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Friday, January 18, 2013

The great survival journey

Outside Online Magazine carried an interesting article today entitled "The great survival journey" which is a conversation with Tim Jarvis who is preparing "to set out with a crew of five men to repeat Earnest Shackleton's 800-mile open boat crossing of the South Atlantic." Here's the introduction:
Ernest Shackleton's 800-mile open-boat crossing of the South Atlantic from Elephant Island to South Georgia, and then over the crevassed mountains of that island to the Stromness whaling station in 1916, is among the most daunting survival journeys ever made. Nearly a century later, British explorer Tim Jarvis, 46, and his crew of five men are setting out to repeat the adventure in a replica boat and hundred-year-old clothing. While Shackleton braved the sea to save his men, trapped on Elephant Island after their ship Endurance broke up in the Antarctic ice, Jarvis—also an environmental scientist—hopes to meet the challenge in part to document the effects of climate change in the Antarctic. It's a drastic bid for adventure with potential for grim results. As the crew make their way to Elephant Island this weekend, we asked Jarvis about the journey, the old gear, and the challenges he'll confront on water and land.
This is is itself already something exciting. I am particularly interested in this exchange:
How do you prepare for the unpredictable aspects of the journey—rogue waves, a questionable and rocky landing on the island? How much skill is involved and how much is luck?
There is a lot of luck, of course. When it comes to things like the rogue waves, there's not a tremendous amount you can do about that. All you can do is make the boat as seaworthy as possible and practice the kind of drill we would follow in the event of a capsize. We've done that. We also have a kind of primitive sea anchor like Shackleton had—a fabric bag on the end of a rope which opens up like a sort of parachute. He chucked that overboard, and that slowed him down.
Now in Mr. Jarvis' words: When it comes to things like rogue waves, there is not a tremendous amount you can do about that. I don't think any one could argue with him on that answer.  It really summarized the state of the arts of knowledge field of freaque wave quite accurately and succinctly. One can not prepare and do much about freaque wave simply because we really do not know about freaque wave in the first place, regardless the volumetric nonlinear physics research outputs the main stream media sources have optimistically publicized from time to time over recent years.  When it comes to face the reality of real ocean conditions, we still know hardly anything about where, when, how, and why that might be expected to happen out there. Rightfully Jarvis did not wasting his time and effort to bother to consult any "experts" with their preparation.  All the luck and power to him. Sir Shackleton did encounter freaque waves a century ago, we can only wish Mr. Jarvis all the best on smooth sailing and God speed!

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