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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 05:17 GMT
Expedition retraces Shackleton route
Two women are preparing to set out on an expedition retracing the route of the famous voyage of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men.

Sir Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton was buried on South Georgia
Polly Murray and Tash Wright are among a team of five adventurers on the demanding route, usually followed by all-male outfits.

The expedition is expected to leave Chile on Monday and will take in Elephant Island and South Georgia, where the team hope to be the first to conquer a series of inhospitable mountains.

It was on Elephant Island that many of Shackleton's men waited for months to be rescued as he led a small team to South Georgia to raise the alarm after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice.

High seas

Over two-and-a-half months the expedition members hope to cover about 2,000 nautical miles.

They will have to cope with temperatures as low as minus 40C and the notoriously high seas of the southern oceans, including Cape Horn.

Ms Wright was picked for the expedition for her vast sailing experience, including work as a skipper off the west coast of Scotland.

She spends her winters in the French ski resort of Chamonix, where she teaches skiing, and has taken part in previous expeditions to Greenland and the Arctic.

Ms Murray was the first female Scot to climb Mount Everest and the first person to complete a telemark ski descent from the summit of the coldest mountain in the world, Alaska's Mount McKinley.

She dreamed up the expedition with fellow team member Chris Tiso while they were at Mount Everest.

'Notoriously inhospitable'

Mr Tiso, a climber and sailor, said he expected the expedition to be "extremely testing and arduous".

Shackleton's men haul one of their boats
Shackleton's men haul one of their boats
At Elephant Island the team will take part in a series of exploratory dives, before heading on to South Georgia.

Once there they "will spend a month climbing, diving and skiing the island's mountains along the east coast", said Mr Tiso.

"Some ascents will be a first in conditions that can be notoriously inhospitable."

The last leg of the expedition will take in the Falkland Islands, before the team head back to Puerto Williams in Chile.

Joining Ms Murray, Ms Wright and Mr Tiso on the voyage are diver and ski instructor Sven Stewart and mountain guide John Whittle.

'Tortuous months'

Mr Tiso said the parallels with Shackleton's expedition were important to the team.

He said: "Elephant Island holds particular interest and significance for me as it was, of course, where Shackleton's men spent four long tortuous months living under their lifeboats waiting to be rescued by the man himself."

Shackleton and a small team travelled on to South Georgia, walking across the island to reach Stromness on 20 May, 1916, where a whaling factory provided their first contact with the outside world in 17 months.

Shackleton was buried on South Georgia following his death in 1922.

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