In Shackleton’s footsteps

PUBLISHED: 13:06 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:45 20 February 2013

Smiling through, Henry Adams Will Gow and Lieutenant Colonel Worsley

Smiling through, Henry Adams Will Gow and Lieutenant Colonel Worsley

NEXT time a creeping cold numbs your fingers and toes or an icy blast chills you to the bone, spare a thought for these Antarctic adventurers. ..

NEXT time a creeping cold numbs your fingers and toes or an icy blast chills you to the bone, spare a thought for these Antarctic adventurers.

In temperatures falling below -50C, three men trudged toward the South Pole - each step taking them further than their ancestors had been. A hundred years ago this month Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the ship Nimrod had meant to become the first men to reach the South Pole.

They had dragged themselves across 800 miles of the most inhospitable terrain on earth only to fail 97 miles from their goal. On January 9 descendants of the doomed adventurers, Henry Worsley, Will Gow and Henry Adams, retraced those 800 miles and stood at the same fateful spot where Shackleton, blighted by terrible conditions, ailing men and lame ponies, decided to turn back.

Speaking from the Antarctic, Henry said: "We have made it on the centenary date to the southern-most position reached by Shackleton 100 years ago.

"Our thoughts and emotions are slightly muffled by weariness and reflection. Due to flight delays when we set off two months ago we believed we had no real prospect of making the 97-mile point on this day but our journey across the Ross Ice Shelf let us gain much of the time lost due to some rather benign conditions by Antarctic standards." However, the journey was not without its pitfalls as the Beardmore glacier proved "a fierce and often alarming adversary" - the trio were taken aback by the severity of the cold and the difficulties of pulling their burdens through the polar plateau. It was at that point 97 miles from the Pole that another group of descendants joined the Ice Team for the final leg to "complete unfinished family business".

Known as the Last 97ers, they included Shackleton's great grandson Patrick Bergel, the great grandson of Jameson Boyd Adams, Shackleton's second in command, David Cornell, the great-great-nephew of Frank Wild, Tim Fright, of Billingshurst, and a member of the public chosen from more than 3,000 applicants, Andy Ledger.

Before setting off to finish the journey their ancestors began in 1908, Henry paid tribute to the pioneers.: "This is where we part company with Shackleton and his men," he said. "We will miss their companionship in our mind's eye. If we feel exhausted we can only imagine that our lowest ebb would have felt like a moment's respite for them. They were great men, pioneers, and we are neither because as we stand in their furthest south we have never been prouder to be their descendants."

The expedition is raising money for The Shackleton Foundation charity, set up to find and fund adventurous endeavours like its namesake. To find out more about the expedition visit the website.

Shackleton diary entries,separated by a century

November 25, 1908
The wind has gone during the night, leaving our tents drifted up with fine snow. The land was obscured nearly all day, but toward the evening it cleared and we could see the details of the coast. There appears to be a series of inlets and capes opening at all angles, and with no fixed coastline, though the lofty range of mountains continues to the south with a very slight trend to the eastward. The surface of the Barrier was very trying today, for the snow had no consistency and slipped away as one trod on it. It was not so trying for the ponies, and they did 17 miles 1,600 yards. We had frozen raw pony meat to eat on the march, and a good hoosh of pony meat and pemmican for dinner. Wild is practically all right, and Adams finds a wisdom tooth growing in place of the one he lost. Our eyes are not too comfortable just now. It is a wonderful place we are in, all new to the world, and yet I feel that I cannot describe it. There is an impression of limitless solitude about it all that makes us feel so small as we trudge along, a few dark specks on the snowy plain, and watch the new land appear.

November 25, 2008
After yesterday's inclement weather we woke this morning to a much brighter day and have made good progress keeping up with our daily average over ground with quite high ridges. The scale of the Ross Ice Shelf is beginning to hit home. This is an area almost the size of France which we are simply chopping off 300 miles of in order to get to Mount Hope. We are pretty small players on this vast ice shelf. Ernie Shackleton is in our thoughts as we are moving through exactly the same line of longitude where he was having trouble with the weather with his ponies going lame and not making enough progress. Mount Hope is still over 250 miles away. The weather has been kind to us. It is not resisting. Getting used to the endless horizon, the infinite beyond and the block towards which we are plodding I am sure will take its toll in the coming weeks but our spirits are up.

Henry Worsley

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