the season's survey reports and we have already had detailed meetings with the UKHO about our work and how we might utilise MBES in the future. The international Tourist Site Guideline Inspection Team that we supported on behalf of the FCO reported to the ATCM in Edinburgh last month, where all their recommendations were endorsed by the nations represented there. This is extremely good news as it sets a precedent for further work to ensure the preservation of the many regularly visited tourist sites in the Antarctic Peninsula. Our work in support of the BAS was similarly beneficial, supporting various scientific field camps in the Erebus and Terror Gulf and in South Georgia. Although we were disappointed that our work was curtailed due to the rudder defect, we still achieved the bulk of our tasking and had the added bonus of a diplomatically important visit to Argentina.


Much of our deployment's output was exhibited during the ship's visit to Leith, port of Edinburgh, in mid June where we berthed outboard of RRS JAMES CLARK ROSS during the middle weekend of the ATCM. This FCO and BAS hosted event demonstrated that the UK really is at the leading edge of matters Antarctic and exposed the depth of our nation's contribution to the peaceful and scientific development of that continent to a very large number of people. Both ships were visited by well in excess of 5000 people who patiently queued for long periods in the Scottish summer (!) to view the many scientific and practical exhibits onboard. It seems that the other nations are in awe of what the UK achieved in Edinburgh.

At work

From Edinburgh back to the dry-dock in 2 Basin at Portsmouth. The ship is swarming with workers in sweltering temperatures reminiscent of Puerto Belgrano in March. A 40,000 hour overhaul of the main engines is well underway, many areas are being refurbished and repainted, the communications fit is being upgraded, the boats are in a refit yard, and the Ship's Company is taking leave and courses while the rest of us (especially the Operations Officer) are preparing for the next deployment. Our plans have clarified over the last few weeks: the 5 work periods will take us to South Georgia twice, the Antarctic Peninsula 3 times and the South Orkneys; the latter being a first for ENDURANCE as we have been asked to close down the BAS base at Signy for the winter. The UKHO is working on a rolling surveying programme for the next 5 years aiming to maximise the MBES capability by allowing us to adjust our tasking depending on location and other activities. In conjunction with the FCO, the MOD has created an imaginative diplomatic programme the details of which are still emerging and we're expecting to be tasked by the FCO for a variety of activities, including further inspection work in the Antarctic Peninsula. So it will be a busy time and I've no doubt that we will derive maximum benefit from our additional work periods.

Summer leave lies ahead in August, we commence our work up and pre-deployment training in September and deploy from Portsmouth on 25th of that month. My next letter to Polar Bytes will be from somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, probably South America. I wish you all a very relaxing summer holiday and the best of luck until then.

Yours sincerely

Nick Lambert
Captain, Royal Navy