Launch of the James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island on April 24th, 1916. Photo originally published in South, a book by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

JANUARY 4, 2013
54° 9.4′ SOUTH AND 36° 42.6′ WEST

Following in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps 100 years later, our group of intrepid explorers retraced the final leg of Shackleton’s epic trek across South Georgia. In the process, we shared, in a very small measure, some of the sights, sounds and emotions that Shackleton and his men experienced a century ago.

Symbolic in nature, the 5.5-kilometre-long hike from Fortuna Bay to Stromness Harbour represents the final chapter in Shackleton’s monumental story of survival against all odds.

In May 1916, Shackleton and two of his men set out – without tents or sleeping bags – on a non-stop crossing of the largely unmapped island. Equipped with ice crampons fashioned from screws wrenched from their lifeboat, they arrived in Stromness thirty-six hours later.

In an effort to save time and energy during their 33-kilometre-long crossing of South Georgia, Shackleton and his hiking companions formed a three-man toboggan chain, glissading down an uncharted mountainside.

Our hike from sea level to the 300-metre mountain pass was slow and measured. But, the toboggan ride down the backstretch was wild and lasted mere seconds.

After a hurried session of perfecting my skills at arresting – or, at the very least, impeding – my trajectory down the snow-covered mountainside, I held my breath and plunged, feet first, over the precipice.

Although my backpack acted as a speed retardant, my Gortex™ pants turned into a potent accelerant…

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