A polar explorer who famously retraced Douglas Mawson's Antarctic trek has launched an ambitious new challenge—recreating Ernest Shackleton's perilous crossing of the Southern Ocean.
Tim Jarvis, a renowned British/Australian adventurer who in 2007 re-enacted Mawson's 1912 odyssey across the frozen continent, is planning a similar trip in 2013 to follow Shackleton's dramatic 1916 voyage.
Jarvis described the perilous 800 nautical mile (1,300 kilometre) Southern Ocean crossing in a spartan lifeboat and punishing traverse of South Georgia Island with very basic gear and rations as "the biggest survival journey of them all."
Shackleton had hoped to complete the first land crossing of the Antarctic when his ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice, triggering a desperate mission on a lifeboat from nearby Elephant Island to South Georgia for help.
The adventurer and five other men made it across the hostile ocean with little more than the clothes on their backs and the most basic of rations and battled across the rugged island to a whaling station to raise the alarm.
It was a two-year ordeal that "well and truly bookmarked the end of the heroic era of exploration that started in 1895 when the first person set foot on the Antarctic and finished with the First World War", Jarvis said.
Inspired by the story and hoping to map the dramatic changes that global warming has brought to the region, Jarvis and a crew of five sailors will repeat the ocean crossing in a replica ship with all the same privations.
They will be without navigational aids or any modern equipment, live off the same rations as Shackleton's men and wear the same clothes as they battle high seas and icy, bleak conditions to reach Stromness on South Georgia.
"I'm expecting constant hardship and vigilance; there are periods of darkness down there, we're on a boat with absolutely no modern navigational aids whatsoever, we'll just be going into darkness," Jarvis told AFP at the crew's official farewell from Sydney on Sunday.
"Icebergs can loom up on the horizon, we wouldn't even see them until they're on us, there are whales, it's big, big sea," he added.
The men set off in their replica lifeboat, named the Alexandra Shackleton after the explorer's grand-daughter, in early January 2013 from South America and expect the journey to take two months.
They will be accompanied by a support vessel, the Australis, a modern and fully equipped steel-hulled motor boat that will only go to the lifeboat's aid in the event of a serious emergency.
Explore further: Underwater robot sheds new light on Antarctic sea ice