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………