The Shackleton Hike

Once upon a time, Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica that epically failed in its original purpose, but turned into one of the most remarkable feats of human survival in history.  After months spent on an ice floe following the sinking of their ship,  Shackleton and his men spent five days on the open sea in lifeboats, finally reaching Elephant Island, probably one of the most inhospitable places on the planet.  Shackleton then sailed across the Drake Passage for 15 days in a lifeboat with four other men, reached South Georgia, and proceeded to traverse its various peaks and glaciers on foot (with only 50 feet of rope and a carpenter’s adze for 3 men) to finally reach the whaling station of Stromness.  Pretty impressive.

Needless to say, we didn’t have quite the motivation that he did back in the day, but happily took the opportunity to repeat the last leg of his historic hike into Stromness, definitely made easier by the fact that it was, in fact, summer in that part of the world.  We began the hike at a fur seal nursery, where near-constant charges had to be warded off at all times, and continued up into the scree-slopes of a mountain pass.  Oh, the Quark parkas.

Reindeer tracks in the moss!

The hike was nice and easy, generally flat with a final downhill to a plain that extended to Stromness.  Interestingly, when Shackleton did it, he slid down a waterfall.  Why?!  Maybe it was faster.  In any case, he made it, and so did we.  The sun was setting lower into the sky as we approached the green plains of Stromness, dotted with seals and a herd of reindeer!  Kelly, one of our fellow passengers who had traveled in the Arctic, scoffed at our photographic enthusiasm over the reindeer, telling us that “If you’ve seen one reindeer, you’ve seen ’em all.”  Later, Tom insisted that a picture he’d taken of the reindeer had been a complete accident “because after seeing one, I was clearly keen to avoid the remainder”.  Hahahaha.  It was a beautiful evening.

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