Adventurers re-enact Shackleton exploits

The modern-day team of six used similar equipment and clothes as Ernest Shackleton (above) did, but the harsh conditions forced several of them to abandon their attempt along the way. Photograph: PA

The modern-day team of six used similar equipment and clothes as Ernest Shackleton (above) did, but the harsh conditions forced several of them to abandon their attempt along the way. Photograph: PA

Mon, Feb 11, 2013, 00:00

A group of British and Australian adventurers have re-enacted Irish-born explorer Ernest Shackleton’s journey to save his crew when their ship got stuck and sank in Antarctica’s icy waters almost 100 years ago.

Tim Jarvis and Barry “Baz” Gray reached an old whaling station on remote South Georgia island today, 19 days after leaving Elephant Island. They attempted to recreate the original conditions as far as they could, but did stay in tents when a blizzard hit - an option Shackleton did not have.

Just as Shackleton did in 1916, Mr Jarvis and his team sailed 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean in a small lifeboat and then climbed over crevasse-filled mountains in South Georgia.

The modern-day team of six used similar equipment and clothes. But the harsh conditions forced several of them to abandon their attempt along the way.

“It was epic, really epic, and we’ve arrived here against the odds,” Mr Jarvis told his project manager Kim McKay after reaching the station, adding that “we had more than 20 crevasse falls up to our knees and Baz fell into a crevasse up to his armpits”.

Mr McKay said Mr Jarvis was suffering some frostbite in his right foot after the journey. He was sleeping today and planned to hike tomorrow to the grave site of Shackleton, who was buried on the island years after his journey.

Mr Jarvis was not the only one suffering foot problems. Three of the men could not complete the climb after suffering from trench foot, caused by prolonged exposure to cold and wet conditions.

“The boat was only 22-and-a-half feet long. At any one time, only four men could be below deck, while the other two had to be on deck. They had eight-metre (26ft) waves crashing on to the boat,” Mr McKay said. “It was like they were playing a game of Twister. If one moved, they all had to move. They were constantly wet and cold and they all arrived with varying degrees of trench foot.”

Shackleton completed the climb without a tent. Mr Jarvis and his team were planning to do the same but were forced to use modern-day tents and sleeping bags when a blizzard hit. One member of the team turned back and then later rejoined Mr Jarvis and Mr Gray with more provisions and wearing modern-day clothing.

Shackleton’s survival story was remarkable in that the final two legs of his journey came after the 28-strong crew had endured more than a year in Antarctica. Their ship Endurance was trapped and then crushed by the ice pack and the men later sailed in lifeboats to Elephant Island, where 22 of them stayed, waiting for help.

After reaching the whaling station, Shackleton was able to raise the alarm and save all his crew.

While Mr Jarvis, who lives in Australia and also has British citizenship, and his team tried to recreate many of the conditions, there were limits - they decided to eat salami rather than the penguins and seals on which Shackleton’s crew subsisted.

“These early explorers were iron men in wooden boats,” Mr Jarvis told Mr McKay, adding that he hoped “we’ve been able to emulate some of what they achieved”.

AP

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