Sheltered from blizzards ... Tim Jarvis. Photo: Malcolm McDonald
JUST hours from the finish line, a group of adventurers recreating Shackleton's epic journey across the Antarctic were almost derailed by a blizzard that threatened to kill them over the weekend.
Australian expedition leader Tim Jarvis and mountaineer Barry Gray took a rare gap in the wild weather on Sunday to continue their trek after sheltering from a blizzard for more than 24 hours.
The pair are the only men from the original group of six that were well enough to finish the last leg of the 19-day journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island. Others contracted the painful foot-rotting condition trench foot after two weeks on a wet 6.9-metre wooden life boat.
Pending good weather, Jarvis and Gray are expected to reach the Stromness whaling station, where Sir Ernest Shackleton was able to raise the alarm for his stricken crew, on Monday morning.
They were just hours into the trek when a blizzard whipped up 45-knot winds, freezing weather and zero visibility. The pair had to wait on top of a glacier at Shackleton's Gap for 24 hours until conditions eased slightly on Sunday.
Jarvis and Gray are wearing clothing and using equipment similar to Shackleton's men 100 years ago and had to have modern tents and sleeping bags dropped in otherwise they may have died from exposure, said a member of the support team. ''They were literally being knocked off their feet,'' said a support crew member on the Australis supply ship. A camera crew had to retreat to the ship because of the conditions.
''It would be clear for a minute or so, then the wind would change and visibility would be poor again,'' cameraman Joe French said.
After setting out again on Sunday, the pair were set to trek around a series of peaks known as the Trident, over Crean Glacier and Breakwind Ridge, down through a waterfall, across a lake and through foothills until they reach the end of the journey at Stromness.
''We've had to be adaptable to get us this far, and we'll continue to be adaptable, just as Shackleton was, to help us reach our ultimate goal of honouring his memory as the centenary of the expedition draws near,'' Mr Jarvis said.