Explorers to retrace Shackleton's epic Antarctic journey

Sun Dec 2, 2012 10:48pm EST
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By Stuart McDill

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A group of intrepid explorers are readying themselves for the first-ever recreation of the epic voyage made by British explorer Ernest Shackleton on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole in 1914, on an exact copy of Shackleton's lifeboat.

Shackleton's boat, the Endurance, became trapped in the Antarctic ice and was eventually crushed and sank. His attempt to raise the alarm is considered by many to be one of the greatest journeys ever made.

Shackleton took a small party from his crew and rowed 1,287 km (800 miles) on the lifeboat James Caird from Elephant Island to South Georgia, where they knew they could get help from a whaling station. Their journey took from 1914 to 1916.

The British and Australian team, led by Australian explorer and environmentalist Tim Jarvis, will row the same route and then cross the mountainous, glacial interior of South Georgia to reach the north coast. They will use no equipment that was not available in Shackleton's time.

The Shackleton Epic team will depart from South America in early January, rowing an identical copy of Shackleton's 6.85 meter (22 feet 6 inches) lifeboat before climbing the mountains.

The journey will not be without danger. The replica boat, named the Alexandra Shackleton after the British explorer's granddaughter, has no keel and capsizes very easily.

"You know, we ran the numbers and said what can we do with an exact replica of Shackleton's boat, without cheating, to try and make this ... less susceptible to capsize than what he had," Jarvis said.

The team have practiced capsizing the vessel and trying to right it again, and have attempted to use their supplies, equipment and rocks as ballast instead of just rocks as Shackleton did.   Continued...

Ernest Shackleton's hut that was used by his British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition of 1907-09. AJS/TAN/CLH/