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.

Shackleton polar expedition photos by Frank Hursley

Frank Hurley photos from Shackleton expedition Frank Hurley photos from Shackleton expedition

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-17 expedition was an attempt to cross Antarctica from one side to the other via the South Pole, but in January 1915 the expedition ship, the Endurance, became locked in the ice of the Weddell Sea, which slowly crushed and finally sank the vessel over the following months, while Shackleton and his men camped on the ice.

The photos above by expedition photographer Frank Hursley are from this period – a much bigger selection can be seen at howtobearetronaut.com.

Eventually they were able to travel with their boats to Elephant Island, from which a small group led by Shackleton sailed one of the Endurance’s ship’s boats, the Sir James Caird, over a distance of 800 miles to the the inhabited island of South Georgia to get help.

For more posts about Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and about the celebrated Sir James Caird voyage to South Georgia click here; for photos of South Georgia itself, click here.

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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