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Amateur explorers to take on polar challenge
A century after Sir Ernest Shackleton abandoned an attempt on the South Pole tantalisingly close to his goal, descendants of the explorer and his team are hoping to achieve what he could not.
The six modern adventurers, who will set out exactly 100 years after the original expedition, include Sussex student Tim Fright, the great-great-nephew of Frank Wild, the only explorer to accompany Shackleton on all his missions.
Three of them will tackle the same full 900-mile, 80-day route as Shackleton's crew.
They will meet the other three 97 miles from the Pole, where their predecessors were forced to turn back on January 9 1909 in the face of howling icy blizzards and dwindling rations.
Shackleton set out on his 1908-09 Nimrod expedition to the Antarctic hoping to become the first person to reach the South Pole.
Although he failed, he travelled further south than anyone else had before, and was hailed a hero and knighted when he returned to the UK.
The 21st-century explorers are being led by Army Lt Col Henry Worsley, 46, from Hereford, a descendant of Frank Worsley, Shackleton's skipper on the Endurance, the ship used in a following Polar expedition in 1914.
Mr Worsley, who describes himself as a "Shackleton obsessive", once slept beside the explorer's grave on the inhospitable island of South Georgia.
He said he was looking forward to travelling over the terrain described in Shackleton's evocative diary entries, adding: "Walking in his footsteps will be extraordinary."
The team members will endure -35C temperatures and 50mph headwinds as they haul 300lb sledges on skis for up to 10 hours a day.
While they will have the benefits of modern equipment and navigational aids, they will not have the ponies and dogs that helped their forebears.
But unlike Shackleton and his men, they will fly out from the South Pole.
Mr Fright, 24, is from Billingshurst and a student at King's College London.
He said he has done only minimal preparation for the epic journey but said that would all change in the coming weeks and months.
"It's going to get very intense as I build up the preparation, I'm not doing as much of the journey as the other guys, just the last 97 miles, but it will still be very demanding.
"It's a cliche but it really is the opportunity of a lifetime. I had to grab it with both hands."
The other members of the Shackleton Centenary Expedition are Patrick Bergel, 36, from London, Shackleton's great-grandson, Will Gow, 35, from Ashford, Kent, who is related to Shackleton by marriage, David Cornell, 38, from Andover, Hampshire, who is the great-grandson of Jameson Boyd-Adams, Shackleton's number two on the Nimrod expedition, and Henry Adams, 33, from Snape, Suffolk, another great-grandson of Boyd-Adams.
Mr Worsley said: "One of the interesting things about this team is we don't really know each other. This is a selection from a gene pool so the team dynamics become very interesting."
Mr Worsley, Mr Gow and Mr Adams will set out from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf at exactly 10am on October 29, as Shackleton and his team did a century earlier.
They will attempt to keep to the pace set by the Antarctic pioneers, joining their other three team members for the final push to the Pole.
Mr Gow said: "I thought it would be good to celebrate the centenary of one of the greatest journeys known to man, to fulfil the Nimrod trip and leave a legacy embodying Shackleton's spirit."
As well as completing Shackleton's "unfinished business", the new adventurers will survey the effects of global warming by comparing what they see with the explorer's journals.
Mr Worsley said: "Shackleton set off on October 29 across the frozen sea.
"We can't do that now because on October 29 2008, that will be broken-up ice and sea - in 100 years, that little area is no longer accessible."
The expedition is also being used to launch a £10 million Shackleton Foundation, which will fund projects that embody the adventurer's spirit and hunger for "calculated risk".
For more information on the expedition visit www.shackletoncentenary.org or go to www.justgiving.com/shackletonfoundation to donate money to the Shackleton Foundation.