Shackleton boat/land voyage recreated

The expedition Shackleton 2000, led by German adventurer Arved Fuchs, set off aboard James Caird II on a relatively mild austral summer afternoon in January. This was the first expedition to completely, and successfully, reenact the explorer’s epic journey from Hope Bay, Antarctic Sound, to Elephant Island, onward to South Georgia, and, finally, across the snowy mountainous route to Stromness, the now-deserted whaling station.

The four-person, multinational crew (Germany, Poland, and Iceland) started with light southeast winds and sunshine on Jan. 19 but had to battle against difficult currents, drifting pack ice, and winds constantly shifting in force and direction. They were reportedly pleased that the 20-foot wooden vessel proved seaworthy and sailed well. On Jan. 29 they arrived at Point Wild on Elephant Island, where they went ashore. Sir Ernest Shackleton had established camp here, and most of his team stayed at this camp when he sailed north for rescue.

The next day Fuchs and his crew set sail on the 700-mile voyage to South Georgia in light easterly winds, which quickly built to the sorts of conditions Shackleton himself would have been impressed by: storm-force head winds and mountainous breaking seas. Later the wind turned northwest, allowing the best day’s run of 100 miles. On Feb. 12 James Caird II reached Shackleton’s former camp on South Georgia. The crossing to Stromness presented extremely tough weather conditions; even so it was successfully accomplished. . . . is a very serious undertaking, especially because the weather is so unpredictable and also there are many crevasses,” said Fuchs. “Even by modern standards it is a serious walk, but nothing compared to what it must have meant to Shackleton, Crean, and Worsley. We used modern mountaineering equipment like crampons, ice axes, ropes, etc. We experienced very strong catabatic winds up to 100 knots, fog, and rain during the first part of the trip. The second part was just gorgeous: sunshine, no wind, and an unbelievable mountain view. All in all we stayed out seven days [as opposed to Shackleton’s three] before we reached Stromness.”

Holly Hollins

By Ocean Navigator