Journey’s end

25 Feb 16 – Journeys’ End

DSCF2046We set out on Antarctic Endurance 2016 to stand on the shoulders of Shackleton, in order to understand better the value of adventurous training for personal development.  As I looked round the table in the saloon of Xplore at 0430 this morning, having finally arrived in Port Stanley I think I could see it on the faces of 10 tired yet exhilarated fellow team members.  We all recognised the sense of achievement that we all felt, having each been pushed towards breaking point by any number of the challenges that we had faced over the last five weeks.  We had left the UK in early January with a number of key team objectives: sail some 3000 nautical miles in some of the most notorious oceans of the world; visit the Weddell Sea, the prison and eventual destroyer of Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance; set foot on the continent of Antarctica, the driving force behind Shackleton’s expeditions; sail passed Elephant Island, the incongruous lump of rock that served as a life support for Shackleton’s crew while he went for help; follow the route across South Georgia that Shackleton took a century ago to raise the alarm for his stranded crew; and sail safely back to the Falklands.  We achieved all of these, with more besides; what each individual set themselves as personal goals I shall leave them to speak about in the months to come.

What must be remembered about Antarctic Endurance 2016 is that it is about more than this string of achievements by a lucky group of sailors and Marines; it has been an 18-month journey for RN and RM personnel that started at the Mountain Training Centre, Indefatigable, in Anglesey in June 2014. They had volunteered to take part in a longitudinal study into the value of Adventurous Training, which would culminate with the expedition to the Antarctic and South Georgia.  Over the coming months, participants have undergone a series of sailing and mountaineering training evolutions, each building on the experience gained from the one before, while progressively supporting the down-selecting those taking part.  Thus the team that has just arrived in Stanley is part of a much larger team, with a commitment to continue to provide data for the research over the coming months, as we seek to understand the lasting value of Adventurous Training.

We hope that what AE16 will deliver in the long term is:

the inspiration for Service personnel to get out and make use of the Adventurous Training programmes that are available to them;

help in celebrating the extraordinary achievements of Shackleton and his men a century ago and the fact that young sailors and Marines today have the same indomitable spirit;

and education for the MOD and the wider business world on the value of personal development through challenging individuals beyond their normal experiences.

In the short-term for me, I will be returning home having achieved a dream that has taken 4 years to come to fruition – this has only been possible through the energy, enthusiasm, hard work and dedication of the AE16 team (quite aside from the patience and sacrifice of friends and families), thus providing me with a unique group of people with whom I will be able to share our experiences and achievements for many years to come.  Our arrival in Port Stanley might signify the end of one particular journey, but, in the words of Sir Ernest Shackleton on watching the Endurance sink below the ice of the Weddell Sea, “A man must set himself to a new mark directly the old one goes.”… and so a new journey commences.

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Sixty two

Blog 24th Feb,24 Feb

Sixty-two miles and we’ll be back alongside in the Falkland Islands…… Sixty-two miles and we can sleep on the horizontal with no more ‘terror shakes’ for the next watch…….. Sixty-two miles and we’ll be able to ring home and speak to loved ones again……………Sixty-two miles and the adventure will be complete.


At 8.5 knots Sixty-two miles should be a little over 8 hrs…….. that get’s us in at around 2300 tonight….. except the winds are never that kind to us and no-one is betting on getting in much before midnight! On the balance, we probably have somewhere between 8-12 hrs of ocean sailing to contemplate what we’ve achieved over the last six weeks or so.


When we set off down the road to organise this project over two years ago, the Southern Ocean, Antarctica and the mountains of South Georgia seemed a very long way away. Now we’re almost at the end of that road having picked up a host of unique experiences along the way. The harsh realities of ocean sailing, our first iceberg, a flat calm Weddell Sea under the eerie pink glow of the southern lights, first steps on the Antarctic continent, winding through ice all day then fending it off all night, sliding past Elephant Island in the dark, dawn over the mountains of South Georgia, navigating through blizzards, digging out buried tents, crossing Glaciers, dropping into crevasses, yomping until we dropped, precipitous snow slope descents, Penguins, seals, whales albatrosses, more penguins, River crossings, Tea, cakes and football in Grytviken and then the long, long sail back to the Falklands. All of these, rich experiences in their own right, further enhanced and enriched by sharing them amongst eleven very different individuals, eleven individuals subtly melded by each challenge into something stronger, more resilient and more effective; Into a tight cohesive team.


I’m convinced it will take a few months to fully appreciate the enormity of the adventure we’ve all been fortunate enough to take part in, and perhaps more importantly, to reflect on what it means to each of us as we move forward in our careers. Adventurous Training (AT) is all about Personal Development and were we not to learn from these experiences we would, I suspect, have missed a trick. At some point each of us has had to dig deep to find the resolve, the initiative or indeed the patience to keep ourselves and the team pushing on. This expedition has very much put the ‘A’ back into ‘AT’ Drawing on our memories of AE16 will undoubtedly offer more than simply a stock of ‘hoofing’ dits, rather it gives a clue to just what we can achieve under duress and just how far we can push ourselves over sustained periods of time. It also perhaps offers a greater insight into some of those little things that influence how well we work together.


We embarked on this journey with three key objectives in mind; To Inspire, to Celebrate and to Educate. The education element is a long-term research piece aimed at understanding how we predict and maximise performance in demanding conditions and our results will undoubtedly add to the debate around future selection and training of both military and civilian teams. We have certainly celebrated loudly the achievements of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew while at the same time highlighting those of our contemporary servicemen and women. Whether we have provided  inspiration to fellow servicemen and woman……….. I leave to others to judge.


So for now, Sixty-two miles has become Fifty-two and morale is rising apace with the prospect of a flat bed and a welcome call home………


Southern Ocean nights

22 Feb 16

The nights down here are beautiful, when you can see them.  With only water and clouds in sight, the oranges and reds of sunset are reflected indistinctly in the waves, filling one side of your world with dazzling colour.  As the sun sank below the horizon last night, the cold, crisp South Atlantic air was cloudless, and with no light pollution within 300 miles, we had an amazing view of the stars.  Looking up at our rigging, watching the sail bobbing back and forth across the foreign starscape gives a sense of peace and isolation like few other views I’ve experienced.  A foreign starscape, of course, because these aren’t “our” stars.  Looking “down” into the universe from the Southern Hemisphere rather than “up” as we do in the UK, we see a whole new arrangement of constellations, most famously the Southern Cross (and, at this time of year, an upside-down Orion).


Beautiful, but epically cold.  The strong winds the Southern Ocean is famous for whip across the deck, stealing heat from any unprotected body-part.  Bare hands become numb in minutes and unless returned to the safety of gloves, would rapidly develop a painful and life-long injury: frostbite.  So we wrap up warm.  Very warm.  My current attire includes merino wool baselayers, a thick woollen jumper, winter hill-walking trousers (everything has a double purpose!), fleecy waterproof sallopets and jacket, then a full set of high performance, foul-weather gear (think of the most epic waterproof jacket and trousers you’ve ever seen and add a collar stolen from the 1970s that wraps around head and face), hat, gloves, thick socks, welly-boots and a fleecy neck-warmer.  While it’s a look unlikely to be seen on the streets of Paris, it’s de-rigour down here.  You can imagine, however, that going to the toilet is a lengthy process!  With all these layers, communication becomes difficult.  Much is done by specialist hand signals but sometimes a good bellow is the only way to safely convey a message across 67 feet of howling wind and rain.  Sadly the “off watch”, attempting to sleep, are less keen on this method: we’ve just been offered a megaphone.


But the nights down here are scary, when you can’t see.  A clear sky gives a beautiful view, a star to steer her by and a full moon illuminates our work.  But when mist settles, which it often does even when windy, we can be plunging through waves at 9 knots, only able to see 2-300 yards ahead, steering a compass course and relying on the radar to look for ships and large icebergs.  Imagine trying to drive your car looking only at the sat-nav.  We use floodlights on the darker nights for adjusting the sails but have to turn them off afterwards to preserve our night vision.


But thankfully, a clear night last night heralded a beautiful day today.  Clear skies and a stiff breeze make for good sailing as we head further West towards civilisation.  Clear skies, of course, means it’s staying cold, but that’s ok, because the nights down here are beautiful.


Photo 1: Marine Matthew Bower, huddled against the cold, at sea at night.  In the foreground is a liferaft and an Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon (EPIRB).  In the background the two black lines of our running backstay help keep the sails in position.


Photo 2: Like over-dressed aliens, my watch-mates reef the main-sail (top-left) as the wind strengthens.  Extending from the bottom right is a spinnaker pole used when sailing downwind, the red circle in the centre is a ventilation port.



20/21 Feb 16

As one of the “Non sailors” on the team, the thought of a 4/5 day crossing from SG to the Falklands didn’t fill me with too much enthusiasm.  Apparently to get where you need to on a yacht, you need the wind to be going in the right direction and at a decent speed.  Who knew?  So for the last 24/36 hours we have been sailing North, no closer to our destination.  The reason for this is two fold: a. There was some bad weather to box around to the South and b. it puts us in a good “attack position”, in order to turn West and head straight to the Falklands.  This means that we are currently 350 nautical miles from Stanley (A good days sailing will cover 200ish Nm).


Yesterday saw  a couple of highlights.  Firstly we had a pod of dolphins accompany us for a few minutes.  This is one of the things that never gets boring (along with penguin selfies).  The other was, whilst at the helm, I was alerted by Tony that there was a yacht on the horizon.  As we slowly approached the red hulled vessel, we could see that it was much smaller than us and bobbing around in the large swell.  After a radio conversation, Stephen informed us that it was ‘Johan, the tall slim French guy’ (oi, oi).  He had set out from South Georgia 48 hours before us and was sailing single handedly to Stanley.  As we passed him by at almost double the speed, the watch tried to establish what type of person it takes to undergo such a feat, in such a remote part of the world – the debate continues, but perhaps we’ll meet him in Stanley before we move on to Mare Harbour at the end of the month!  All this is, of course, on the condition that we don’t have to abandon ship, due to being overrun by ‘toilet regurgitation’.  As a grown man of 34, I can safely say that nothing makes me want to cry more than trying to pump away your waste, in a rolling sea, whilst the contents of the bowl is sloshing at your feet.  If we manage to find the phantom blocker, he/she owes me.  Big time.


The last 2 nights’ dinners saw the reheating of a previously made cottage pie and then a bolognaise sauce to go with freshly cooked spaghetti.  Needless to say that the inter-watch “Come dine with me” resumed for today’s lunch, which saw Molly “peg leg” Macpherson bang out some home made oggies (Pasties), that Ivor Dewdney himself would be proud to serve up.  This morning saw the first pack of bacon opened and I underwent the task of presenting the oncoming watch with a smally full English!  Unfortunately there were only ten rashers of bacon and eleven carnivores, therefore someone had to dip out.  Kris “admin vortex” Cunningham was doing his duty good egg (excuse the pun) piece on the helm, which meant that unfortunately he didn’t “bring home the bacon”.  I’m sure he will assassinate my good character in a future blog!!!  Yesterday also saw our first “casualty”, as Josh’s Chicken noodle soup had to be ditched overboard.  Who knew that putting pasta in the water the night before would create something resembling wallpaper paste?  I think a re-teach maybe required Elizabeth!


Tonight’s meal is going to be some form of Thai green curry, although provisions are running low.  Our resident cake baker Dan is currently chasing the ingredients around the galley and he is once again preparing his copyright patent pending, “sea oven stabiliser” (a tuna can propped up by a fork).  One can only hope that he once again finds the stash of chocolate that is fast becoming an urban myth on board (along with the Chocolate Hob Nobs).  With fair weather and good winds, we aim to be in the Falklands on the 25th.  This will be followed by a team meal at the Malvina House Hotel, where we will be at the mercy of the dittling gun.  Hopefully they have something with bacon on the menu……………………….


Blog for the 20th of February 2016


2:30 am strikes and a rather jovial American came striding into my room to wake me up “wake up Kris it’s time to go on watch”. Josh is always happy, like a spaniel chasing its tail but this time it was just a little more than usual. Then I feel the boat getting thrown about like a feather in the wind and it strikes me, he’s just happy to be getting to bed and away from what feels like a hurricane outside. After dragging myself out of bed hitting every wall in the yacht and watching a rather depressed Matt H doing the same as myself we step foot outside and into a cauldron of wind and rain much to the amusement of Bravo watch who are off to their beds with a nice cup of cocoa and old man Macpherson to tuck them in. As always we have the initial look at each other to see who will take the helm of the yacht and Dan Hill being the man that he is, a man that never backs down from a challenge strides forth and takes the helm with distinction. Immediately Dan regrets his decision taking 40 knot winds to the face and water boarding of rain that some less desirable’s would have been proud of. Dan pulls off a heroic 30 minutes on the wheel; inspired by Dan’s heroics, Tony steps up to take the mantle. All goes well for the first 15 minutes, Tony is proving to be master on the helm like a young Schumacher of the sea’s flying along at 10+ knots but trouble is around the corner for the unsuspecting Marine. As his watch continues the winds somehow pick up and one very big gust puts Tony in a bit of a mental spin and the yacht veers way off course, myself and Matt H hold on like a couple spiders at the top of a plug hole with the tap on. Stephen our trusty Australian skipper is straight up in a heartbeat “Tony where are you going my friend? “ A rather flustered Tony yells back “I’ve got it hard over Stephen, its struggling to come back” Our trusted Aussie looks confused and runs over to help Tony with the wheel. Within a heartbeat of grabbing the wheel Stephen shouts over the wind and rain “You’re steering the wrong bloody way” it then dawned on Tony. He had done it again; he had got his port and starboard mixed up. He was then subsequently sent to Stephen’s naughty step with his tail between his legs.

All joking aside we are in the middle of some rather rough weather. This has many positives but also a few negatives. On the plus side it allows us to build up speed and race back to the Falklands and give our loved ones a call, it’s been far too long since we’ve heard their voices. On a more negative note as I’m writing this blog I’m sitting in the galley which is resembling and feeling like a washing machine at the moment. To the boys and girls at Dalgety Bay nursery, everyone was really happy to hear you’re following our great adventure and no luckily our food isn’t freezing outside but Jack Frost is out and it is cold outside.

This picture doesn’t do our current status justice!


Salisbury Plain – but no Stonehenge!

18/19 Feb

Having bade farewell to our hosts and new found friends from the South Georgia community, all 36 of them, a quick a check of the Grib files (wind charts broken down into 3 hour blocks, great for sailing/mountaineering – downright dull for anything else) showed us that the winds would prove less than favourable for our passage west!  We very quickly found the uncooperative weather and were almost instantly into motor sailing with only the Staysail up and engine on, speed was about 4 Knots however at times over the ground it was less than this, it was going to take a while to get round that was for sure.

We eventually arrived in the Bay of Isles and the Salisbury Plain area; yes one is actually a bay full of islands and yes the other is a very wide flat area!  The wild life here is breath taking in its scale and almost feral to some extent; survival of the fittest was evident and the beach had plenty of evidence of skeletons and decomposing carcases that were in fact not the fittest!  It was the normal line up of suspects, Fur Seals, Petrels, King Penguins and Elephant Seals, but on a grand scale.  At one end of the beach I, Josh and Donald decided to take a slightly longer walk (in the wrong direction from the RV point with the Yacht) to a King Penguin colony with chicks in transition which must have numbered in the tens of thousands and stretched for miles, literally with no more than 6 inches between them, something you get to see on National Geographic but very few get to see or experience standing in this for real.  The other thing you don’t get from National Geographic is the amount of Penguin S(%t, its bright green (same as if you have drunk a Cyalume when losing at spoof), stinks and is directly related in quantity to the amount of Penguins per metre squared i.e. a lot!

With the rugged sheer backdrop of the mountains and the hanging white snow fields and glaciers it is an experience none of us will ever forget.  For me personally I am almost a computer on overload, yes I accept I am an old computer with minimal RAM!  However the overload of new experiences, memories and information is of such intensity it is almost surreal and it does take time to acknowledge that it’s both real and that you are centre and forefront in it.  It was once said that an Adventure is a cold wet miserable thing which will make you late for dinner; well we have definitely been late for dinner a few times!

First thing this morning we have now set sail on our last leg of this amazing adventure and making our way back to the Falklands some 900nm through the Southern Ocean.  There is potentially some pretty ugly and gnarly stormy weather out there; however Steven (Skipper and ice guide) sees an opportunity to shoot high and stay on the periphery of this.  The large can of Rhubarb our friends in South Georgia gave us as a going away present in normal circumstances would raise a few eyebrows, on a ship in the Southern Ocean with the threat of Scurvy (obviously not, we have lemons!) this is a luxury; a hot crumble laced with a tot of rum should soften the effects of long watches, raise the men’s (and Emily’s, unless Rhubarb is somehow not vegetarian!) morale.    So here’s to watch on stop on rain, wind and fair (but big) Oceans for the next few days.73f92260-12be-4dea-982e-e8ff55734306


Fare thee well Grytviken

IMG_0461Farewell Grytviken
Following our final visit to the museum for yet more excellent hospitality, we had around an hour and a half spare before the final roast dinner;  Dolly, being the smaller of the two lambs, has survived the longest.  What little of her remains is being cut up as I speak by Stephen to become a curry tonight, whilst the remainder of us trying to regain our sea legs after our time ashore and alongside (Dan appears to be losing this game the worst at the moment).
Iso-containers have kept appearing during our South Georgia stop, though they appear to be getting more and more sneaky.  Up by the hydroelectric supply lake above Grytviken were two that had dressed themselves up to look like a permanent building, and then there was the one on the edge of the BAS camp at King Edward Point that had painted itself green to hide in the grass and employed a fat grumpy fur seal pup as a guard (or maybe he just thought it was full of seal food).  However BAS have managed to capture one and it is amazing what you can do with them… for this one has been turned into what must be one of the most scenic saunas in the world.  I’ve certainly not been in one before that has a window from which you can see the sea, mountains and glaciers with the occasional penguin or elephant seal waddling or lumbering past respectively at close range.
It was here that many of the team chose to spend their spare hour and a half in the hope that it would improve their walk-weary legs whilst queuing up for the shower (also in the iso-container and an absolute luxury after the 1-2 minutes of water, try and wash your hair in the sink whilst being thrown about the compartment like a pinball variety we have been managing approximately once a week on board Xplore for the last month).  Some decided to partake in a Sauna-to-Sea evolution, though they made the terrible mistake of taking Kris along with them.  He is like catnip to fur seals (maybe they heard he is a diver? Hard to believe when he keeps it so quiet…) and so they ended up surrounded by puppies and never managed to make it further in to the water than their knees, though I think they would like you to believe otherwise!
Everyone has been most impressed with how welcoming and helpful the BAS staff and the South Georgia Government have been, the community on the island is fantastic.  It is fair to say that more than a few of us would love to return for a job!  One of my favourite memories has to be when myself and Josh were detailed to resupply the ice buckets behind the BAS bar – we were taken to the galley where a chunk of glacial ice was brought out from the industrial freezer and we both got to smash bits off with a knife (whilst employing the health and safety oven gloves to ensure we didn’t end up stuck to it).  In my slightly intoxicated state I was most impressed with the ice cube that was bigger than my glass and it outlasted the rest of the evening’s rum and cokes!  After some bartering of the left over REAL food ration packs for rice, butter and hot chocolate for the return journey to the Falklands (along with a gift of tinned rhubarb from their no-one’s-quite-sure-why-it-was-ordered enormous tinned rhubarb mountain) it was time to say farewell.
Stephen shook us at 0515 this morning having set his alarm for an early weather check (at 0400 based on his pre-emptive apology to Matt B last night).  After a quick breakfast we departed Grytviken for the Bay of Islands, where this evening we will be getting ashore in the Zodiac to stretch our legs whilst engaging in some more wildlife spotting.
– Emily

The beautiful game (South Georgia style)

IMG_8085Blog 17th Feb

Sore Legs, Heads and a Defeat

Yesterday’s highlight of the South Georgian footballing calendar was South Georgia Vs AE16. Playing on what must be one of the worlds remotest football pitches to a capacity crowd of two plus a few disinterested Fur seals. The “Stadium” is set in the grounds of Grytviken Whaling station and was used by the whalers who once worked here. The West stand is the towering mountain range of Orca Peak (278m) overlooking Grytviken, the North stand was The Whalers Church, the South stand was a fast flowing river and the East stand was the remnants of the old whaling station oil tanks. Judging by the state of the pitch there must be an open vacancy for groundsman, when not having to contest for the ball from the calf deep mud, the gravel covered goalmouth gave the Goalkeeper cause for concern. The bog like wing of the pitch was marked by a rope that has seen better days maybe being laid when Shackleton visited South Georgia prior to his 1914 expedition. Paul “Shady” Lane discovered that he was to be the referee on the basis that he was in possession of the referee’s vuvuzela; which code the ref was operating to, was the question as he invited the teams to line-out and form a scrum.

The match report will follow, written by Shady……..

Match Report.

Finally the day of reckoning arrived as these two behemoths  of the Southern Ocean met, after at least twelve hours of banter, facing off at the South Georgian National Stadium to a capacity crowd of two humans and twelve thousand bored fur seals, ready for this much anticipated cataclysmic clash.  As is traditional, the teams warmed up prior to the match. The visitors were treated to meringue cake, chocolate biscuits and tea at the museum; whilst the home side in true Southern Hemisphere style relied on standing over and taunting the visitors before engaging in unsportsmanlike stretching and dynamic exercise, a typical subterfuge that we have come to expect of Southern Hemisphere teams J.

Fortunately the referee was on hand and alive to such underhand tactics. Resplendent and easily identifiable in his Panama hat and smoking briar pipe, complemented with his red oilskin jacket, he held his badge of office, the football referee’s vuvuzela with a zealous pride.  What code the referee was operating to was something of a debate, as calls of “Line out to the skins” or “Scrum to the shirts”   raised an eyebrow or two.  The Ref invited the team captains to the centre circle for a tot of rum, to discuss the rules of engagement and toss off for who kicks off.

The shirts (our team) won the kick off and attacked the opposition’s half in the spirit of the game, commensurate with their gentlemanly and British manner rather than the letter and finer details of the Laws of Association Football that the opposition preferred.  Just like the Ashes this quickly became a test rather a game; a test of our Sothern Hemisphere cousins manners and sportsmanship. Consequently they were able to slip at least two sneeky goals past the visitors’ gallant defence in the first half; not however before the referee had to penalise the home side’s soccerroo ringer for manhandling our midfielder in a most intimate and underhand manner.

At half time the referee invited the team to the centre circle for the traditional tot of rum to fortify the players against the worst excesses of the South Georgian weather; followed by dignified small talk, mainly surrounding……… the weather.  The home team however insisted on their dastardly tactics with a team talk.

Swapping ends did nothing to improve our intrepid visitors’ chances, despite the location of the pitch’s bog. The home team pressed their advantage and used it expeditiously to fox the visitors at every opportunity.  Despite the gallant efforts of the visitors in pressing home every break in the flow to their favour they just couldn’t get passed the superglue hands of the home side’s goalie who proved that only having sight in one eye is not an impediment, although his rig of hard hat, foulies and safety boots threw those unaccustomed off their game, perhaps another underhand Southern Hemisphere tactic?? Despite or because of this his Man of the Match title was well earned.

Special mention however must be reserved for the visitors second half goalie Donald Angus, confused the opposition’s attacking centre forward with a dazzling display of panic grasps for the ball, despite being fouled ; sadly this did not fool his opponent who calmly slipped another goal over our heroic goalies head.  The referee conceded afterwards that it should have been a free kick, but he was transfixed by the dazzling display of acrobatics that he just wanted to see what would happen next. The triple blast of the vuvuzela marked the end of this clash and a return to the centre circle for more rum and cheesy photographs.  The only downer was the absence of the visitors’ most vocal supporter Molly who remained behind to furnish the Xplore heroes with warming scran.

The Evening

The evening meal was prepared by our galley lodger Molly who remained on the yacht during the football match, so, who knows what was consumed in our absence, the only evidence being a bottle of red wine “used” for the delicious Chilli con Carne. Much to our surprise the local government and BAS scientists invited us to their bar; considering they had opened the bar on a school night it was considered rude to refuse. The bar is a relic from the days of when the military were based here at the now demolished Shackleton House; the remains have all but disappeared and returned to grassland now occupied by a colony of penguins and Fur Seals. Quite poignantly there are memorial crosses each in memory of the three servicemen who died whilst serving here.  The evening was enjoyed by all with very reasonable prices, which probably haven’t changed since Tim Winter joined the RN, 43p for a bottle of lager!!! The evening progressed well and ended with a game of furthest bottle. The game consists of one person in the press up position whilst the team-mate climbs on the back and scrambles as far forward as possible with a bottle and places it on the floor. The trick then is to return to the start position with said bottle and then pull your team-mate up in to the standing position. All easy until you add alcohol!

The next morning we awoke to the news that we are planning a hike to visit some sites around Grytviken Bay; so those involved with washing down and watering the yacht had to on completion quickly re-role to hiking mode.  The intrepid explorers advanced South West around the bay, through Grytviken towards WW1 gun battery, where the gun still stands sentry over our refuge King Edward cove to this day.  Once the team had tiptoed through the minefield of Elephant and fur seals, interspersed with random King penguins they took in the vantage that Horse Headland commanded.IMG_0439

Running the gauntlet of the dive-bombing Arctic Terns the team advanced towards the more recent wreckage of an Argentinean Super Puma helicopter, which at the time of its forced landing was within 24 hours of flying again; sadly thirty four years and repeated target practise by the resident battalion have reduced it to a shadow of its former self.

An alfresco lunch of tuna salad at the summit of an adjacent vantage point offered outstanding views, whilst our communications specialist, Dan grappled with the satellite connection in order to keep the team in touch with the rest of the world and most importantly the Six Nations results.

After lunch the team pressed on over the dam that now provides King Edward Point with hydro-electricity towards the saddle between the twoIMG_8223 peaks Mount Hodges and Mount Duse that offered an impressive view of the two lakes in the Bore Valley, where many seal pups reside, that lead down to Maiviken Bay.

On our return to Xplore the team dropped into the museum for coffee and another chat, but more importantly to drop off litter they found on the trek left by irresponsible visitors and complete the whale spotting and expediton logs maintained by the museum.IMG_0443IMG_8098Picture 1 – helicopter remains from 1982

Picture 2 – The interior of Grytviken church

The sail round and port visit to Grytviken

15 Feb

Having reunited the team onboard Xplore on the morning of 14 Feb, Stephen, Shady and I motor-sailed the yacht round to Grytviken while the shore team started their recovery.  This was a short and uneventful passage which finished alongside King Edward Point; just in time as the wind became increasingly intense over the course of the afternoon, threatening to pop the fenders as we got pressed against the jetty.  As the team slowly emerged from their slumbers, blinking like moles breaking out of the ground on a sunny day, they were a little confused over where we were as we were rocking around as if we were still at anchor.  The rest of the day was spent getting kit washed and starting the dry out before getting an early night, thankful that the wind had eased so there was no need for a watch to be kept.

Well rested, we got up on 15 Feb eager to get ashore and find out what Grytviken had to offer – it turns out there’s a huge amount! At King Edward Point, the British Antarctic Survey team and representative of the South Georgia Government have been incredibly generous in their support to us, helping us out where they can and allowing us to use their facilities. It is a short walk to the Shackleton Cross on Hope Point – the group of fur seals crowded round the base preventing access to the photo of Shackleton’s team cached in the cairn. Grytviken itself is a pleasant stroll round the bay, although the young fur seals seem keen to prove themselves up for taking us on! The post office was opened up for us, which gave us the chance to see the Enduring Eye exhibition, brought over from the Royal Geographical Society in London and unveiled by Princess Anne last month. We then had a look round the museum, giving us a fascinating insight into the history of the island and its wildlife. The museum shop provided the AE16 team the opportunity to get souvenirs and made the museum team’s eyes gleam as we spent the same as a small cruise liner.  Stephen knows the couple who run the museum well, which meant that we were invited through for tea and biscuits – a very welcome addition to the visit!P1020624Most importantly, we visited the cemetery to pay our respects to ‘The Boss’. Fittingly, it was Sir Ernest Shackleton’s birthday and we were joined by the crews from the other yachts in the harbour. Josh had brought a bottle of “Shackleton Whisky” (MacKinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky, as taken by Shackleton on his Nimrod Expedition of 1907) with which to make our toast to the man who inspired the whole plan for Antarctic Endurance 2016. We also made the toast on behalf of Tom Price, the Assistant Surveyor in South Georgia in 1955-56. Having finished the whisky and poured a little over Shackleton’s grave, as is the tradition, it was time to return to the Xplore for dinner and a celebration!


Images from South Georgia


Photo 1 Two rope teams on Shackleton’s Gap


Photo 2 Digging the tents out following the blizzard


Photo 3 Crossing Crean Glacier (Dry Glacier)

IMG_0207Photo 4 One team crossing Fortuna Glacier (Wet Glacier)IMG_0264Photo 6 Overlooking Stromness Harbour with the whaling station to the right.

IMG_0276 (2)Photo 7 “Royals” with the Baton.