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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 14 August 2022

This Irish army officer is recreating Ernest Shackleton's legendary Antarctic expedition

Sinéad Hunt is setting off on the trip of a lifetime in two weeks.

Sinéad Hunt joined the Defence Forces, like her father and grandfather before her, through its officer cadetship training programme.
Sinéad Hunt joined the Defence Forces, like her father and grandfather before her, through its officer cadetship training programme.

AN IRISH ARMY officer is to follow in the steps of Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton when she embarks on a two-week trans-Antarctic trek in two weeks’ time.

Lieutenant Sinéad Hunt, from Dublin, was one of three young adults selected to take part in the Inspiring Explorers Expedition by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, an organisation that works to promote the legacy of Antarctic explorers.

Adventurers Tom MacTavish and James Blake from New Zealand will be joining her on the trip, which has been organised to mark the centenary of Shackleton’s 1915 “Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition”.

But the group is hoping to have a less eventful crossing than Shackleton’s crew, which had to abandon its sinking ship after running into ice in the Weddell Sea.

The crew lived for months on the floating ice before making the voyage to the sub-Antarctic Elephant Island.

From there Shackleton, his fellow Irish man Tom Crean and four others set off in an open-top lifeboat across the open seas to South Georgia, hundreds of miles away.

There they were able to get assistance from a whaling station after crossing the region’s icy mountains.

Now, some 100 years later, Hunt and her two fellow explorers are to retrace that trip, flying to Port Stanley in the Falkands before travelling aboard the Vavilov expedition ship to King Haakon Bay, South Georgia.

From there, the group plans to disembark and cross South Georgia to Stromness, on skis where possible, before sailing to Ushuaia, Argentina.

They began the first of two weeks of training in New Zealand on Monday and will leave for the first stretch of the expedition on 17 October.

12079693_913106962116589_4990437323602779826_n Sinéad Hunt at the South Pole Inn in Kerry, a pub ran by explorer Tom Crean in his retirement. Source: Antarctic Heritage Trust


Hunt, an army lieutenant since 2011, is no stranger to adventure, having climbed all over Ireland during her university years and skied in the Alps on yearly winter breaks.

But this next trip is one like no other, she tells

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“I’ve always been especially interested in what [Tom] Crean has done, because of my own interest in travel and mountaineering,” she says.

That was partly why I was chosen [to do the trip], because of that Irish connection.

Since being accepted onto the expedition team two months ago, Hunt has been training on mountains three times a week, mainly in Wicklow, and rock climbing as often as possible.

In New Zealand, though, the team’s rigorous training programme is focusing on skiing.

“We’re hoping to do the crossing [of South Georgia] on skis, but the weather can be unpredictable in the south of the island,” she says.

We’ve been told to expect storms and blizzards.

You can follow Sinéad’s progress on the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Facebook page here

Read: Here’s what Ernest Shackleton and his crew were having for dinner, inching through the ice 101 years ago

In pictures: Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole

About the author:

Catherine Healy

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