Adventurer Tim Jarvis On Chasing The Ghost Of Ernest Shackleton

Life Writer

Romain Levrault

Adventure is hard to come by. Well, let’s rephrase that: Real adventure is hard to come by. The sort they write books about. The sort that tests the limits of your body and soul. The sort that will leave you mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. If we’re being honest, there are few among us who even want to face such travails in travel.

Tim Jarvis is one these bold few. His exploits are the stuff of legend. Back in 2007, Jarvis set out to prove that Sir Douglas Mawson could have survived his harrowing journey across the Antartic without resorting to cannibalism — thereby clearing the adventurer’s name of those grisly rumors. Jarvis geared up with only period-realistic attire then plod 500km (310 miles) through the Antarctic tundra. Jarvis made sure he ate the same amount of food as Dawson had with him as well. Amazingly, Jarvis made it past the finish line (having lost a serious amount of weight), thus proving that a human being could survive the journey on the rations Dawson had available.

That extraordinary feat of human mettle led to Jarvis assembling a team to recreate the seemingly indomitable Shackelton rescue mission. It was to be another reenactment of sorts. After Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition got trapped in 1916 and he set out on a very small 23-foot boot to a whaling station on South Georgia Island to send up a flare for a rescue team to save them all. That journey included a treacherous sea crossing that ended when Shackelton and a handful of loyal friends landed on the wrong side of South Georgia and had to trek over the mountains to the whaling station with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Jarvis assembled a team of five mad ones and set out to do things exactly as Shackleton had. Through rough seas, insanely bad weather, and uncharted lands, they made it to that whaling station. Harrowing seems too small a word for what they went through.

We caught up with Tim Jarvis earlier this year on a trip to Norway to practice some actual polar training from the master himself. This week, we had a chance to catch up with him again — just after he summited Kilimanjaro for his latest project, 25zero. If you’re in need of adventure inspiration this autumn, the conversation below is for you.

Shackleton Whisky

You just got back from summiting Kilimanjaro? Can you highlight the purpose of that trip?

The Equator might be the last place you’d expect to find ice and snow. Yet high in the mountains, at zero latitudes, 25 peaks still had glaciers until very recently. But warming temperatures are causing these glaciers to melt away. Within a quarter of a century, all the ice and snow will be gone. 25 mountains at zero latitudes plus 25 years equal zero ice. And so, the 25zero project was born.

Kilimanjaro is one of the 25zero mountains, the highest in Africa and an iconic peak. The project uses dramatic images of these melting glaciers and stories of people being affected by their decline to show climate change, engage new people in the issue, and fund climate change projects.

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