Faithful James Caird replica to sail from Elephant to South Georgia

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Adventurer Tim Jarvis and the Hon Alexandra Shackleton
with the original James Caird at last year’s Earl’s Court
Sail, Power & Watersports Show

A replica of Shackleton’s famous boat the James Caird built at the the Sail, Power & Watersports Show at Earl’s Court will be used to re-enact Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1916 voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia.

The boat to be built at the show from the 26th to the 30th November is to be completed by the International Boat Building Training College (IBTC) by the end of 2009, when she will go to Antarctica to follow in the wake of the original James Caird under the leadership of adventurer Tim Jarvis.

Show sales director Caroline Evans and the Hon Alexandra Shackleton last year asked the IBTC to consider building a replica of the James Caird suitable for a re-enactment. The college then met expedition leader Tim, and the build was agreed.

Extensive help from both Dulwich College (where the original James Caird is housed) and Greenwich Maritime Museum has enabled the IBTC to build a boat that is faithful to the original.

I’ve read original expedition member Frank Worsley’s 1933 account of the original voyage Shackleton’s Boat Journey,  and all I can say is that Jarvis must be a very brave man, even if he will presumably have modern equipment to help him and his crew.

The International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) 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.

The IBTC always runs an ‘active’ stand with work on various projects going on from building small boats to steaming mast hoops etc. The team is always happy to answer the boating public’s questions where it can, and people are welcome to ‘have a go’ where appropriate even down to such basics as sharpening a chisel.

PS – While you’re at the show, do drop in on the Wooden Boatbuilders Trade Association stand, where we’re told craftsmen will be only too happy to show you their latest work, and answer questions on restorations.

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8 thoughts on “Faithful James Caird replica to sail from Elephant to South Georgia”

  1. You'll remember that the Boat Journey was re-enacted by Trevor Potts in 1993/4. The boat used was (if memory serves) a loose-ish replica built using strip planking (by McNulty?). It will be interesting to see if the latest one is closer to the original. You would certainly need to be very hardy and possibly a little mad to undertake a trip like this. I look forward to reading more about the voyage.

  2. To be honest I am not sure what to think of this. We know that the voyage can be done – Shackleton and crew proved that, so there is no sense that this re-enactment can be justified as research. I don't want to seem harsh but part of me feels that it in some way trivialises a truly desperate voyage carried out by courageous men in order to save an entire crew, really a last roll of the dice. Or perhaps I am just being crotchety! Best of luck to them in any case – from the original account they are going to need every last bit of it.


  3. I agree with Chris's comments. I have also often questioned whether the activities of Thor Heyerdal, Tim Severin et al have added much to the body of knowledge around early navigation. After all, if I cross the North Sea in a bathtub using an astolabe it doesn't prove that the Vikings did it – or anyone else for that matter…


  4. Without doubt the voyage of the James Caird is one of the supreme feats of endurance, courage and seamanship. But like Chris and Steve I wonder if Tim Jarvis’ replica journey helps us comprehend the scale of the achievement—or whether it belittles it. There is, however, a part of me (not a small part) that would love to be involved in this adventure.

    Will they be landing through surf on the wrong side of South Georgia and making the gruelling 36 hour overland march to Stromness Station? I believe they took screws out of the James Caird and fixed them on their boot soles for traction.


  5. Where is the original James Caird ?? I have been unsuccessful in finding pictures of the original James Caird.

    What is the status of the re-inactment of the historic voyage ?? Did it ever take place ??

    Thank you for the information

    Roy F. Quanstrom

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