New strife for Shackleton expedition

By Mischa Vickas 28 November 2013
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The mountain-crossing leg of Shackleton expedition re-enactment is being held up by wild weather.

THE CREW OF THE Shackleton Epic expedition has managed to navigate to South Georgia island off the coast of Antarctica and Friday set off to cross the island’s mountainous interior.

The Australian Geographic Society-sponsored expedition aims to recreate the 1916 journey of Ernest Shackleton and his crew to find help after a failed attempt at reaching Antarctica with the intention of crossing the continent.

The crew of the replica lifeboat, Alexander Shackleton, were last week having trouble navigating using the sun, due to cloud cover. The boat’s navigator, Australian-born Paul Larsen, managed to find the island by dead reckoning, using only a compass and knowledge of their last measured position.

Trench foot on the Shackleton re-creation

After 12 days at sea, including 50-knot winds and 7-8m swells, the crew managed to land at Peggotty Bluff, South Georgia on Monday 5 February.

Tim Jarvis and mountaineer Barry Gray set off on Friday morning (AEDT) to cross the mountainous and crevassed island with period-accurate clothing and equipment, just as Shackleton and his crew had done.

Two of the crew members will follow in support using modern clothing and equipment, whilst the remaining two crew have remained behind due to trench foot, a painful condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp, cold conditions.

“I’m immensely proud of this crew. They all performed incredibly well under such dire circumstances and the fact that we managed to sail 800 nautical miles in such a small vessel really shows how solid they are individually and how well we worked together as a team,” British-Australian expedition leader Tim Jarvis said upon landing.

Two tackle the last leg of the Shackleton journey

Tim and Barry were expected to reach the harbour at Stromness today, where the 1914 crew were able to find help at a whaling station on the original expedition, but an update on the team’s blog at 2am AEDT, suggested they had go into strife.

“Jarvis and Gray have hunkered down on the mountain with tents and sleeping bags providing some shelter from the extreme conditions,” says a statement. “It is raining and snowing ‘horizontally’ with the wind gusting at 45knots. Paul Larsen said it was so windy that several of them were knocked “clean off their feet” and that visibility is very poor.”

It remains to be seen when they will be able to continue the mountain crossing to make their way down to the harbour.

The team were well aware of the risks, though. Tim said yesterday before they set off: “This environment is among the harshest in the world, and Shackleton proved himself as a supreme adaptor to the tough terrain, harsh conditions and varying fortunes that affected him. It was his adaptability that got him through in the end, and we have also had to adapt to the circumstances, whatever they may be.”

Upon their arrival at Stromness, the pair hope to celebrate with a bottle of scotch they carried onboard the Alexander Shackleton.