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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Hero's vessel scales new heights
By Colin Peacock
BBC News Online in Wellington

Sir Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton became a hero after his epic rescue mission
The vessel in which Sir Ernest Shackleton completed his celebrated boat journey across the treacherous Southern Ocean has scaled new heights in New Zealand when it was winched through a fourth-floor window.

The lifeboat - named James Caird - was safely deposited inside the country's national museum Te Papa, sited on the waterfront of the capital Wellington, but only after an earlier attempt was called off when high winds and heavy rain swept the city's harbour.

Looking on anxiously as the precious cargo swung through the air was Simon Stevens, curator of boats at the National Maritime Museum in London.

"This boat is at the heart of one of the greatest journeys ever made. It's irreplaceable," says Stevens.

"But it's also pretty robust, so I don't worry too much. It's large. It's in your face and when you see it in the flesh, you have some idea of what they must have endured."


Shackleton and five others from his ill-fated Antarctic expedition piloted the James Caird across 800 miles of the treacherous Southern Ocean in 1916, before crossing the barren island of South Georgia to raise the alarm and rescue their colleagues.

Not one life was lost among the crew of The Endurance, which was doomed after it was stuck in the Antarctic ice nearly two years earlier.

Shackleton's inspired leadership and the crew's dogged survival have since been celebrated in several books and films.

Shackleton's lifeboat in Te Papa museum
Shackleton's lifeboat was hoisted through a fourth-floor window
"The James Caird is just about the most iconographic Antarctic objects that survives.

"It's on a par with Scott's Hut, but of course you can't move that into a museum for people to see.

"It wasn't really even a proper lifeboat.

"There were no buoyancy cases built into the hull, so if it had been holed it wouldn't have stayed afloat.

"And don't forget, they had to drag it across the ice before they could even set sail," says Simon Stevens.

Now safely installed in Te Papa, the James Caird is the centrepiece of an upcoming exhibition, called Antarctic Heroes - The Race To The South Pole, which will be opened on 29 May by Sir Ernest Shackleton's granddaughter Alexandra Shackleton.


It's sure to draw big local crowds.

New Zealander Frank Worsley successfully navigated the James Caird - against huge odds - on that famous voyage and later wrote the book, Shackleton's Boat Journey, which first popularised the tale.

He even sailed with Shackleton again in 1921.

New Zealand is still the jumping-off point for today's expeditions to Antarctica, and the home of several Antarctic research institutes.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust plans to restore the hut Shackleton built for a previous expedition in 1908.

That time Shackleton and three others turned back when they realised that they could not make it to the pole and back - after which Shackleton famously told his wife: "I thought you'd rather have a live donkey than a dead lion."

Scientists in Shackleton's steps
23 Mar 04  |  North West Wales
Fighting for their hero
05 Jul 03  |  Science/Nature
Rescue plan for Shackleton hut
25 Mar 03  |  Science/Nature
Race to save UK history
18 Sep 02  |  Science/Nature


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