Shackleton Epic expedition sails into challenging weather

Alexandra Shackleton 64 nautical miles from Elephant Island.  Image Jo Stewart Shackleton Epic.

The Alexandra Shackleton – a day and 64 nautical miles out from Elephant Island

The first day at sea for Shackleton Epic, the  recreation of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legendary voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia has seen the Southern Ocean deliver up encounters with a whale and an iceberg, a five-hour period with no wind, and later 25knots and more from the south and building seas over 3m.

As I write conditions are probably much worse, however, as the weather forecast predicted  35knots gusting to 50knots. Ugh!

The 22.5ft replica ships’ boat Alexandra Shackleton and her six British and Australian crew have covered over 60 nautical miles towards South Georgia.

Expedition leader Tim Jarvis is reported to have said that the biggest challenges his crew faces is the confined space below deck and cooking.

The little vessel has shipped a lot of water and the crew was forced to bail constantly throughout the first 24hours, with the result is that they haven’t eaten very much. ‘It’s difficult to cook, clean and make the space needed to fire up the Primus stove and it’s pretty damp in here,’ skipper Nick Bubb told the support team via VHF.

The conditions can’t have been much of a surprise to the Alexandra Shackleton’s crew – as they were very similar for Shackleton and his men aboard the James Caird, when they made the original journey. They stuck it out though through 16 days during which they covered 800 nautical miles, before spending three days climbing over South Georgia’s
mountainous interior to reach the whaling station at Stromness and organise a rescue for his crew, who were still stranded on Elephant Island.

We’re about to find out if they still make people like that!

A support vessel is keeping station with the little boat at a distance of approximately 20
nautical miles away – I gather it steams close once a day in order to take photos.

PS - Check the expedition website (link above) for how things are now. Are 50mph gusts and 7m swells enough for you? I’m glad to be home and toasting my toes on the stove…

PPS – The expedition website has a press release about the Alexandra Shackleton. Two points seem particularly worth noting: the boat was built at Lowestoft by the International Boatbuilding Training College, and its seams are caulked with cotton and paid with putty and white lead paste.

Alexandra Shackleton with crew aboard in traditional gear.  Image Jo Stewart Shackleton Epic Alexandra Shackleton underway to Elephant Island.  Image credit Jo Stewart Shackleton Epic

Alexandra Shackleton departs Elephant Island.  Image Si Wagen Shackleton Epic Alexandra Shackleton approaches pack ice leaving from Elephant Island at the start of the Shackleton Epic expedition.  Image Jo Stewart Shackleton Epic (2)

Alexandra Shackleton rounds the rocks near Point Wild, Elephant Island (not King George Island).  Image Jo Stewart

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