25 Feb 16 – Journeys’ End
We 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.