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Jasper Shackleton is related to Sir Ernest Shackleton, and has the sea and small open boats in his blood. In 1989 he undertook what can be described as a highly dangerous 4,500 mile voyage through the coral reefs and Open Ocean of the South Pacific.
The idea was born in 1987, while Jasper was visiting the remote Pitcairn Island - the island hideout of Fletcher Christian and The Bounty mutineers.
His scheme was to retrace the voyage of Captain William Bligh after he and his supporters had been cast adrift in an open-boat. Bligh, together with seventeen men, sailed their over-loaded launch 3,600 miles from Tofua to Timor, with barely sufficient food and water to sustain life.
As a tribute to Bligh and to mark the bi-centenary of his outstanding achievement, Jasper Shackleton resolved to make an identical voyage in a replica twenty-three foot open-boat using only traditional navigation methods. On his return home from Pitcairn Jasper had a little less than two years to prepare …
Never having built a boat before, and with only limited sailing experience, Jasper set to work, and exactly 200 years to the day after Bligh was cast adrift, Jasper’s boat, the Elizabeth Bligh, complete with crew, were standing off Tofua, and the perilous voyage began…
The story is dramatic and includes a member of his crew developing acute appendicitis while at sea - radio failure hindered any emergency assistance, and coral infested waters barred the route to the nearest and most rudimentary of hospital facilities. Now short-handed, Jasper only narrowly avoided wrecking his boat at night on a remote coral reef in the Fiji Islands.
Once clear of the coral the constant risk of capsize in the open ocean prevailed - as with Bligh’s, Jasper’s boat had no self-righting capability: death of the crew through drowning or shark attack would surely have been the result.
With storms and high winds, and alone hundreds of miles out in the ocean, vast Pacific rollers battered the tiny craft…...sometimes followed by roasting tropical calms – so would the drinking water and provisions last the duration, as shipping was very scarce in that part of the Pacific? The story tells of sea snakes in the Timor Sea; of navigation by sextant observation of the sun and stars - Elizabeth Bligh carried no Global Positioning System; of gear failure; hallucinations; exhaustion; crew stresses; deportation; some temporary crew dejection; some sheer good fortune; and then finally, finally and against the odds, ‘Sweet Success’. (150 photographs illustrate the presentation).
Jasper’s talk includes illuminating insights into Bligh – insights more thought-provoking than anything portrayed by Hollywood. Jasper also welcomes a lively Questions session, where his positive attitude to this project and to life generally rubs off on listeners. Audiences have sometimes requested a second and even a third presentation.
Despite little pro-active PR at the time, the expedition was featured in local and national media including The Independent, Times and Express, BBC and ITV, Intrepid magazine and Far Eastern press. Even more recently, in 2005, Le Monde picked up the story and ran a full 2-page feature on it.
Jasper threads his detailed understanding of ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’ into his talk – it’s a subject actually suitable for a talk in its own right. In addition he is knowledgeable on other less known Pacific Ocean maritime history, and is naturally well versed with the Endurance Expedition and Sir Ernest Shackleton; however he urges that the initial presentation is on his own voyage.
Jasper’s veteran boat the ‘Elizabeth Bligh’ is now moored at Weymouth, Dorset and he currently has a number of exciting new maritime projects in the planning stage scheduled for 2007/08. “Raising funds is an expedition in itself, but it is always worthwhile when one is then able to taste the real thing” says Shackleton.
“I have hired many motivational speakers for conferences over the years, but I wish I had known earlier of Jasper. His success used, and his talk demonstrates, all the key tenets of Leadership – including Vision, Target-setting, Planning, Determination, Commitment, Accountability, Persuasion, Flexibility, Team-work, Grit, Follow-through and an Iron Will to Succeed – and yet he had had no formal training in any of these. Moreover, the talk inspires and is highly entertaining”.
John Grantham - Ex-Marketing Director of Sellotape