It was as I was leaving school that I first became intrigued and gripped by stories of the Heroic Age of polar exploration. Amundsen's meticulous planning and Scott's tragic death were great and noble stories but it was Shackleton's extraordinary Endurance escape and the journey of the James Caird that enthralled me most. But as time moved on I needed to feed an appetite that wanted to learn more about the man, his leadership skills, his triumph over adversity, what drove him on and his other passions.
So I then started collecting anything about him and his expeditions I could lay my hands on. Books were of course not hard to find but I searched out signed copies, first editions and other artefacts that had any connection to Ernest Shackleton. My collection continues to grow and now includes the copy of South that he gave his parents, inscribed 'To Mother and Father for Christmas, with love from Ernest Xmas 1919'.
In 2004 I had a rare opportunity to visit South Georgia which enabled me to get as close as possible to tread the same ground that he would have done on the Endurance and Quest expeditions as they lay over in Grytviken. And although it may seem rather odd I camped out for a night in the whalers graveyard and lay my sleeping bag down beside his grave and the granite headstone which inscribes his name.
To lead the expedition with descendants of the original team to celebrate the centenary of the Nimrod is a massive undertaking for me and to follow the route he took will fulfil a lifelong ambition to connect in a major way with what he achieved. But setting out to close the last 97 miles will be a huge prize and I hope will prove to be a fitting legacy to the original expedition in the centenary year.
But it is the Shackleton Foundation that will endure over time and that is what is most important to me. I want people of any age group and background to come forward with a bold, innovative and useful idea that embodies Shackleton's spirit - and I want to be able to make their dreams become a reality and enable them to step into the arena and take forward their daring idea for the betterment of others.
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