Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World's Greatest Journey of Survival

Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World's Greatest Journey of Survival

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by Tim Jarvis

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In this extraordinary adventure memoir and tie-in to the PBS documentary, Tim Jarvis, one of the world's leading explorers, describes his modern-day journey to retrace, for the first time ever—and in period clothing and gear—the legendary 1914 expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

In early 1914, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his

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In this extraordinary adventure memoir and tie-in to the PBS documentary, Tim Jarvis, one of the world's leading explorers, describes his modern-day journey to retrace, for the first time ever—and in period clothing and gear—the legendary 1914 expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

In early 1914, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team sailed for Antarctica, attempting to be the first to reach the South Pole. Instead of glory, Shackleton and his crew found themselves in an epic struggle for survival: a three-year odyssey on the ice and oceans of the Antarctic that endures as one of the world’s most famous tales of adventure, endurance, and leadership ever recorded.

In the winter of 2013, celebrated explorer Tim Jarvis, a veteran of multiple polar expeditions, set out to recreate Sir Ernest Shackleton’s treacherous voyage over sea and mountain, outfitted solely with authentic equipment—clothing, boots, food, and tools—from Shackleton’s time, a feat that has never been successfully accomplished.

Shackleton's Epic is the remarkable record of Jarvis and his team’s epic journey. Beautifully designed and illustrated with dozens of photographs from the original voyage and its modern reenactment, it is a visual feast for readers and historians alike, and an essential new chapter in the story that has inspired adventurers across every continent for a century.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The incredible story of Ernest Shackleton's 1914–16 expedition to the South Pole and the arduous odyssey to rescue his stranded crew members that ensued never gets old. Jarvis (Mawson: Life and Death in Antarctica), a veteran polar explorer, gathered a crew to re-create Shackleton's travels from Elephant Island to South Georgia and then achieve the "double": hiking over the mountains and through the glaciers to reach Stromness. Not only would Jarvis and his crew sail in a replica of his boat, the James Caird, called the Alexandra Shackleton, they would sail and mountain climb using the same sort of clothing and gear and eating the same hoosh and sugary milk as Shackleton and his men. This book documents the mind-boggling amount of preparation that went into the planning, funding, and management of the trip, from boat-building to obtaining permits and from locating the ideal crew to getting everything to Antarctica. The voyage itself, however, reveals the real accomplishment of Shackleton and his men. The conditions of ferocious seas in a small boat and the rugged, unpredictable South Georgia terrain made the journey nearly impossible and underscore the achievements of the original survivors, who did it because they had to. VERDICT A labor of love for Shackleton groupies and armchair explorers. An accompanying PBS version will boost interest.—Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH
Publishers Weekly
Ninety-seven years after Sir Earnest Shackleton saved his crew of 22 by leading a five-man journey into the Arctic Ocean in a makeshift boat and climbing a glaciated mountain, Jarvis, an accomplished adventurer himself, led an expedition to re-create that momentous odyssey. To capture the true nature of the experience and understand the hardships Shackleton faced, Jarvis and his crew created a replica of Shackleton's boat and limited themselves to the same equipment and food their forbearers had at their disposal. After a summing up of Shackleton's achievements, the story gets a little bogged down in the logistics of modern exploration—hiring of a crew, equipment preparations, chasing sponsorships, finding TV partners, transportation. Still, Jarvis has a way with words and brings crew's journey as they come to fully realize what they've got themselves into. Featuring great photographs from both explorations, as well as cool maps and interesting vignettes on navigation, artic exploration, and climate change, this work, like the exploration it mirrors, never surpasses the original tales of Shackleton's journey, but it has enough excitement and lessons-to-be-learned to make for a fascinating read. 163 photos. (Jan.)
“A chilling account of an epic struggle to survive.”
“Thrilling. ... A treasure-trove of minutiae and derring-do for both explorers and those who will simply gaze in wonderment.”
The Guardian
“Mr. Jarvis’s tribute to Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition has had a danger and heroism that are worthy of the original.”
“This is a story of triumph! Tim Jarvis and his companions have successfully recreated my grandfather’s 1916 voyage over the stormiest seas in the world. I feel it was a thoroughly Shackletonian expedition.”
Sir Edmund Hillary
“The greatest survival story of all time.”
“A daring re-enactment. ... All the plaudits to him and his team are thoroughly deserved.”
The Daily Mirror
“An extraordinary expedition”
Kirkus Reviews
Polar explorer Jarvis (Mawson: Life and Death in Antarctica, 2008, etc.) takes on the re-creation of one of the most difficult treks imaginable. Trying to "double" Ernest Shackleton's (1874–1922) desperate trip 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean in a 23-foot boat followed by a 35 kilometer trek across South Georgia's heavily glaciated mountains requires a tight team with a strong leader. Shackleton had no choice as he altered his planned adventure of crossing Antarctica on foot from the Weddell Sea coast to the Ross Sea. After his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in the ice for more than a year, Shackleton set off in a reconfigured lifeboat with five men in search of rescue. It was the greatest survival journey of all time. After he was "asked by Shackleton's granddaughter to undertake this journey and was inspired to want to do it as the greatest survival story of the heroic era of exploration," the author's attempt to repeat this desperate journey began with finding sponsors, which took three years. The author was lucky in finding TV sponsors, although the trek was limited by filming requirements. They also had to travel three months before the period Shackleton's crew did due to permit requirements. The story of their journey is bone-chilling at the least and breathtakingly frightening. There are certain elements that will confuse nonsailors and nonclimbers, particularly terms never explained--e.g., katabatic winds, nunatak and bergschrund. The author's description of icy seas soaking the crew as they tried to sleep like sardines in the hold is not reading for the claustrophobic. Surely it was difficult enough to attempt this voyage, but as they accomplished it without modern (waterproof) clothing or navigational aids, it was a most remarkable feat. A well-written, compelling read begging for a warm fireside and a hot cup of cocoa.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Explorer and environmental scientist Tim Jarvis has made four previous expeditions to Antarctica and the high Arctic. His re-creation of Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1913 trek across Antarctica was made into an award-winning documentary, Mawson: Life and Death in Antarctica. In 1999, Jarvis made the fastest unsupported trek to the South Pole, arriving in 47 days, and in 2001, he completed the first unsupported crossing of Australia’s Great Victoria Desert, covering 1,100 kilometers in less than a month. In 2009, he was selected for Yale University’s World Fellows program. A member of the Order of Australia, Jarvis lives in Adelaide, Australia, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their young family.

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