Treacherous voyage to honour Antarctic hero's legendary tale of survival

TIM JARVIS has kayaked and walked across Lake Eyre, trekked to the North Pole and solo across Antarctica on a diet of starvation rations, and lived on the largest uninhabited island in the South Pacific.

But the British-Australian adventurer expects next month's Shackleton Epic will be his most challenging and dangerous journey yet.

He and his crew will attempt to be the first in history to successfully emulate Sir Ernest Shackleton's legendary adventure, sailing from Elephant Island off the coast of Antarctica to South Georgia and then crossing its unmapped mountainous interior.

Jarvis and crew farewelled friends and family at the Australian National Maritime Museum on Sunday before they make their way to South America to begin the voyage.

They have been planning the 1500-kilometre trip since 2008 when Alexandra Shackleton approached Jarvis with the idea to mark the centenary of her grandfather's remarkable tale of survival.

Their vessel will be an exact replica of Shackleton's small wooden lifeboat. They will use only 1916 equipment and they will don the traditional gear that Shackleton and his men wore.

If something on the boat breaks, Jarvis said, "we just nail a new bit on".

The seven-metre boat was not designed to tackle the notoriously treacherous Southern Ocean and was an inadequate vessel even 100 years ago.

Jarvis expects being on board to be "like a ping pong ball in a washing machine".

The 46-year-old is only too aware of the risks, which include falling down a crevasse, capsizing, climbing injuries and weather-related risks such as frostbite.

"It is very dangerous and we'll be in the roughest part of the roughest ocean in the world," he said. "We're going to do our utmost to honour Shackleton but I'd say it's a 50-50 [chance]. It's a very sobering thought to be doing this."

The men will also follow a similar rationed diet to Shackleton's, including pemmican made from animal fat. "Fat is the lightest weight stuff you can eat for the energy you require," Jarvis said.

But unpleasant food is likely to be the least of their worries. Powerful storms at sea are inevitable and Jarvis expects at least one a week over the three-week journey.

There will be a support vessel, Australis, but it will only be called upon in the event of serious trouble.

Jarvis, who is also an environmental scientist, hopes to use the trip to heighten awareness of the impact of climate change. The team will collect data at various points to use for scientific research.

"The irony is Shackleton tried to save his men from Antarctica and we are now trying to save Antarctica from man."

This story Treacherous voyage to honour Antarctic hero's legendary tale of survival first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.