S.Georgia : Epic Expedition Repeats Shackleton’s Amazing Feat
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 07.04.2013 (Article Archived on 05.05.2013)
The first successful attempt to recreate Shackleton’s boat journey and crossing of the Island was completed by members of the ‘Shackleton Epic Expedition’ on February 10th. © South Georgia Newsletter
Repeats Shackleton’s Amazing Feat
© South Georgia
The first successful attempt to recreate Shackleton’s boat
journey and crossing of the Island was completed by members of the ‘Shackleton
Epic Expedition’ on February 10th. The group, led by adventurer and environmentalist
Tim Jarvis, were dressed in 1914 contemporary clothing and used the same sort
of equipment used by Shackleton and his men in their attempt to reach a place
from where they could affect the rescue of the remaining shipwrecked crew of
the Endurance whom they left behind on Elephant Island.
Six men made the 800 nautical-mile boat journey in a replica of the lifeboat James
The modern expedition’s boat is called Alexandra Shackleton after
Shackleton’s granddaughter who is also the expedition’s patron, and it was,
according to Tim Jarvis, her idea that his next adventure should be an attempt
to recreate her grandfather’s incredible journey.
The tiny 6.9m long craft was launched from Elephant Island
on January 24th. Aboard were Skipper Nick Bubb; Royal Marine Mountain Leader
WO2 Barry Gray; Sailor and Navigator Paul Larsen; Expedition Bosun Petty
Officer Seb Coulthard RN who was representing the Royal Navy and who had spent
much of the previous year fitting out the boat, complete with two watertight
bulkheads, ready for the voyage; Expedition Cameraman Ed Wardle and Tim Jarvis.
The boat crossing was achieved in just 12 days, with mercifully better weather
than Shackleton and his men experienced on their 17-day sea journey nearly 100
years before. Though they had been accompanied by their support yacht Australis,
all navigation had been done by sextant and almanac with no assistance from the
yacht, indeed at one stage, like Shackleton, it looked like they might miss the
island, but a good sun fix got them back on course to the precise spot
Shackleton had landed in King Haakon Bay. They landed on February 3rd on the
beach at Peggotty Bluff.
Though the boat had performed well as a lifeboat, she had proved very hard to
steer, with at times two men pulling on the ropes attached to the rudder to
keep her on course.
At all times at least one man, wet through as they were for the entire trip,
stood in the tiny cockpit exposed to the elements, but after the trip the sailors
explained that manning the helm was often the preferred position to being
crammed inside the hull with four other men in the tiny, wet, internal space.
Big waves occasionally washed over the deck and down the hatch soaking
everything down below. Again in an echo of the experiences of Shackleton and
his men, Seb Coulthard said “As more moisture worked its way into the boat, the
reindeer skins began to get wet and shed. The reindeer hair went absolutely
everywhere, it was in your food, your drink, your clothing, your socks,
everywhere!" As for food, the pemmican proved inedible to these modern
men, they could not stomach the rich fatty food, but they said eating food had
not felt like a priority during the boat journey. They, like Shackleton, were
hit by a storm which generated huge waves, an experience described by one of
the experienced adventurers as “terrifying."
For the crossing of South Georgia the plan was for three in contemporary gear,
Jarvis, Gray and cameraman Ed Wardle, to be followed by another team of three,
Coulthard, Bubb and Larsen, in modern kit as a safety backup. Their departure
was delayed by bad weather, and once they had started they got trapped on
Shackleton Gap in another storm. The wet leather boots they had worn from the
beginning of the expedition had taken their toll and several were suffering
from trench foot. This forced some of the trekkers to descend into Possession
Bay to be picked up by the Australis. Jarvis and Gray stayed the night
on the glacier in a tent then continued the walk, accompanied by Larsen, to
complete the journey to Stromness.
Once the whole party were reunited they travelled round in Australis
back to King Haakon Bay and took the lifeboat Alexandra Shackleton under
tow to bring her round to moor at Grytviken. The next day, with superb timing,
patron Alexandra Shackleton, arrived aboard a cruise ship in time for them all
to gather in the cemetery to toast Shackleton 'The Boss'. Anyone who has read
the books about the Endurance Expedition must admire what Shackleton and
his men achieved, but the men of the Shackleton Epic Expedition, perhaps more
than any others, truly now understand some of what they went through.
You can catch up with the day to day events of the Shackleton Epic Expedition
on their blog http://shackletonepic.com/blog