Tim Jarvis-led Shackleton voyage re-enactment to set out mid-January

Shackleton Epic - Expedition Vessel,  Alexandra Shackleton

Shackleton Epic - Expedition Vessel,  Alexandra Shackleton dockside.  Credit Peter Wooldridge Illustration- Alexandra Shackleton Cabin Layout Shackleton Epic Map

Explorer Tim Jarvis’s expedition to honour a remarkable 800-nautical mile small boat voyage across the Southern Ocean led by  Sir Ernest Shackleton from Elephant Island to South Georgia, followed by crossing South Georgia’s mountainous interior, is scheduled to set out from Elephant Island on around the 17th January.

The expedition will culminate in a pilgrimage to Shackleton’s grave at Grytviken.

Read all about the new expedition here. Jarvis and his group of five British and Australian adventurers hope to become the first to re-enact the original voyage using authentic equipment, including an exact replica of the original ship’s boat, the 22ft James Caird.

The only concessions to the use of period equipment are to be modern emergency equipment and radios, and the presence of a support vessel. However, both are to be used only if the expedition.

Shackleton made his original gruelling journey to South Georgia in order to summon help to rescue the rest of his shipwrecked expedition, who he had left at Elephant Island. Against extreme odds, he and the James Caird’s small crew succeeded in their aim, and became heroes.

In more recent times, Shackleton himself has been singled out for his leadership qualities, which are frequently cited in seminars on business management, and the new expedition has played strongly on this dimension.

From reading about the original expedition, I have to say that Shackleton himself he seems to have been very much loved and respected by almost all of his crew, not least because he had a keen sense of responsibility for their welfare.

How this links with business and other organisations, however, I’m not too sure. Businesses in particular these days tend to regard staff below board level as expendable – employment is a market, after all, and everyone can be replaced as the management schools say. More, with some honoured exceptions, their leaders seem mostly to be utterly unlovable and frightening tyrants, as famous for their tempers as for their self-interest and convenient self-deceptions. Not that their lieutenants would be so foolish as to tell them so…

I’d say Shackleton was very different creature from many of today’s managers. My hope is that the right lessons are being learned from the emerging management legend of Shackleton as leader.

For more posts about Shackleton, the James Caird voyage and the building of the traditionally-built replica made for the new voyage by the IBTC at Lowestoft, click here and click back through older posts.

PS – Go to the comments link below to find a different take on Shackleton himself, and a splendid description of an earlier re-enactment of the South Georgia voyage. Apart from anything else, it makes clear the scale of the problems such a trip can encounter.

Old Pulteney Row to the Pole reaches its destination!

Row to the Pole arrives

The Old Pulteney Row to the Pole expedition led by Jock Wishart has made it to the magnetic North Pole – and only had to drag their boat over an ice field for the last two miles. Now perhaps people will recognise how much ice has gone.

Click on the picture above to visit the site for more, including videos.

‘The final leg of our journey started on Wednesday night when a possible route through the disintegrating ice began to open up,’ said Jock. ‘We’d been pinned down for days by ice and heavy winds. But the conditions suddenly changed and we were able to pick our way through. The last three miles proved to be the hardest of all when we had to take the boat out the water and then haul it over the ice.

‘We’re all absolutely exhausted, but elated. No one’s ever even tried to do this. In fact most people did think it was impossible. But we’ve done it!’

For most of the voyage the crew rowed through open water, taking advantage of favourable weather to make good headway, but the biggest challenges lay in the second part of the expedition, which involved rowing across to Ellef Ringnes Island. In the last few weeks of summer, this area was slow to melt and break up, so the crew was confronted with both solid and floating sea ice which they painstakingly picked their way through.

The Row to the Pole team has lived for almost a month on the specially designed ice-boat, sleeping in shifts between rowing stints and living on dry rations containing an amazing 7000 calories per day. They have also had some close encounters with some of the Arctic’s most impressive species, including beluga whales, walrus and polar bears.

A BBC cameraman was with the rowing team, so I’m looking forward to seeing the TV documentary…

Boat builder Will Stirling’s hopes for Row to the Pole

Row to the Pole Filming from Devon Island Row to the Pole loose pack in Barrow StraightRow to the Pole six man ocean rowing boat Row to the Pole Preparing for departure Row to the Pole six man ocean rowing boat

Following our previous post about the Row to the Pole expedition to draw attention to the rapid loss of polar ice, boat builder and historian Will Stirling who has been skippering the BBC camera team boat has written in with the following heart-felt message.

Will’s an excellent photographer, and attached the shots above. Thanks Will!

‘I do hope that the rowers are able to highlight the extent of ice melt through their extreme endurance test.

‘Whilst there are geographical and climatic cycles that cause ice advance and retreat, the issue of our time is the speed of the melt. The melt is faster than a natural cycle, much faster. The Inuits have a good deal to say about it. The visual landscape has changed significantly within the last five years. There is no multi-year snow or ice on land. Previously permanent ice caves disappear in the summer. This year they have even noticed a few mosquitos up there.’

PS – See photos of one of a couple of Will’s latest small boat building projects here.