Fred Le Moigne, NOC Southampton, Saturday, 24 June, 2012
We are now entering the fourth week of the Arctic Ocean Acidification cruise and after the fantastic polar sceneries, time has come to highlight what has been our home for 3 weeks already, the R.R.S. James Clark Ross.
First, a bit of history. The ship operated by the British Antarctic Survey was named after a British polar explorer Sir James Clark Ross, born in April 1800 in London, England. He entered the navy in 1812 at the age of twelve and achieved his first cruise in the Arctic Ocean in search of a Northwest Passage in 1818. In total, Ross took part in four Arctic expeditions. It is important to mention that two centuries ago, voyages to the poles were much longer and more perilous than nowadays. Polar expeditions took place over yearly time scales rather than months as it is now.
While accompanying his uncle Captain Sir John Ross in the North Canadian Arctic Sir James Clark Ross witnessed the first ever location of the North Magnetic Pole position on June 1831 on the Boothia Peninsula. At the age of 34, he was promoted to Captain. Between 1839 and 1843 Sir James Clark Ross commanded an Antarctic expedition comprising the vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and charted much of the coastline of the white continent. Erebus and Terror were bomb vessels, warships named after mortar bombs. Bomb vessels were constructed with strong hulls to withstand the recoil of mortars. They were deemed to be very good at resisting the tremendous pressure of the ice pack and were, in a nutshell, a primitive design of icebreaker.
During his Antarctic voyages, James Ross discovered the Ross Sea, Victoria Land, and the volcanoes Mount Erebus and Mount Terror in Antarctica, which were named after the expedition’s vessels. On his return, Sir James Clark Ross was knighted, and was also nominated to the French order of the Légion d’Honneur. In 1847, he published his account of the expedition under the title of “A Voyage of Discovery” and “Research to Southern and Antarctic Regions”.
Hence, Sir James Clark Ross was the logical choice to name the new icebreaker in replacement of the RRS John Biscoe retired in 1991. The RRS Sir James Clark Ross was built in Swan Hunter shipbuilders at Wallsend, U.K. (see below for technical specifications). She was launched on the river Tyne the 1st December 1990 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen and Prince Philip maintain a close eye on the quality of the food served on the ship every day, as their portraits are hung on the galley wall.
The ship undertook her first scientific cruise, JR 001, in Antarctica doing geophysical work. More than 20 years later, the Arctic Ocean Acidification is number JR 271 on the on-going list. Her homeport is Stanley in the Falkland Islands which will be the departure point of our next polar trip, the Antarctic Ocean Acidification cruise, JR 274 in January 2013.
Tonnage: 5,732 GT
Displacement: 7,767 tonnes (when loaded)
Length: 99.04 m
Beam: 18.85 m
Draught: 6.30 m
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Endurance: 57 days
Complement: 11 Officers and 15 Crew and up to 50 Scientific Personnel