Australian adventurer Tim Jarvis has announced a major expedition that will follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest polar explorers in history – Ernest Shackleton. In January of next year, Jarvis will depart for the Antarctic where he will attempt to recreate what is considered by many to be the greatest survival story of all time. The journey will be a challenging, demanding one that hasn’t been successfully replicated in nearly 100 years.
For those unaware of Shackleton’s story, while he was exploring the Antarctic in January of 1915 his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the pack ice. He and his crew used it as their shelter and store house for months as they waited for weather conditions to improve enough to free it from the ice, but before that could happen the ship’s hull was breached and it began to take on water.
In October, Shackleton and his men abandoned the Endurance for good, electing to build camps on the ice floes. They hoped that they ice would drift towards one of the nearby islands, allowing them to reach land and access supply caches, but after another five months they were no closer to dry ground and the ice floes started to break up.
In a desperate move, the crew took to three life boats and headed for open water and after five days out on the freezing Southern Ocean that reached the desolate and remote Elephant Island. It was the first time they were on land in nearly 500 days.
Elephant Island was hardly a permanent refuge however and Shackleton knew he had to go for help. On April 24, 1916, he and a small group of men set out across treacherous waters for South Georgia Island, some 800 miles away. They went in a small boat dubbed the James Caird after one of the more generous sponsors of the expedition and all onboard knew that this was a one way trip.
But somehow they managed to cross those 800 miles and land on South Georgia, although they were still miles from rescue. Shackleton and two of his men then crossed the island, covering 32 miles in 36 hours, along an unknown route, to reach a whaling station where they found help at last.
A ship was eventually dispatched to retrieve the men still stranded on Elephant Island, which took some time due the ice, but they were all rescued and in the end, not a single life was lost, which makes the story all the more amazing.
The next successful crossing of South Georgia by foot wouldn’t come until 1955, which gives you an idea of how challenging this undertaking was, and no one has ever managed to complete both the boat journey and the crossing. Next year, Tim Jarvis will attempt to do just that.
In preparation for the expedition Jarvis has had a replica of the James Caird built and he and his crew will use vintage 1916 gear along the way. They will attempt to first complete the 800 mile crossing from Elephant Island to South Georgia by sea and then traverse the island along the same route that Shackleton did. It will be a tremendous undertaking and the entire journey will be filmed for an upcoming documentary to celebrate the 100 anniversary of Shackleton’s adventure.
You can read more about what promises to be an amazing expedition on the official website.
Shackleton’s story has always been a fascinating one. He and his men suffered for months in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. But they managed to survive. Every one of them. It was a bold and hardy group to say the least, and none more so than their leader. Jarvis’ expedition has a lot to live up to and it will be fascinating to see how he and his team fare.
Thanks to Lisa for sharing this inspiring story. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
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