Film: Shackleton – The Greatest Story of Survival




Sir Ernest Shackleton is one of the great heroes of polar exploration– and his greatest achievement was in  1914, when he saved all 27 of his men from certain death after their ship, Endurance, was crushed by ice, leaving them marooned in the Antarctic for nearly two years.

A century later Australian adventurer Tim Jarvis set out to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps, doing it the hard way, without any modern equipment or technology.

His trip, which Jarvis says was the most challenging of his life, was filmed for a Discovery Channel/PBS documentary – Shackleton: The Greatest Story of Survival – augmented by historic film from famed Australian photographer Frank Hurley.

Shackleton’s aim in 1914 was to lead the first crossing of Antarctica on foot. But disaster struck before his ship even reached the icy continent.

Breathtaking cinematography from Hurley shows Endurance slowly being crushed by the powerful sea ice until the men were forced to abandon ship and set up camp on the moving ice floes.

They took to the three lifeboats and rowed 290km to rocky Elephant Island, where at least there were seals and seabirds to save them from starvation. But with no way of contacting the outside world, their only hope of survival was to sail 1500km north-east to the Stromness whaling station on South Georgia.


This meant bravingthe giant waves of the Southern Ocean in the James Caird, a 6.7 metre lifeboat with no keel. They used a sextant for navigation and were constantly drenched by icy water.

Jarvis in his reenactment sailed a replica James Caird, the size of a six-seater mini bus, using the same equipment as Shackleton, down to the reindeer skin sleeping bags, unpalatable but nutritious Pemmican (a concentrated mix of fat and protein) and Shackleton’s favourite whiskey Whyte and Mackay.

Shackleton and his five companions survived a gruelling 16 days at sea before reaching the west coast of South Georgia.

Exhausted as they were, they had to scale the rugged mountains in the centre of the island to get to the whaling station on the east coast.

When they staggered in, they were filthy, unshaven and emaciated, unrecognisable as the healthy adventurers who had called at the whaling station at the start of their journey two years before.


The gaunt leader shocked the whalers when he said, “My name’s Shackleton.”

Tim Jarvis and his men had a film crew following them as they followed Shackleton’s desperate journey but they had no modern amenities to ease their hardship.

The film, scripted by Bobbi Hansel and directed by Hansel and Caspar Mazzotti, does a wonderful job of bringing to life Shackleton’s extraordinary feat of leadership and survival.

Shackleton – The Greatest Story of Survival – shows at Luna Leederville and Camelot Outdoors from Thursday, March 9, to Sunday, March 12.



Watch the trailer…