Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover – Mark Twain
Yesterday marked a very significant part of the expedition – we were all able to pay our respects to ‘the Boss’, wish him a happy birthday and reflect on his legacy at his final resting place. We also got to drink whisky and soak up some sunshine, so it’s safe to say there’s a few sore heads aboard the Australis today!
Shackleton’s grave is beautifully simple. Perched midway up an emerald green hill, with panoramic views of Grytviken harbour, a quote from his favourite poet Robert Browning etched into the gravestone and Frank Wild buried next to him – the great man deserved nothing less than some of the best views in the world and to be buried with his comrade and brother in arms beside him. The ceremony and toast was attended by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s granddaughter Alexandra Shackleton, who travelled all the way from the UK to Grytviken aboard the Vavilov to mark the occasion. High winds stopped an earlier arrival, but by now we are all accustomed to the delicate dance we do down here with the local weather systems. We know the steps all too well and the futility of getting annoyed with something that we can’t change or influence in any way. After a few words from both Tim and Alexandra, the Mackinlay’s whisky was brought out to toast the success of the Shackleton Epic expedition and the memory of Shackleton. The toast was accompanied by a unique yet apt soundtrack: a chorus of elephant seal grunts and the whistle of the wind. Everyone then poured the last of their whisky on Shackleton’s grave, as is customary. To have this ceremony at the conclusion of our expedition and just a few hours shy of Shackleton’s birthday was the perfect finale to an epic adventure and something we’ve all been looking forward to for quite some time.
Earlier on in the day, Baz Gray collected a few key items of the Shackleton Epic expedition for donation to the impressive, little museum at Grytviken. The museum houses memorabilia and paraphernalia from Shackleton’s expedition, as well as items from other expeditions and equipment used in the now defunct whaling industry. A total of 31 items were donated and included the Primus stove used to cook meals on the Alexandra Shackleton, the prismatic compass used to navigate, an old harness and climbing rope used on the mountain crossing, the main sheet from the Alexandra Shackleton, a vintage-style mountain backpack and Seb’s pipe and tobacco tin. Additionally, the lads donated a full set of vintage style clothing including a windproof outer layer, helmet, woollen under layers, balaclava, gloves and the boots Baz wore on the mountain crossing.
Even though we are now motoring away from Grytviken towards the Falklands, I’ve still got South Georgia on my mind. Its stripped-back beauty is incomparable to anywhere else in the world. It’s a place where elephant seals bask in the sun in all their lardy glory, juvenile fur seals scamper about along the windy shore and clusters of penguins gad about in groups on the green hills. It’s also a place of danger – gusting winds can knock you down with no warning, glaciers can crumble and ice can crack underfoot. Humans have left their mark on South Georgia, evidenced by the rusty remnants of the whaling days, but overall, it remains largely untouched and the dominion of the local wildlife – may it continue to for many years to come.
- by Jo Stewart, Shackleton Epic blogger