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…

The new James Caird at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show this weekend

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more-james-caird-4 more-james-caird-1 more-james-caird-2

The new James Caird, photographed a few days ago

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend – perhaps now’s the time to decide, for Friday sees the first day of the three-day Beale Park Thames Boat Show at Pangbourne!

An important attraction of the show this year is a recreation of the small ship’s boat that Sir Ernest Shackleton and his small crew used to reach Elephant Island, the James Caird, which is currently being built by students of the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) at Lowestoft. We saw it during a brief visit to the college last week, and were made very welcome – the college is always pleased to receive visitors.

I was particularly amazed by the scale and diversity of the traditional boatbuilding projects under way at the IBTC, and will be writing more about it shortly.

At the Beale Park show students are scheduled to work on the James Caird’s deck beams and caulking. If you don’t know the story, after Shackleton’s expedition ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea he and 28 men crossed a chaotic maze of ice in three salvaged boats and finally a small group including Shackleton sailed across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia to safety and to organise the rescue of the rest of the crew. The successful journey stands as one of the most impressive small boat voyages ever made – there were gales almost all the way, and it took 17 days of constant constant pumping and chipping ice from the hull and rig to prevent capsize before the little boat landed at South Georgia.

Three of the crew then climbed a four thousand foot mountain climb before staggering into Stromness whaling station to raise the alarm.

Commissioned by The Honourable Alexandra Shackleton, the new James Caird is to be used by by an expedition to re-create the voyage and mountain climb led by environmentalist and explorer Tim Jarvis.

The original boat was constructed of Baltic pine on steamed elm frames; in the absence of these, the students are using European larch on steamed oak. She is copper fastened with keel stem and a stern of grown oak. The students have planked her to the same original sheer and then built up with a further three planks in the same way as the original James Caird, and she will be decked in and canvassed. Caulking will be with cotton and she will be paid up with white lead putty, and then the whole boat will be painted white.

For more intheboatshed.net posts on the James Caird voyage and project including stunning photos of South Georgia, click here.

For more intheboatshed.net posts relating to the Beale Park Thames Boat Show, click here.

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More on the new replica James Caird

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.