In the footsteps of Shackleton

It was a dream thought up in one the most inhospitable places on earth by a Norfolk adventurer who believes in conquering extremes and completing unfinished business.

It was a dream thought up in one the most inhospitable places on earth by a Norfolk adventurer who believes in conquering extremes and completing unfinished business.

A century after Sir Ernest Shackleton abandoned an attempt on the South Pole tantalisingly close to his goal, descendants of the explorer and his team are hoping to achieve what he could not.

A team of adventurers will set out exactly 100 years after the original expedition, which saw Shackleton come within 97 miles of the South Pole before being forced to turn back.

Three of the team will tackle the same 900-mile, 80-day route as Shackleton's crew, enduring -35C temperatures and 50mph headwinds as they haul 300lb sledges on skis for up to 10 hours a day.

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It is planned they will meet others, including Shackleton's great-grandson Patrick Bergel and Norfolk explorer Stephen Scott-Fawcett, at the exact spot where Shackleton took the decision to put life before glory in the face of howling icy blizzards and dwindling rations.

The expedition was dreamt up by Mr Scott-Fawcett on a previous expedition to the South Pole in 2000.

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The surveyor from Holt, who is also a polar historian and Shackleton enthusiast, will be the only one of the polar team not directly descended from Shackleton and his crew.

He said: “When I trekked to the South Pole in 2000 I found the only way I could keep sane was to occupy my mind. I had to think of something and the idea came to me.

“In those days they would spend months travelling by sea to get to Antarctica. In 1907 they set off from England and it took them eight months to get there. Then they built a hut and spent months waiting for it to get to the season.

“He made an extremely brave decision to turn round when he did.”

Although he failed, Shackleton travelled further south than anyone else had before, and was hailed a hero and knighted when he returned to the UK.

His expedition opened up new territory and when Captain Robert Falcon Scott ventured into the Antarctic a few years later, only to be beaten to the pole and never return, he was using notes and maps produced from Shackleton's voyage.

“I started to think why don't we celebrate in 2007? Why don't we replicate Shackleton's journey? Why don't we spend two years doing it like he did?” continued Mr Scott-Fawcett. “The idea was that 100 years later we could bring closure.”

But as Mr Scott-Fawcett researched the idea he began to realise what an enormous undertaking it would be and almost abandoned it until others came forward to help him take up the gauntlet of paying homage to an inspirational tale of valour, chivalry and sacrifice.

The 21st century explorers are being led by army Lt Col Henry Worsley, 46, from Hereford, a descendant of Frank Worsley, Shackleton's skipper on the Endurance, the ship used in a following Polar expedition in 1914.

He will be joined by:

King's College London MA student Tim Fright, 24, the great-great-nephew of Frank Wild, the only explorer to accompany Shackleton on all his missions.

Will Gow, 35, from Ashford, Kent, who works in the City and is related to Shackleton by marriage.

David Cornell, 38, a fund manager from Hampshire and great-grandson of Jameson Boyd-Adams, Shackleton's number two on the 1907 expedition.

Henry Adams, 33, from Snape, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, a shipping lawyer and another great-grandson of Boyd-Adams.

Mr Worsley said: “One of the interesting things about this team is we don't really know each other - this is a selection from a gene pool. So the team dynamics become very interesting.”

Mr Worsley, Mr Gow and Mr Adams will set out from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf at exactly 10am on October 29, as Shackleton and his team did a century earlier.

They will attempt to keep to the pace set by the Antarctic pioneers, joining their other team members for the final push to the Pole.

The expedition is also being used to launch a £10m Shackleton Foundation, which will fund projects that embody the adventurer's spirit and hunger for “calculated risk.”

Mr Scott-Fawcett said: “When I was at the pole last time I was in a state of oblivion. This time I will be able to appreciate it. We will be completing unfinished business.”

For more information on the expedition visit:, or go to foundation to donate money to the Shackleton Foundation.

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