Navy commander to follow the icy footprints of Shackleton’s journey

Cdr Tim Winter, who is leading the expedition.

Cdr Tim Winter, who is leading the expedition. - Credit: Archant

More than a century after Sir Ernest Shackleton set off on one of his most ambitious Antarctic expeditions, a Norfolk naval commander is aiming to follow in his footsteps. Luke Powell reports.

Ernest Shackleton.

Ernest Shackleton.

It was in 1915 that the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition turned into one of the greatest feats of human endurance.

Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men had hoped to make the first crossing of the Antarctic continent.

But within weeks of leaving South Georgia in December 1914 they found themselves surrounded and trapped by pack ice.

A 1922 photo of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Photo: PA

A 1922 photo of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

A century later, Royal Navy commander Tim Winter is aiming to follow the polar explorer's incredible 800-mile journey back to safety.

The 48-year-old father of two, who was born and raised in Riddlesworth, near Thetford, said: 'My personal goal is to experience sailing in Antarctic waters, step foot in Antarctica and South Georgia and visit some of the battlefields in the Falklands.

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'As with any expedition, I want to come away with some good friendships and have already made a start on this and also discovered that mountaineering is quite awe-inspiring.

'As the expedition leader, I'm ultimately responsible for ensuring everyone completes the expedition successfully and that we deliver some meaningful research results.'

The aim of the six-week expedition, entitled Exercise Antarctic Endurance (AE16), is to provide the navy and Ministry of Defence with research into team dynamics and leadership.

Mr Winter will lead a team of 11 Royal Marines and navy personnel, who are all qualified and experienced sailors and mountaineers.

He added: 'I feel really privileged to be leading AE16. The Royal Navy has been very generous in supporting this venture and allowing us the necessary training over the past 18 months.

'I am totally confident we will be able to take on the challenges of the Southern Ocean and the demands of crossing the mountainous spine of South Georgia.'

The crew is to depart from the Falklands next week, and will travel through the Weddell Sea, before landing on the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and then Elephant Island.

A smaller team will then travel overland from King Haakon Bay to Stromness, in South Georgia – the same route travelled by Shackleton and his companions 100 years ago.

The crew will be using a 67ft sailing yacht for the duration of the voyage.

Along with research into team dynamics, climate and environmental data will also be collected on behalf of the British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge and Plymouth Universities and the UK Hydrographic Office.

Mr Winter, who joined the navy in 1985 and still has family in Sprowston, has served on five ships in his career and worked around the world both at sea and on land, including Afghanistan.

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