Reunited … Tim Jarvis, his wife Liz and their sons Jack and Will at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour on Friday. Photo: Kate Geraghty
HOME is the hero. After a two-month 800 nautical-mile voyage in an open boat and trek across a wind-blasted mountain range at the bottom of the world, Tim Jarvis returned safely to his wife and children on Friday.
His Adelaide-based family surprised the intrepid adventurer at Sydney Airport when he arrived from London after recreating one of British exploration's great moments - the 1915-1916 Ernest Shackleton expedition that turned Robert Scott's Antarctic failure into a celebration of British pluck.
In recent years there had been half a dozen attempts to recreate the original expedition - an Irish effort capsized three times - Jarvis, 46, and his five fellow adventurers were first to succeed.
Shackleton came to personify the best of British because he traversed a wild sea in a converted whaleboat and South Georgia's treacherous mountains to rescue 22 of his men marooned on Elephant Island.
With World War I raging, England knew nothing but Jarvis's expedition was in full glare. His 6.9-metre whaler replica was shadowed by a mother ship, he blogged daily, spoke to his wife Liz by satphone and the voyage was filmed 24/7 for an upcoming documentary.
''It was a bit like being on Big Brother,'' he said.
Jarvis said seasickness was the first great hurdle. Then came storms at sea. But changing watch at night tested the crew as the newcomer climbed out of a sopping bed to take the tiller as spume, wind and dark turned the voyage into blind faith.
Jarvis, 196 centimetres, perhaps suffered most as fellow crew members lay across him on the bottom of the boat.
''We slept like sea elephants,'' he said.
Half the expedition wore modern survival clothing. Those in Shackleton-era kit suffered an early form of frostbite. They were left behind when Jarvis, Paul Larsen and Baz Gray made the dangerous trek across South Georgia where 97 years ago Shackleton found a whaling station and rescue.
The Shackleton Epic set sail on January 23 and ended on February 13 when the adventurers met their patron and boat's namesake, Shackleton's granddaughter Alexandra Shackleton on South Georgia. They dined with the Falkland Islands governor, avoided Argentina and flew to London via Chile for media engagements.
Jarvis is writing a book on his Shackleton journey. His next expedition will be to warmer climes. ''I'm thinking of going to Papua New Guinea to track down the Tasmanian Tiger,'' he said.