As a people, we’re an adventurous sort, always balancing our pleasures with the risks involved in achieving them. Since we’re unable to look to the future for events to recreate (or just create, in that sense), people are always looking to the past for inspiration, motivated by some truly amazing feats from human history, accomplished against all odds. Personally, I look to Wilt Chamberlain’s Lothario lifestyle, at least until my wife is around. A team of British and Australian risk-takers looks further back.
Australian explorer Tim Jarvis has spent the last six years planning to lead this team on a trip replicating the unimaginable, awe-inducing journey of oft-unmentioned British explorer Ernest Shackleton. From 1914-1917, Shackleton went from goals of exploring the Antarctic land mass to heading rescue missions to save most of his crew. His ship, the Endeavor, got stuck in the frozen waters, and he and his crew lived on it and a series of ice floes for months until he finally reached solid land, the inhospitable Elephant Island. He then took a rowboat with a smaller crew across 800 miles of stormy waters to South Georgia Island. Trading sea legs for land legs, Shackleton then traversed 32 miles on foot over the mountainous terrain to finally get word to someone that a rescue mission was in order. Though Shackleton eventually died of a heart attack, I like to think it actually came out of his body and literally attacked him.
Jarvis’ team, on an identical 22-foot-long, capsize-friendly lifeboat named the Alexandra Shackleton after the explorer’s granddaughter, will head out from South America in early January, following Shackleton’s route to South Georgia. Onboard will be time-specific supplies and equipment, and nothing from modern society. The main difference between this and the original trip is the presence of an emergency support vehicle following them, though it will only be used in the case of a serious situation. I’m not sure what kind of help will be there for the mountain crossing. Jarvis says they’d been “testing gear and learning how to pull themselves out of crevasses with virtually no equipment.”
An avid environmentalist, Jarvis hopes his trip will raise awareness over how climate conditions have changed the Antarctic region in the past century. In a genius quote that can’t help but provoke understanding nods, Jarvis says, “The irony is that Shackleton tried to save his men from Antarctica. We are now trying to save Antarctica from man.” It’s like the ending to an environmentally friendly Twilight Zone episode, and the twist is that we’re all in the snow globe of some grizzled eco terrorist.