James Caird replica Alexandra Shackleton is launched at Portland

A replica of the James Caird built by the International Boatbuilding Training College was officially named and launched at Portland on Sunday, 18th March.

She is to be used by the Shackleton Epic Expedition to recreate Ernest Shackleton’s original voyage in April 1916, when he and five others sailed their ship’s boat, the original James Caird, 8oo miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia in order to get help for the rest of the crew of the Endurance, which had been crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea.

On landing on South Georgia they then faced a climb over snow- and ice-covered mountains without  maps to the whaling station at Grytviken to raise the alarm.

This is the first time both elements of the journey have been attempted, and it will be filmed as a documentary. The expedition will be led by Tim Jarvis, explorer and environmentalist.

The replica boat was named after the Hon Alexandra Shackleton, who is patron of the expedition and granddaughter of Sir Ernest.

The original James Caird lies at Dulwich College, London, and so the IBTC was able to take the accurate measurements, offsets and scantling dimensions required for an authentic replica, by kind permission of the college archivist Calista Lucy.

The Alexandra Shackleton was built in two stages, as was the original, which started life as an open whaler, and was then modified on the ice after the Endurance was lost. The topsides were built up by three planks, and then decked-in to leave only a small open cockpit. Two spars were added, with a third bolted to the keel to add strength and act as a mast step.

It’s reported that on launching the new boat leaked not a drop. Sebastian Coulthard, who is due to crew with Jarvis, said that he was really impressed with the build quality and sturdiness of the boat.

Ballasting and sea trials will follow.

For more intheboatshed.net posts relating to the Shackleton expedition, the famous voyage in the James Caird, and to the new expedition and its boat, click here, here, here, here and here. And there’s more if you look hard…

2 thoughts on “James Caird replica Alexandra Shackleton is launched at Portland”

  1. I saw the original when it was on display in NYC a couple years ago. It was missing various parts, including the rig, and didn’t seem very seaworthy. This replica does a lot to bring the saga to life.

    I can’t say I think re-capitulating the original voyage is a very good idea, and I guess the promoters don’t think so either since they seem to have mounted an inflating lifeboat. I doubt they will trust to the possibility of two or three sextant shots for navigation either, and will bring along a GPS.

    Some guys who did the crossing of South Georgia in the last couple years found that the original route is now unusable due to deterioration of the glaciers, so the idea of “reenacting the trip” requires substantial modification.

  2. G’day Gavin,
    I have a few more pics, mostly of the abandoned whaling station now a home to seals. Bill has passed on, I think at one stage he was Head of Station for the British Antarctic expedition, about 1948 .

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