Preparing for South Georgia

I am not sure what Ernest Shakleton or the old Whalers would have made of the regulations that now govern access to South Georgia but it is no longer possible to simply sail to the island and explore the mountains and old whaling stations.

The need to protect the extraordinary wildlife from non native species of plants and animals as well as access limitations designed to protect visitors from the crumbling whaling stations has led to the introduction of application processes for expedition and yacht visit permits. South Georgia is one of the most remote places on earth, the nearest outside assistance is over 5 days and 800 nm away in the Falklands and even then rescue resources are limited, so any team visiting must be experienced in these extreme environments, self reliant and well equipped to deal with the worst that nature can expose the team to.

Safe anchorages are few and far between and even these can be exposed to williwaws with winds in excess of 100 miles an hour. The abundance of Kelp adds to the problem and stories abound of the boats that have dragged their anchor and been washed ashore or had to leave the shelter of the bay and head out to sea until the winds abate.

The photo below was taken by a shore party from Skip Novak's Pelagic Australis with the boat battered by the winds and the shore party stranded ashore unable to return to the boat until the following morning.

We have assembled a very strong team of sailor/mountaineers and our primary objectives are to cross the island via the Shackleton Traverse and to explore the rarely visited Salvesen Range region at the south east of the island.

In addition to myself the team will consist of Bjørn Riis-Johannessen, who will take the role of Climbing Leader on the expedition. Bjørn is an experienced sailor and has many years of skiing and mountaineering experience. He has participated in 4 expeditions to South Georgia and the Antarctic as climber and both Assistant and Expedition Leader. He is a Swiss Alpine Club qualified Tour Leader and guides skitouring and alpine routes in Norway and the Alps.

Bob Shepton is a legend in both the sailing and climbing worlds with many awards to his name in both sports, including the Tilman Medal (twice) RYA yachtsman of the year, the OCC's Barton Cup (twice) and the coveted Piolet d'Or. One of the sequences in this year's European Outdoor Film Festival (EOFT) covers Bob's exploits in East Greenland together with the big wall climbing team "The Wild Bunch" and Bob's yacht "Dodo's Delight".

Dan Harwood is a mountaineer and ski-mountaineer of many years experience, with expeditions to Patagonia, Greenland, Himalaya and Alaska. Dan skied the Shackleton Traverse on South Georgia with Bjørn on the 2014 Ski Antarctica expedition.

Alan Hogg is a very experienced sailor with 10's of thousands of nautical miles under his belt, mostly skippering his own yacht, including Transatlantic and Pacific crossings. He has sailed on Novara in Alaska, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. He has made recent trips in the European Alps and the Lyngen Alps in Arctic Norway. Alan will take on the skipper's role when I am off the boat.

Terje Løkken is an experienced sailor and was part of the Novara 2014 transit of the North West Passage. He has many years of skiing and mountaineering experience from the Alps, the Antarctic, central Asia and Norway. Terje was with us on the passage in Chliean Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and on to the Falklands Islands.

Alex Jara has many years of sailing experience working as charter/delivery skipper on yachts up to 90 tonnes, including Atlantic crossings and sailing the Chilean channels. The youngest (and probably the fittest) of the team Alex has skied and climbed for a number of years.

Conditions on land can be every bit as extreme as those at sea and the weather can change very quickly with the likelihood of being forced to sit out bad weather for a number of days either in tents or snow holes.

Bjorn and Dan were members of a team that successfully traversed the island in 2014 and Bjorn made a short video of the trip.