It’s not every day that you find yourself in the middle of the most perilous stretch of ocean in the world, with a handful of men and limited supplies. But there Tim Jarvis found himself, on his daring and authentic recreation of one of the greatest survival journeys of all time.
It was 30 years ago that Tim first heard of Sir Ernest Shackleton, describing him as his ‘own adventure hero‘, and it was over the course of several years that the enormity of what Sir Ernest had achieved began to seep into his consciousness and inspire his greatest feat to date.
To fully understand the enormity of this undertaking it is important to try and imagine the circumstances facing Tim and his team – thrashing their way through the Southern Ocean, in a wooden 23 foot keelless boat, completely open to the unforgiving elements, wearing non-waterproof clothing… in a storm… at night. It was enough to make a grown man cry. They faced death so many times, that Tim recalls thinking ‘death was stalking them on their journey’ whether he was there as their boat came mere inches from capsizing, or battling storms desperate to smash them into the jagged cliffs of South Georgia. Or perhaps on their twenty-something time falling into one of the many crevasse’s on the mountainous terrain. This was a journey so treacherous that even their camera men jumped ship (metaphorically speaking!), fearing for their lives.
So why do it? “Exposing yourself to that level of exertion and isolation allows you to meet, or perhaps reacquaint yourself with a different version of yourself”.
And an expedition of this scale requires two strengths, that of the physical and that of the mental. Tim recalls the months of training with his team to reach peak levels of fitness; after all, the road – or rather sea – ahead would be gruelling and incredibly taxing. With only very rudimentary equipment the team were required to learn how to traditionally navigate, as well as rely heavily on the strength of their own bodies to climb mountainous regions of South Georgia, with nails pushing through the soles of boots in a bid for the slightest of grip, just as Ernest Shackleton and his team had done a century before. But the mental side was without a doubt what saved Sir Ernest and his men all those years ago, and what inspired Tim and his team to power on.
Of course any successful expedition relies heavily on the calibre of the team, and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s core values were imperative in helping Tim choose the best of the best to support him on the journey. When asked what he thinks makes a strong team player, Tim doesn’t hesitate in illustrating the important of someone who can understand the roles of the other members of their team, putting them in a position to step up and help whenever necessary. Closely followed by being selfless, working for one another to reach a common goal and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of humour and certainly not taking yourself too seriously. After all, if you can’t laugh as you sit on an unseaworthy boat, wet and hypothermic, eating rancid fat for food and going to the toilet in a bucket held by your colleagues in a storm, then when can you, right?!
So with his team by his side, Tim focused on channelling Sir Ernest Shackleton’s inspiring leadership values, ‘I think setting a positive example is crucial, Shackleton never asked someone to do something that he wasn’t willing to do himself’. Also key to acting as a great leader is the ability to understand what makes each of your team members tick, to guide them and enable them all to perform to the best of their ability – and all the while doing this with optimism and confidence. In the words of Sir Ernest ‘confidence is true moral courage’ and to even attempt an undertaking like this, you’re going to need courage in abundance!
It has been over a century since Sir Ernest Shackleton saved the lives of every single one of his men on an expedition that, at times, spelled the end for them, so if Sir Ernest Shackleton – the leader, the legend - was alive today, what would he be doing? ‘I think he would pick the biggest challenge imaginable, he would probably be in Space’, Tim goes on to hypothesis that Antartica, at the period, was really the space travel of today, ‘I would like to think there would be an ‘Endurance’ orbiting the planet out there somewhere’.
From stormy sea to unforgiving land and perhaps, one day, space travel, Tim Jarvis embodies all that we champion in Sir Ernest Shackleton, his charisma, his nerve, his unfaltering optimism and his exceptional leadership in all circumstances. He truly is a modern explorer.