The original James Caird being launched. The photo taken from the Wikipedia
appeared in Ernest Shackleton’s book, South published in 1919. It was probably
taken by expedition photographer Frank Hurley
International Boatbuilding Training College principal Nat Wilson has written to tell us a bit more of the story of the new James Caird replica being built by his students.
The part-built replica of Shackleton’s famous boat the James Caird built at the the Sail, Power & Watersports Show at Earl’s Court 26th to the 30th November, will be used to re-enact Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1916 voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia under the leadership of adventurer Tim Jarvis.
The boat is being build by students at the International Boat Building Training College (IBTC).
Here’s what Nat says:
‘The James Caird was a fairly normal ship’s whaler or lifeboat, but was commissioned by expedition member Frank Worsley, who took a particular interest in her build. He was the Endeavour’s captain.
‘There are no drawings, and Greenwich Maritime Museum was concerned about damage so were reluctant to let us take her lines. Actually taking the lines is not something that should ever cause damage but they were very cautious, maybe due to some previous bad experience.
‘In fact, the lines had been taken for another replica in the late 80s, when a film of the voyage was made. We used these lines and then took templates from them, which we then took down to the original boat at Dulwich College to marry them up. They were accurate to within 1/4in and so we went ahead with the lofting. I was allowed to have a good look at the original and so our scantilings are authentic also.
‘The James Caird was modified by the ship’s carpenter prior to her epic voyage. He built up the shear by 13in and decked her over. He also bolted an old spar along the forward three-quarters of the keel and stepped the main mast on this. The mizzen was stepped on the aft thwart.
‘The materials we are using are basically the same, with an oak keel stem and stern, with oak timbers generally and larch planking. We will build her as she was built originally, and then add 13in and a deck as Worsley did.
‘The students building this boat are keen as mustard. Tim has visited us and seen the James Caird in the early stages of build. The aim is to recreate the voyage as close as possible to the original, consistent with sensible safety and so one – Tim is not reckless and they will have support etc. To get an idea of him, you should read his book Mawson Life and Death in Antarctica.’
Douglas Mawson was a pioneer Antarctic explorer with several firsts to his name – read about him at the Wikipedia.
If you can make it to the show, do drop by the IBTC stand. The college trains people of all ages from all over the world in the skills and techniques required to build and restore traditional wooden boats. The teaching ‘tools’ are a range of 30 boats from 9ft dinghies to 44ft blue water cruisers, all of which are completed to a professional standard.