A film about the work of the Trust and the voyage to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and British Antarctic Territory entitled South 2015: an Antarctic Voyage to Remember is to be premiered at the Royal Geographical Society, London on 14 June 2017 at 19.00. Tickets are available at south-2015.eventbrite.com
Sandi Rhys Jones compiled a daily blog on the South 2015 Expedition to the Antarctic aboard MV Ushiaia and this is available as an account on Facebook.
Rod Rhys Jones has written an account of the visit to the Antarctic that was first published in the BAS Club Magazine, and is reproduced below.
South 2015: a voyage to remember
Southern part of the Antarctic Monument
On a clear afternoon the Southern part of the Antarctic Monument was dedicated on Dockyard Point, Stanley, at five o clock in the afternoon, 25 February. The culmination of many years of work to create a lasting monument to honour those Britons who died in British Antarctic Territory “in pursuit of science.”
The Bishop of the Falkland Islands
The names of the dead were read by the Rector of Christchurch Cathedral the Rev David Roper. The Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of the Falkland Islands who blessed the monument. The Hon Jan Cheek, Member of the Legislative Assembly welcomed the congregation on behalf of the Falkland Island Government. The Governor, His Excellency Colin Roberts, spoke about the importance of the links between the United Kingdom, the Falkland Islands and British exploration of Antarctica. Chairman of the Trust, Rod Rhys Jones, spoke about meaning of the two parts of the monument, and how the links between the families left behind in the United Kingdom and those that died in Antarctica. The monument, covered by a red cloth, was unveiled to an audible intake of breath as the mirror surface of the stainless steel caught the brilliant light.
Trustee Brian Dorsett-Bailey spoke about the value of the monument in the recognition of those who died and the importance to a sense of closure amongst the families. Rupert Summerson played a haunting lament on a shakuhachi, a Japanese flute.
The dedication was attended by a congregation of about 200 including Fids, family members, voyagers and officers from the mv Ushuaia, Fids from the Falkland Islands as well as other supporters. The dedication was filmed and recorded by local TV and radio companies and by Graham Morris, a cousin of Jeremy Bailey, who filmed the South 2015 tour for the British Antarctic Monument Trust.
After the dedication there was a reception in the newly housed Historic Dockyard Museum where the voyagers could admire the collection and meet the many Falklanders attending. The Museum includes an Antarctic Gateway display centred around the Reclus Hut – a refuge built in Stanley and shipped out to the Peninsula in the ‘50s. The display was created in association with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and opened in September 2014 when Dick Foster and Ray McGowan, who had wintered in the hut attended.
Trustees Brian Dorsett-Bailey and Rod Rhys Jones presented The Hon Jan Cheek with a Book of Remembrance and a stainless steel plaque to record the visit of the South 2015 voyage.
A day packed with activities
The 25th was packed with activities for the 85 of us who arrived in Stanley aboard MV Ushuaia. First thing in the morning at 8.00 am the Trust organised an hour’s visit to the hydroponics market garden where the owner Tim Miller talked about his success in providing fresh vegetables not only to the Islanders but also to the many tour ships that call each year – 40 to 50,000 tourists are expected to visit the Falklands this year.
Coaches from the ship had ferried the voyagers at 9.00 am to the Parish Hall for a welcome event led by Joan Spruce (née Fenton), Myriam Booth (Fids and BAS office Stanley) and Adrian Almond (Fid). John Smith, historian who previously worked on RRS Shackleton gave an amusing talk about the historic links with the Antarctic reminding many of past fun and games. Other speakers included those on the oil, wool, and fishing industries, environmental research, and conservation. Tea was provided by the Rev Kathy Biles and her team. To much laughter Myriam Booth gave each Fid his original employment record which she had rescued from the waste bin at the time BAS office was re-organised.
At 12.00 a short coach tour of the battlefields was organised by the indefatigable and very knowledgeable Tim Miller. Two walking tours set off, one with Adrian Almond and the other with Brian Summers (Fid). One of the walks included a visit to the graves of the men lost on HMS Protector and the other took in the planetary model on the waterfront.
At 2.30 we were greeted by the Governor and given a tour of Government House including the famous billiard table with the signatures on its underside. Tea was served with scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream to the surprise and pleasure of all. It was a short walk from Government House to the dedication on Dockyard Point at 5.00pm.
The monument is in a perfect setting laid out by Nigel Bishop and Ian Bury. It is at the end of Dockyard Point surrounded on three sides by water and set on a circle of local paving stones themselves surrounded by gravel. It is a short walk of 50 yards from the Museum along the old jetty still with its rail lines set into the concrete. This will become part of a waterfront walk currently being planned. Thus the Antarctic Monument will be seen by very many of the 50,000 or so tourists that visit Stanley each year. The museum has a maquette of the North and South parts of the Monument on display which tell our story.
The South 2015 tour consisted of a party of 29 Fids with their families and friends, relatives of those that died and supporters of the Trust sailed from Ushuaia in the 3000 tonne mv Ushuaia on a 21 day voyage organised by Antarpply Expeditions to coincide with the dedication in Stanley of the Antarctic Monument on 25 February by the British Antarctic Trust.
We sailed from Ushuaia on the evening of 22 February down the Beagle Channel for the Falklands into a rolling corkscrewing sea arriving at New Island on 24 February where we explored the albatross colony. In the afternoon we landed at Carcass Island where we walked out to Magellenic penguin colony and back for a generous tea at Rob McCall’s settlement. On our way to Stanley that evening we passed dozens of albatross feeding.
We spent 25th February in Stanley as reported above.
We arrived in South Georgia on 28 February, first visiting the King penguin colony at Right Whale Bay with clear skies but very cold winds from the mountains behind the beach.
The following day, 1 March, we visited Grytviken. In the morning some groups explored the whaling station and museum, others walked to Maiviken and Mount Duse. Andy Jamieson led a group to the valley where in the ‘70s he had studied Hodges Glacier to confirm that it disappeared as he had suspected from viewing Google Earth. In the afternoon we were given a personal tour of laboratories, hangar, food stores, accommodation and other facilities at King Edward Point. We were briefed on the scientific programme and fisheries protection work. We entertained South Georgia personnel, including Simon Browning, Pat Lurcock (Halley) for a barbecue on board at lunch time. Sarah Lurcock gave us an update on the rat eradication programme. Many voyagers donated £90 to rid a hectare of rats and the money contributed plus the money from an auction of memorabilia on board a few days later raised over £4000 for the programme.
In the early evening Voyagers gather around the tall, rough-cut headstone in the tiny cemetery and raised a glass of whisky to The Boss, and to his indomitable right hand man Frank Wilde buried nearby, saving a few drops to sprinkle on his grave.
Later that evening, after dinner, the Welsh voyagers gather to sing in honour of St David’s Day. Then comes an auction of a very special bottle of whisky - a recreation of Shackleton’s favourite Scotch that was discovered recently underneath his expedition hut. The distillers Whyte & Mackay have donated a bottle to voyager Fiona Hamilton, whose father Donald McCalman was a FID, for auction in aid of BAMT funds.
Excitement rises as the five vying bidders push the price to £700, especially when it is announced that tots of the whisky will be sold at £20. To cap it all, another voyager announces that he will buy all the tots for £680 so that everyone can enjoy the unique taste of the whisky. Many of those who enjoyed a tot donated a further £20 each for the pleasure. The whisky has been sold three times over. An amazing day, we all muse, as we go off to our cabins for another calm night in Cumberland Bay.
St Andrews Bay
We left before dawn for a landing at St Andrews Bay with its 200,000 pairs of king penguins. Sailing at lunch time we also visited magical Drygalski Fjord in the early evening before setting course for Signy. Off the South Eastern point of South Georgia we sailed through the largest collection of huge grounded tabular bergs anyone had ever seen.
Ice around Signy
On all the sea legs of our voyage Rachel Morgan collaborated with our tour leader Monika Schillat to organise a panoply of talks by Fids and by the ship’s expert guides. As we rolled South West heading for Signy, Fergus O’Gorman and John Edwards entertained us to hilarious reminiscence of their time on Signy.
As we were closest to Halley Bay Andy Smith organised a presentation of life at Halley Bay by the seven Halley Fids on board which included memories of Jeremy Bailey, Dai Wild, John Wilson, Neville Mann and Miles Mosley
Sea ice prevented landing at Signy on 4 March with the base leader reporting that there was 90 per cent cover in Borge Bay. We might have nudged our way in but it was doubtful if we would have been able to launch and use the Zodiacs and then of course would have come the difficulties of leaving. Some idea of the amount of ice around the Western sides of Coronation Island can be gathered from the North West course the ship took in an effort to round the pack.
We entered the Antarctic Sound on the 6 March with everyone on deck to drink in the fantastic views of snow clad mountains but as we approached Hope Bay, now Esperanza, we realised that we were not going to be able to land – ice again. We were comforted by hot chocolate laced with chachaça and entertaining talks from John Duff and Kenny Hughson on life on the Argentine Islands.
We awake to a breathtaking sight on 7 March: snow covered mountains on either side rear into the sky, their jagged tops wreathed in cloud. We are in the Errerra Channel and after a quick breakfast old hands explain that we are now making our way into the Neumeyer Channel past the large rock formation to Starboard known as the Lion. We learn that there are two entry points: the Northern one at the Lion’s front paws and the Southern one (which we are taking) at his tail.
Our voyagers have difficulty in believing that either of these gaps are capable of accommodating the ship. However, slowly and surely we move to starboard and enter a channel that is as magical as the Drygalski Fjord. As our blogger Sandi Rhys Jones describes it on https://www.facebook.com/South2015 “Icebergs glow as brilliantly white as Italian coffee shop meringues, bergy bits create brilliant green pools around their feathery edges, icefields flowing into the sea have intense blue lines finely etched into their surface, others are dusted with baby blue powder.“
We turn to port and skirting around a ship, mv Plancius, moored at Dorian Bay, make our way to Port Lockroy. Paul Leek is delighted to be back and shows his daughter and grand daughter around the historic base, now a museum, shop and post office, bringing back memories for many FIDs. We gather for a presentation of the South 2015 commemorative plaque to the station leader, Sarah Auffret, before returning to the ship with souvenirs and two more passengers – Sarah and Amy Kincaid who have finished their four month tour and are returning home with us on mv Ushuaia.
The following day we head South through the majesterial cliffs rising a thousand metres on either side of the Lemaire Channel. As we wonder at the overwhelming scale and beauty, listening to the Fid mix of reminiscence, risk and revelation, we are reminded of the reason for our expedition – the human cost of exploration and research in this most challenging of places.
Despite pragmatism and liberal doses of humour running through every conversation and interchange, we recall those who did not return. Three days before the ice defeated our attempts to land at Signy or even get close to Gourlay Peninsula where Roger Filer fell. The elements beat us again at Hope Bay. We pass Petermann Island, from where Ambrose Morgan, John Coll and Kevin Ockleton set out to return across the sea ice to Faraday, and Mount Peary, where Roger Hargreaves, Graham Whitfield and Michael Walker were lost on a climbing expedition from Faraday. The Ushuaia’s captain sounds the ship’s horn in homage to those lost. Long blasts echo off the mountains, and a wave of emotion washes over us as we stand silently on the bridge.
We continue towards Faraday, now Vernadsky, picking our way through brash ice, negotiate around extraordinarily shaped icebergs and floes, spot leopard seals, shags and sheathbills. We are delighted to be able to land and are welcomed by the Ukrainians who have been running the base since 1994. Kenny Hughson swaps stories with the base commander about the days when he was in charge. We are also able to visit Wordie Hut established in January 1947 on the site of the hut used by the British Graham Land Expedition 1935/36 and examine the historic timber sign outside with its statement British Crown Land.
We take advantage of the powdery snow and fine weather to stretch our legs. The sheltered water provides the opportunity for Jaana Tarma to take a swim to celebrate her birthday. She emerges beaming with pure enjoyment. She – and we – appreciate the warm welcome from the Ukrainians, enhanced by generous measures of vodka, which fortify us for the return Zodiac trip to Ushuaia in time for dinner. One of our voyagers pays for her vodka with the traditional currency in those parts. The item is promptly displayed behind the bar.
After a day at sea passing Renaud, Lavousier, and Adelaide islands we arrive early in the morning at Horseshoe Island, Base Y. “The sky is a brilliant blue, the sun turns the untouched snow to blinding white, the water is still, disturbed only by the occasional ripple of a penguin looping through the water.” Fergus O’Gorman has taken the opportunity to ask Captain Jorge to hold a ceremony of commitment to his long term partner Denise Comerford on the snowy shoreline. The seamstresses on the ship have been overnight and sewn a veil from medical gauze, knitted a blue garter with the help of galley staff folded serviettes into roses tinted appropriately pink by Dave Clark.
Wedding on Horseshoe Island
The old BAS hut is set on a hill well above the waterline with spectacular views. Closed as a BAS base in 1960 (although re-opened for a few months in 1969) it has recently been taken over by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and will be protected for future generations. The door key is found, a screwdriver is produced and the window boards removed so that after brushing the snow off our boots we can take a look inside. It is just as it was left. Tools in the workshop, a cycle wheel from a dog sledge waiting on a bench, a poster of Beethoven and pictures of a younger Queen and Prince Philip. On the desk a record player and a disk Intimate Percussion by the jazz exponent Stanley Black. A mute reminder of his name sake Stanley Black, who set off across the sea ice with David Statham and Geoffrey Stride on their ill-fated expedition to observe an Emperor penguin colony on the Dion Islands, May 1958. Only some of the dogs returned. There is a cross on Beacon Hill and later in the day as we pass the ship’s horn blasts the frozen air in tribute.
After an early lunch, we arrive at Rothera, which as the largest BAS station in the Antarctic, is in stark contrast to the other historic stations that we have visited. Large modern buildings, oil drums, pylons, a runway - and the luxury of a quay vacated by HMS Protector for our visit. Base Commander David Hunt comes on board to welcome us, delighted to see so many FIDs, and explains the tours that have been arranged. He tells us that the South 2015 presentation plaque will be displayed in a prominent place.
MV Ushuaia at the jetty at Rothera
A bevy of young, confident, friendly and able BAS staff equipped with clipboards and radios organizes us into groups, displaying eagerness to hear about the old days of BAS – and amazement to learn that some voyagers’ tours of duty took place long before they were born.
The most important place for us to start is the steep, rocky walk up to the monuments to those who died: John Anderson and Robert Atkinson, who were lost on the Shamblier Glacier in 1981, Stanley Black, David Statham and Geoffrey Stride who died at Horseshoe Bay in 1959 and Kirsty Brown, who was drowned by a leopard seal in 2003. Rupert Summerson gives a moving account of the accident that killed his colleagues John and Robert and plays a lament on his Japanese flute high above the strangely sculpted icebergs filling the bay.
There are other monuments there too, on the peak overlooking the harbour: to the Canadian pilots N J Armstrong, JC Armstrong, DN Fredlund and E P Odergard (Norwegian) who died in the Kenn Boreck twin otter that crashed into an iceberg after take-off and to the sledge husky teams who were such an integral part of Antarctic life.
A Basler DC3 appears in the sky, makes a sweeping approach and lands smoothly on the immaculately maintained runway – pride and joy of Clem who also has the job of shooing away seals and other wildlife when required. It is bringing fresh fruit and vegetable stores for the base on its way to relieve a party at Halley.
After a tour of the base, including a fascinating presentation of Antarctic marine life by Professor Lloyd Peck – the huge 42 legged starfish and the feather star are a particular hit – there are more reminiscences over tea and scones before we return to the ship.
Hearty three cheers fill the air, and as we pull away from the quay our enthusiastic hosts perform a series of Mexican waves. It has been a great visit and we are all very thankful for their wonderful hospitality.
We have made aware of a storm expected to sweep into the Peninsula in a couple of days time and the Captain is concerned that we should be sheltered in Deception during the worst of it. There is time to see if we can go further South to see if we can get into Stonington although the satellite pictures suggest there is too much ice but it we would not be able to call in on our way back to make a landing on the continent itself. Several of our voyagers are keen to make a continental landing – islands aren’t the same thing. After talking to most of the voyagers we decide to go for Stonington. The decision is greeted with unanimous approval and the ship sets its course south overnight.
The dawn of the morning of the 10 March off Stonington is spectacular and has brought almost everyone up on deck.
Dawn at Stonington
“It is bitterly cold. The snow covered crags and mountains, guarded by icebergs, stretch into infinity. The sky is streaked with feathery stripes of rose and duck egg blue and pewter grey. The sun throws a golden streamer across the sea, which is freezing around us, forming gleaming lily pads. Growlers and floes are motionless. There are no birds, no signs of seal or whale. No sound.
“The ship inches its way, seeking leads. Eventually it is clear to everyone that a landing is out of the question. We exchange a few words on the bridge, then the Captain positions the ship facing the Stonington Station. At South 68O 11” the names of the men who perished there in 1966, Thomas Allan and John Noel, are read over the loudspeaker.
“Then, as the ship sits motionless in the black glassy sea, long blasts of the horn echo around the frozen fortresses that pierce the clouds and reach to the core of the world.”
We head North at about 11.00 am and in calm seas sail along the western coast of Adelaide Island. The following morning 11 March we are abreast of Palmer Station in the Bismark Strait heading for Almirante Brown, now renamed Brown and only occupied by the Argentinians for four months a year. We have made good enough time for a landing. Great news for those voyagers, who have made several trips south without succeeding in stepping on the continent proper.
The weather is so glorious as we make our way in the protection of the Gerlache Strait, that the morning lecture is postponed so we can enjoy the wonderful scenery and wildlife. After lunch the ship draws into the spectacular sheltered haven of Paradise Harbour and we don our wet landing gear, get aboard the Zodiacs and set off for the base which clings on to rock under towering banks of snow. Others take Zodiacs to a bay nearby for spectacular photographs of icebergs.
In the afternoon we head North again past the Chilean base of Videla with its attendant penguin rookery. The weather is deteriorating visibly. We pass a sailing yacht and wonder where she will find a harbour in the impending storm.
Approaching Neptune Bellows at Deception Island
We have an early call on the 12th March to alert us to witness our entry into the safe haven of Deception Island. The wind is blowing hard across Neptune’s Bellows whipping the spume from the wave tops. The captain negotiates the 755ft gap in the caldera wall with some care – inside we are sheltered but not so sheltered that we can swim in the warmer volcanic waters. Fiona Hamilton had planned to raise money for the Ripple Effect, a Scottish cancer respite charity, by taking a swim but this proved impossible in the storm so she took a dunking with a bucket of sea water on deck instead. She was joined for solidarity by the indefatigable fund-raiser, John Edwards. Fiona, was accompanying her mother Jean McCalman to see the places where her late huband Donald had worked. He was Base Leader at Hope Bay in the late ’50s.
We enjoy the safe haven for the morning, and then at noon we gather to hear about the five men lost at Deception and nearby Admiralty Bay, King George Island. Eric Platt in 1948, Arthur Farrant in 1953, Ronald Napier in 1956, Alan Sharman and Dennis ‘Tink’ Bell in 1959. After particularly moving tributes from Fergus O’Gorman, in memory of his colleague Alan Sharman, and from David Bell, brother of Dennis, we go to the bridge to watch our departure through Neptune’s Bellows. As the ship emerges into the open sea, five long blasts are sounded on the horn to honour the lost friends.
Friday 13 March at sea, in the Drake Passage is a challenging day for us all. It is a Force 8 wind from the north west, with big seas, so we pitch and roll. Cutlery hurtles across tables, wine glasses are replaced with tumblers, sick bags appear strapped strategically along the grab rails. Strict rules apply again: always have both hands free for grabbing handrails, seat backs or another human being; make valuables and breakables in the cabin secure; take motion sickness medication.
However the lecture programme continues, despite seasickness and chesty colds that are rife on the ship. We hear Andy Jamieson talk about geology and daily life at Fossil Bluff, Anna Sutcliffe, an Antarpply guide, informs and entertains us about the amazing albatross, Janet Summerson tells us about Australian efforts to conserve Mawson’s hut at Cape Denison.
Fewer people than usual manage dinner, and we all retire early to our cabins, determined to make the overnight journey through the infamous Drake Passage with stoicism and fortitude.
Saturday 14 March our last full day; our expedition is nearing its end. After a boisterous night at sea, we are pleased to hear that we will be in the more sheltered waters to the east of Cape Horn by mid morning. A rugged group manage breakfast. The wind drops a little, as does the swell, but nevertheless we welcome the return of the albatross, clusters of them following in the wake of the ship. We gather for an admin briefing: the return of rubber boots and life jackets, settlement of bar and laundry bills, retrieving of suitcases and bags from hold to cabin.
The morning is greatly enlivened by Denis Wilkins with his presentation: Scott v Amundsen. It generates lively debate. Was Scott an arrogant bungler, or a victim of the age and circumstance? Was Amundsen being underhand or simply better organized? The key issue is competence, says Denis, whether conscious or unconscious, whether judged on a single performance or overall ability, whether in relation to neuro-surgery or polar exploration.
As the ship makes its way towards the Beagle Channel, the seascape changes. The implacable rocky mountains, towering icebergs, rolling swell, lashing waves of the past days are replaced with a green and ochre shoreline, softening the snow flecked peaks beyond. Then as we reach the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel, exuberant Commerson’s dolphins play hide and seek around the ship like excited children let out of school.
We gather in the lounge before dinner, for our final evening. As Monika says, this is end of term time - and all shall have prizes. Captain Jorge appears, together with the expedition guides and Dr Lynne, and to applause and mutual congratulation, all voyagers receive signed certificates showing that we have crossed the perilous waters of the Drake Passage and also landed on the Antarctic Continent. The certificates do not record that we crossed the Antarctic Circle or our furthest South 68° 11’ south - a first for captain, ship and crew!
The captain is presented with a plaque recording the South 2015 expedition, and small commemorative gifts are given to Antarrply officers, as tokens of appreciation for taking us safely to the most southerly frozen reaches of the planet to achieve our objective of commemorating ‘those who lost their lives in Antarctica in pursuit of science to benefit us all.”
As we go into dinner, the words of one FID voyager in the epitaph he spoke just two days before at Deception Island, came back to mind.
"All FIDs leave a part of themselves in the Antarctic when it’s their time to go home.
So in a very real sense, the souls of those who rest here for eternity are never, ever truly alone.
They are an integral part of who we are today.
And whilst we may grow old and memories fade, they remain for ever young, and forever in our hearts."
The more comprehensive account with more photographs, positions, sightings, some haiku and the occasional limerick can be found on the Trust’s website at www.antarctic-monument.org or on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/South2015 with particular thanks to Sandi Rhys Jones and Charlotte FitzGerald who managed to post a daily blog despite difficult internet links.
A short newscast of the Dedication Ceremony in Stanley by British Forces tv can be seen here . http://forces.tv/44449064
Fids on South 2015 tour
Amongst those Fids on MV Ushuaia are the following;
Adelaide Island: Ivor Morgan 1961-64, Ken Darnell 1963, Stephen Vallance 1972, Denis Wilkins 1972-73, John Killick 1973-74, Alan Cheshire 70’s
Argentine Islands: Ray Berry 1954, John Duff 1966, Alan Cheshire, 1970s, Kenny Hughson 1972-73
Deception Island: Ray Berry 1952. Fossil Bluff: Andrew Jamieson 1971-76.
Halley Bay: James Westwood 164-65, Rod Rhys Jones 1965, John Duff 1965, Mick Shaw 1966-67, Murray Roberts 1967-69, Denis Wilkins 1968-69, David Clarke 1970-71, Andy Smith 1971 - 72 summers until 2005, Toby Clark, 1985 – 86.
Port Lockroy: Paul Leek 1958-60.
Rothera: Alan Cheshire, '70s, Rachel Morgan 1997-99, Rupert Summerson 1980-81 and 1983-86
Signy Island: Ray Berry 1953, Fergus O'Gorman, 1959, John Baker, 1965-68, John Edwards, wintered 1969 and summers 67/68, 68/69 & 69/70, Owen Darling late 1960's, Alan Cooper,1973, Cynan Ellis-Evans 1975-77.
South Georgia: Fergus O'Gorman 1958, Jonathan Barker 1972-74, Andrew Jamieson 1971-76, Alan Cooper 1974, John Killick 1974-76.
Stonington: Ivor Morgan 1961 to 64, Robert Wyeth 1970 – 73, Malcolm McArthur 1971-73.
BAS Headquarters: Rupert Summerson 1979-86, Ray Berry, 1950s.