I have written about our cruise and the JCR for 6 weeks now. We have lost our AUV, then found it, twice. We have been out on sea ice, dug snow pits, drilled holes, worked from breakfast to dinner eating our lunches picnic style on the ice, and have met most of our goals. As I said many times, none of this would have been possible without the help and support from the wonderful crew of the JCR. Behind every great crew, of course, is a great captain. Our captain did everything in his power to maximize our science time; he broke ice until 2 in the morning in order to get us from a station to next with as little delay as possible; when we were at a station, or carrying out an AUV recovery operation, put our safety first, watching us every minute from the Bridge. I personally got caught by him twice doing things I shouldn’t have been doing; one time he announced over the radio: “Derya don’t go too near that penguin, there’s a crack in the ice there” while I was trying to take my 3,000th penguin photo too close to the water’s edge and one day another announcement came thru the radio: ” Jeremy, please inform everyone on the ice not to get within 5 meters of the mooring lines. They are under tension and may snap” exactly five seconds after I had pushed my sled underneath the mooring line, and crawled over it myself. Susanne, similarly, walked down the gangway one time without her flotation device, and she immediately got nailed on the radio. This is all embarrassing of course for us, but it is also very comforting that we are actually a big team and if we unintentionally get ourselves into a risky situation, it is very likely that the rest of the team will fix that. During dinners, we had quite a few glasses of wine at the Captain’s table and it was interesting to learn that he is a saxophone player –even played on the radio! I visited him in his office today for a short chat so I could learn a bit more about him.

JCR's captain Burgan, photo by Rich Turner

DA: How many years have you been going to sea Captain?
C: Since 1972. So 38 years. I started out as a cadet at a British company, British Commonwealth Shipping on different ships; general cargo ships, tankers, etc. At the end of my apprenticeship in 1974, I sailed on the Bransfield, again as a cadet. During my leaves I would work on commercial ships as well, because you have to get a certain amount of sea time.
DA: Is that when you started to work for BAS?
C: 1976 is when I started to work for them. I was a 3rd officer then.
DA: How did you decide you wanted to spend most of your life at sea?
C: At the time it was the quickest way to get away from home and make some money! With JCR now we are 4 months on, 4 months off, but on other ships its is sometimes 9 months, sometimes three. It depends on what ship and what route you are going. With BAS, since 1976 I have been on every season going between the north and the south, except for two seasons.
DA: The JCR is not an ice-breaker, it is an ice-strengthened ship. Can you tell me a little bit about the differences?
C: Well, ice breaker breaks ice – that is what it does. It has a huge engine, a hugely strong hull, lots of fuel. Russians have nuclear ice breakers because you need that kind of power. The JCR is a multi-purpose ship, it is ice strengthened meaning it has more power capability than a commercial ship. But because it is not an icebreaker, it does not sail to Antarctica between roughly what is the start of the winter – March/April, until September/October. During that time, she sails north to the Arctic. For the northern trips, BAS collaborates with other institutes.
DA: Throughout your travels since the 70s, what kind of change have you observed in the Antarctic region?
C: The amount of ice certainly has decreased. There are ice shelves that have disappeared in the 1990s. During one science cruise, we were at an iceshelf that just collapsed, and we happened to be the first ones to sail through that area in history and do some science. We have also observed changes in the population of the fur seals. It seems like they have recovered. They are cute but it is hard to deal with them if you have to offload cargo! Most whales are virtually extinct, unfortunately. Sometimes, in the right seasons, we’ll see a pod of them, lots of them feeding with seals and birds around too.
DA: Whereabouts have you been aside from the Arctic and the Antarctic?
C: We worked in 1998 in the southwest Indian Ocean, studying seamounts there. Actually that was with folks from Woods Hole.
DA: During our cruise, none of the officers were qualified to steer the ship in ice, so when you had to go to bed, if we were still in ice and not open water, the ship would stop until the next day. When will the officers be able to drive through the ice?
C: That is because I need to know what we are getting the ship into, and get it out of there when I wake up the next day! So no one can steer the ship when I was sleeping. It’s a calculated risk, we don’t want to end up in a situation which will get us in trouble. Actually it’s a Catch 22 situation because I want to teach the officers but we also have to get the scientists what they need and as you know, we have to move fast from one station to another. When I first steered in ice it was years ago, I was 3rd officer.
DA: Do the satellite images help with predicting the ice conditions for the routes we take?
C: Satellite images are pretty good but we can observe the ice when we are there and judge better going through it. But satellite images are very useful. They give you a good idea about the presence of ice but until you get there you don’t know the real situation.
DA: What do you like the most about your polar trips?
C: Working down at the Antarctic is amazing. You see the penguins, icebergs, rocks at the bases. Then you have to “relieve” the bases and do all that work! (DA’s note: Relief is the name of the multi-day operation to unload the food/fuel/cargo that has been brought to the bases by the ships, and in return loading all the trash/recycle/equipment that has to leave the bases onto the ship. This time around, it is said that we delivered 1,000 tonnes of cargo to Rothera).
DA: What do you do when you are not at sea?
C: Lots of walking and got actually I divorced recently, so a whole new life awaits me! I have two children; I will get to spend some time with them. They are in the UK, my daughter is 18, and my son’s in a death metal band called Trigger the Bloodshed.


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