British-Australian adventurers set off to repeat Shackleton's Antarctic feat

British-Australian to team recreate one of great stories of survival using original gear, supplies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 January, 2013, 3:04am


A British-Australian expedition recreating Ernest Shackleton's perilous 1916 crossing of the Southern Ocean in a small boat set off yesterday, braced for fearsome Antarctic seas and icy, bleak conditions.

Led by adventurer Tim Jarvis, the team of six planned to sail 800 nautical miles (1,480 kilometres) in a spartan 6.9-metre lifeboat from Elephant Island off the Antarctic Peninsula to rugged South Georgia, their support team said.

Although there were unusually moderate winds and a small swell as the adventurers pushed off, the team was heading for looming pack ice to the east as they relive part of what is widely regarded as one of history's greatest feats of survival.

They plan to use only the equipment, navigational instruments and food available to Shackleton during his 16-day voyage before facing a two-day climb to 900 metres over the mountainous, crevassed interior of South Georgia.

That will take them to the old whaling station at Stromness on the other side of the island, where Anglo-Irish Shackleton and his crew, with little more than the clothes on their backs, raised the alarm about the sinking of their ship, the Endurance.

"We are well aware of the dangers but believe we have a good little boat (an exact replica of the original lifeboat), a great team and the spirit and courage to be able to honour the legend of Shackleton," Jarvis, an Australian, said.

He was expecting "constant hardship" and the crew would need to be vigilant, with icebergs and whales among the obstacles they expected to face. A support vessel, the Australis, a modern and fully equipped, steel-hulled motor boat, would trail the lifeboat and only go to its aid in the event of a serious emergency.

With Norway's Roald Amundsen, the first to reach the South Pole in 1911, Australian Douglas Mawson and Briton Robert Falcon Scott, Shackleton was among the great Antarctic explorers.

When he set off on his third trip to the region in 1914 with the Endurance, he planned to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. But the vessel became trapped in 1915 and sank 10 months later as it was crushed by the ice. Shackleton and his crew lived on the floating ice until April 1916, when they set off in three small boats for Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and five crew made the treacherous 16-day voyage to South Georgia, later to face the mountainous trek. All members of the Endurance mission were eventually rescued.