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The voyage of the James Caird was a small-boat journey from Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands to South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean, a distance of 800 nautical miles (1,500 km; 920 mi). Undertaken by Sir Ernest Shackleton and five companions, its objective was to obtain rescue for the main body of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–17, stranded on Elephant Island after the loss of its ship Endurance. Polar historians regard the voyage as one of the greatest small-boat journeys ever undertaken.



In October 1915, Endurance had been sunk by the pack ice in the Weddell Sea, leaving Shackleton and his companions adrift on a precarious ice surface. Throughout the duration of their survival, the group drifted northward until April 1916, when the floe on which they had encamped, broke up, and then made their way in the ship's lifeboats to Elephant Island.

Shackleton decided that the most effective means of obtaining rescue would be to sail one of the lifeboats to South Georgia.

Of the three lifeboats, the James Caird was deemed the strongest and most likely to survive the journey. It had been named by Shackleton after Sir James Key Caird, a Dundee jute manufacturer and philanthropist, whose sponsorship had helped finance the expedition. Before its voyage, the boat was strengthened and adapted by ship's carpenter Harry McNish, to withstand the mighty seas of the Southern Ocean. Surviving a series of dangers, including a near capsizing, the boat reached the southern coast of South Georgia after a voyage lasting 16 days. Shackleton and two companions then crossed the island's mountainous interior to reach a whaling station on the northern side. Here he was able to organise the relief of the Elephant Island party, and to return his men home without loss of life.

2014 to 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

To learn more about the James Caird, I recommend visiting The James Caird Society web site at


In February 2013 Tim Jarvis and five others successfully recreated Sir Ernest Shackleton's epic crossing of the Southern Ocean in the Alexandra Shackleton, a replica of the James Caird.

Using the same materials, clothing, food and a Thomas Mercer chronometer as in the original voyage, Jarvis and the team sailed their replica James Caird to South Georgia, just as Shackleton did in 1916. Some members of the party then crossed the South Georgian mountain range following the same footsteps as those before them.

Depending where in the world you are located, you can find the mini series documentary made about this epic recreation under the name:          

 Shackleton: Death or Glory (Discovery)                                  or                                                  Chasing Shackleton (PBS)

To find out more about Tim Jarvis, and The Shackleton Epic voyage, visit or

In 2015, Seb Coulthard, expedition engineer during the 2013 recreation of Shackleton's epic voyage, wrote a wonderful review about my work:


"Charles Baudelaire once said "Romanticism is another word for modern art" - that is, intimacy, spirituality, colour, and aspiration towards something that is beyond our reach. The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration may be consigned to the dog eared pages of history but one man keeps it alive and well. Through his beautifully crafted polar art Pete Vassilakos allows us to look back in time to an age of aspiring young men who dreamnt of adventure, men prepared to travel beyond the blank edges of the map. Pete's art is a living tribute to their memory - long may they live."

~ Seb Coulthard

Currently, Seb is constructing a second replica of the James Caird, a faithful seaworthy reproduction of the legendary vessel which embodies the leadership and teamwork of Shackleton's finest hour.

To find out more about Seb Coulthard, visit his web site at

To find out more about the Replica, visit

VASSdesign related Art


The voyage of the James Caird is ranked as one of the greatest boat journeys ever accomplished and is an achievement unique in the history of exploration.

In commemoration to the Voyage, I created this original Museum Exhibition style vintage sign.


Design in tribute to one of my favorite books "Ice Trap!" by Meredith Hooper, & M.P. Robertson, and in commemoration to the Voyage of the James Caird in 1916.

For more Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition art, be sure to visit the "Trans-Antarctic Expedition" section, and "Shackleton's Ross Sea Party" section of this web site.

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