Shackleton recreation inspires fresh awe

Tim Jarvis and Barry Gray. Photo / Supplied
Tim Jarvis and Barry Gray. Photo / Supplied

Armed with little more than a small axe and an iron will, a team of British-Australian adventurers have recreated Sir Ernest Shackleton's epic voyage across the Antarctic Southern Ocean.

Expedition leader Tim Jarvis, Royal Marine Barry Gray and navigator Paul Larsen battled 140km/h winds, blizzards and numb limbs to reach the old whaling outpost of Stromness, on the island of South Georgia, on Sunday.

In doing so they risked permanent damage from frostbite, but gained new respect for Irish-born Shackleton, the legendary explorer who in 1916 led his own perilous expedition to the very end of the earth.

"Shackleton's motto was 'by endurance we conquer' and I think this was all about endurance," Jarvis said after reaching Stromness. "It was basically about deciding how much you're prepared to suffer."

Jarvis, Gray and Larsen were part of a six-strong group that left icebound Elephant Island, off continental Antarctica, on January 24. They sailed 800 nautical miles to South Georgia in a rickety wooden replica of the lifeboat Shackleton used 97 years ago.

Three members of the modern expedition dropped out through injury.

Jarvis and Gray ploughed on, dressed in period clothing, carrying an old carpenter's axe and navigating by the sun and stars. Larsen accompanied them in modern clothing.

"We had 80 knot winds which basically flattened the tent we were in," Jarvis said. Conditions cleared enough to allow them to complete the voyage.

By the time they were picked up by the support vessel Australis, one of Jarvis' feet had turned "ivory-white" from frostbite.

Shackleton voyaged from Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1916 out of sheer desperation.

His exploration ship Endurance was trapped by ice and then sank partway through his 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, leaving his entire group stranded on ice floes.

After two months adrift they reached Elephant Island and Shackleton, with a crew of five, set sail for South Georgia to raise the alarm.


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