Shackleton Epic crew begin final sea trials in Antarctica

  • Fri, 11 Jan 2013

Official centenary expedition due to depart on 20 January from Elephant Island

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After four years of planning, expedition leader Tim Jarvis and his intrepid crew of five British and Australian adventurers are counting down the days until they set sail.

Their goal is to become the first to authentically emulate Sir Ernest Shackleton's legendary voyage of survival.
 
Mr Jarvis said: 'To finally be in Antarctica, preparing our replica boat Alexandra Shackleton for the voyage ahead is a great feeling.

'But we have a lot of work to do in the next week or so testing the boat, stocking it with provisions, stitching the canvas cockpit cover as Shackleton's men did, and practising our mountain drills. 
 
'We all have a very profound and healthy respect for the Southern Ocean and its tempestuous nature, and know that the task ahead is not an easy one... it's going to be dangerous and full of misery, but we're keep our sense of humour intact.'

Shackleton Epic plans to set sail on 20 January in an attempt to re-enact the 800nautical mile open ocean crossing from Elephant Island to South Georgia in a 22.5ft lifeboat.

Once there, the crew plan to cross South Georgia's mountainous, crevassed interior, arriving at the former whaling station at Stromness mid-February.
 
Earlier today, the first major logistics operation in preparing for the voyage occurred 1.5km from Arctowski base when the Alexandra Shackleton was put into the water for the first time since she was shipped from the UK in early September.
 
Mr Jarvis said: 'It was a successful operation involving our crew, the film crew and about half of the personnel from the Polish Base along with a large amphibious vehicle, a crane, a backhoe and a zodiac...a true team effort. 
 
'To get the rest of the work started, we split the crew into three groups of two -  Seb Coulthard (bosun) and Ed Wardle (cameraman) are working on electrics, charging batteries and securing the cameras;

'Nick Bubb (skipper) and Paul Larsen (navigator) are working on the boat, they've unfurled and dried out our sails and are repairing the oars, while Barry Gray (mountaineer) and myself have sorted through the food rations, located our zinc ballast to supplement the rocks we'll be using, and prepared the boat for her re-launch today.'

The Alexandra Shackleton, an exact replica of the James Caird, survived its trip south from the UK to King George Island with 'only a few dings' to its Baltic pine planked hull.

Mr Jarvis added: 'She's in good shape and we're now anxious to sail her and test how well she can sail upwind using the gyb and mainsail, and see how she handles the Antarctic conditions fully ballasted.' 
 
The crew are also awaiting the arrival of last minute provisions including 14 kilos of nougat, beef bullion and cod liver oil.

Throughout the journey the Alexandra Shackleton will be ‘shadowed' up to 20 nautical miles away by the expedition support vessel, Australis, which will act as a communications, filming and safety platform for the voyage.

Live tracking of the expedition and a daily blog can be found here.