SHACKLETON NEWS ARCHIVE
SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF 900-MILE SHACKLETON CENTENARY EXPEDITION
A little over a century on from the day of Shackleton's 'Furthest South' of 9 Jan 1909 (88° 23'), when the Anglo-Irish explorer was forced to turn back just 97 miles from his goal, the Daily Telegraph was able to report that the previous Sunday (15 Jan) at 9 a.m. GMT, after a gruelling 900-mile journey across the ice on foot, three descendants or relations of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his original team - Lt. Colonel Henry Worsley MBE (47), Mr. Will Gow (35) and Mr. Henry Adams (34) - completed the whole journey and arrived at the South Pole.
The paper reported that 'The three set off on November 13 and hauled 300 lb sledges for up to 10 hours a day, in temperatures that dropped as low as -62F (-52C). They had the benefits of modern equipment and navigational aids - as well as carrying Shackleton's compass with them - but did not have the ponies and dogs that helped their ancestors. They crossed the vast Ross Ice Shelf, ascended the formidable 100-mile long Beardmore Glacier and trudged across the windswept polar plateau.'
Only two previous expeditions, it pointed out, had succeeded in reaching the Pole along this route: Scott's in 1912 and Robert Swan's in 1986. Although the Beardmore route (which Amundsen - who made it first, in December 1911 - elected not to follow) is some 200 miles longer than the route usually taken by Antarctic explorers, the Shackleton descendants wanted to follow as closely as possible in the footsteps of their forebears.
Speaking via satellite phone, Worsley reported: "We're absolutely ecstatic. The past 65 days have been physically gruelling and mentally exhausting, but this moment makes it all very, very worthwhile.
"Ever since I was a child, completing this journey has been my lifetime ambition. To stand here, with Shackleton's own compass, which never made it to this point all those years ago, is a humbling experience."
The three other members of the expedition - Tim Fright (25), David Cornell (38) and Andrew Ledger (23)- flew out to the 'Furthest South' point on 9 January 9 to commemorate the centenary and make their own way for the final 97 miles of the journey.
Their 'Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition', of which the James Caird Society was one of the first supporters, is also being used as a launchpad for a £10 million Shackleton Foundation, which will fund projects that embody the explorer's spirit and hunger for "calculated risk".
The Shackleton Foundation supports individuals of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds who exemplify the spirit of Sir Ernest Shackleton: inspirational leaders wishing to "make a difference", in particular to the less advantaged. The Expedition's website explains:
"The Foundation exists to support and encourage people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to identify and cross their own Antarctic, particularly where the applicant's chosen project can be shown to directly benefit the less advantaged. Whilst we support projects within and outside the physical arena, it is evidence of Shackleton's spirit that we seek. We believe that singular people making singular contributions to the public good can act as beacons of inspiration, and we wish to support them in their endeavours.
"The Foundation hopes that beneficiaries will develop or possess the personal qualities that define leadership: a fierce personal commitment to succeed, a willingness to take intelligent risks, and the ability to inspire and energise those around them to do their utmost towards worthwhile causes.
Sample from the Matrix Expedition's diary/records: DAY 52 (Sun 4 January 2009)
"With windchill at -47c this was the coldest day yet. 13.6 nm were covered in 7.5 hours. Henry Adams describes the strong headwind gusting up to 35 knots. He describes how the cold and altitude now means it is taking 2.5 hours to boil all the water needed. He says that they remain on target to meet the 97 mile team at the RV on Friday 9 Jan.
"David Cornell and the 97 mile team are now in Puenta Arenas awaiting their flight to Patriot Hills and we should start receiving reports from them shortly."
Main Trio Day 57 (Fri 9 January 2009 - arrival at Shackleton's 'Furthest South' exactly a century after Shacklteon, Wild, Adams and Marshall reached there):
1. Sitrep No 57 as at 0735 hrs GMT 09 Jan 09
2. Distance Covered Today : 11.6 nm
3. Total Distance Covered : 700.5 nm
4. Hours travelled: 6
5. Daily Average to Date: 12.29 nm
6. Distance to Pole: 97.00 nm
7. Altitude: 10244 ft ASL
8. Total Raised on Justgiving: £6050
9. Total raised in last 24 hours: £2050
Ernest Shackleton's diary for January 4th, 1909 (from Heart of the Antarctic:-
"The end is in sight. We can only go for three more days at the most, for we are weakening rapidly. Short food and a blizzard wind from the south, with driving drift, at a temperature of 47° of frost, have plainly told us today that we are reaching our limit, for we were so done up at noon with cold that the clinical thermometer failed to register the temperature of three of us at 94°.
"We started at 7:40 A.M., leaving a depot on this great wide plateau, a risk that only this case justified, and one that my comrades agreed to, as they have to every one so far, with the same cheerfulness and regard-lessness of self that have been the means of our getting as far as we have done so far.
"Pathetically small looked the bamboo, one of the tent poles, with a bit of bag sewn on as a flag, to mark our stock of provisions, which has to take us back to our depot, one hundred and fifty miles north. We lost sight of it in half an hour, and are now trusting to our footprints in the snow to guide us back to each bamboo until we pick up the depot again. I trust that the weather will keep clear. Today we have done 12 1/2 geographical miles, and with only 70 lb. per man to pull it is as hard, even harder, work than the 100 odd lb. was yesterday, and far harder than the 250 1b. were three weeks ago, when we were climbing the glacier.
"This, I consider, is a clear indication of our failing strength. The main thing against us is the altitude of 11,200 ft. and the biting wind. Our faces are cut, and our feet and hands are always on the verge of frostbite. Our fingers, indeed, often go, but we get them around more or less. I have great trouble with two fingers on my left hand. They had been badly jammed when we were getting the motor up over the ice face at winter quarters, and the circulation is not good. Our boots now are pretty well worn out,.. our stock of sennegrass is nearly exhausted, we are on short rations of the ordinary allowance of thirty-two ounces.
"We are now in the same clothes night and day. One suit of underclothing, shirt and guernsey, and our thin Burberries, now all patched. When we get up in the morning, out of the wet bag, our Burberries become like a coat of mail at once, and our heads and beards get iced-up with the moisture when breathing on the march. There is half a gale blowing dead in our teeth all the time. We hope to reach within 100 geographical miles of the Pole; I am confident that the Pole lies on the great plateau we have discovered, miles and miles from any outstanding land. The temperature tonight is minus 24°F."
Five days later, on 9 January, the four men reached their furthest point possible and turned back.
They would have been delighted to see that these young modern heirs to their intrepid tradition made it safely.