From Sussex to the South Pole
PUBLISHED: 11:45 28 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:54 20 February 2013
Tim Fright's ancestor Frank Wild was with Ernest Shackleton on his failed expedition to the South Pole. Now Tim, who lives in Billingshurst, tells us what happened when he went to complete some unfinished family business.
9 Jan 1909 - 88 23 S 162 E: We have shot our bolt ... homeward bound at last. Whatever regrets may be, we have done our best.
Sir Ernest Shackletons 1907-1909 Nimrod Expedition is synonymous with bravery: four men cross-country skiing 870 nautical miles, breaking new trails in Antarctica before being forced to turn back 97 nautical miles from the pole, three years before Amundsen beat Scott.
Exactly 100 years later, I joined four fellow descendants of the Nimrod Expedition: Lt Col Henry Worsley, Henry Adams, Will Gow, David Cornell; and three others: Andy Ledger, Ronnie Gray and Matty McNair, and completed unfinished family business, skiing the last 97 nautical miles to the Pole. We did this in order to inspire future generations, raising awareness and support for the Shackleton Foundation, a charity that we created in his name. I am writing this as in a few weeks time I am set to compete in the Barcelona triathlon in an effort to further challenge myself and raise more money for the Shackleton Foundation, so we can continue to find inspirational leaders willing to make a difference, especially to the disadvantaged.
Shackleton never reached the Pole, but his legacy is more important when called upon, he got the big decisions right and put the lives of his men first even at the expense of his dream of reaching the South Pole. But despite turning back, having made it as far as possible, their return to base became known as one of the greatest polar journeys ever. This selfless attitude is why none of the men under Shackletons command perished on any of his polar expeditions, and why he is seen today as the very symbol of courageous leadership under pressure.
One hundred years later, on 9 January 2009, I found myself 97 nautical miles from the South Pole. Standing in the spot that my great great Uncle Frank Wild, the only man to take part in all of Shackletons expeditions, had reached all those years ago, is by far the most humbling experience of my life.
Thinking of the hardships they had to endure hardships such as dysentery, frostbite and severe weight loss I had to think deeply about whether I could have gone through the same in that race to claim the Pole for Britain. I can never know for sure, but I realised quite quickly the enormity of the challenge they faced, and, to put it bluntly, how incredibly tough they had to be. The malnutrition alone would have been enough to put an end to my efforts. Eating 7,000 calories a day from a diet of meat, cheese, dehydrated food and more cheese, we were still constantly hungry, yet it was considerably more nutritious than the pemmican (lard and dried currants) which our ancestors relied on.
However, our journey was a little different. We undertook a homage to the original expedition. Reaching that point, we all felt the weight of history upon us, imagining what it must have felt like to cross-country ski 870 nautical miles only to turn around half an hour later as they did. Coming to understand just how incredible a decision those remarkable men took, under the leadership of Shackleton, was why taking part was such an honour for me.
There were two teams, with the first team starting where Shackleton began 980 nm away on the coast of Antarctica, before following his footsteps to the 97 mile point. I was on the second team, and it was there that we met up and skied the last 97 nautical miles to the Pole. Over 9,000 feet above sea-level, the polar plateau is an unforgiving place on our hardest day, and with one of the team suffering from altitude sickness, we faced a white out in winds of 30 mph and temperatures of minus 50 degrees celsius, and 30 mph winds.
Now that we have completed the expedition, the Shackleton Foundation is key to ensuring that more people learn about this great man, and more men and women like him are found and rewarded. To this end on 17 October this year, I will take part in the Barcelona triathlon, a 1.5km swim, 40 km cycle and a 10 km run, in the hopes of raising 5,000 for the Foundation. I have been training for the last two and a half months with only a couple of weeks to go, and I am confident that I can both complete it and raise the much-needed money.
Thomas Pynchonwrote thatEveryone has their own Antarctic we want to help others cross theirs. We are looking for singular people with the drive and commitment to make a difference, especially to the disadvantaged, and to publicity back inspirational leaders with one off-grants to ensure they face their own personal Antarctic.
Of all the grants that we have given so far, there is one that springs instantly to mind Rachael Roser from Hastings. Rachel came to us with a proposal to inspire young children in Hastings after discovering that local children, the same age as her own, were growing up with poor role models and low aspirations. Heroes for the Future, Rachael Rosers own pilot project, aims to combine inspiration with aspiration by having inspirational figures come into local schools in Hastings and talk with youngsters about their aspirations and ambitions, and what it means to be a hero. This helps them realise that the higher one aims, the further one goes.
Questionnaires were filled out before and after the two-day exercise. My favourite quote comes from one of the children involved, who after the workshop wrote: I still want to be a hairdresser, but I want to be the best hairdresser in London, with a salon on Oxford Street.
We are looking for more Rachael Rosers, and we are looking for more funding to ensure that the Shackleton Foundation is able to exist in perpetuity, finding and rewarding similarly inspirational people. To that end we have all done our bit, speaking at schools and companies across the UK, and will continue to do so. Last year, with the support of the Shipley Arts Festival and Sir Charles Burrell, we were able to put on a classical concert at Knepp Castle, Shipley, where people could experience music from Shackletons time, raising nearly 2,000 in the process. We have achieved a lot but there is still much to do, and many challenges to face.
As Shackleton himself said:Difficulties are just to overcome after all.
Donations can be made online atwww.justgiving.com/triathlontimfright
Cheques can be made payable to The Shackleton Foundation, and sent to Tim Fright Triathlon, 2 Ostlers View, Billingshurst, West Sussex RH14 9LU.
If you would like to find out more about the Shackleton Foundation go towww.shackletonfoundation.org
To find out more about Heroes for the Future visitwww.heroesforthefuture.org