ACTIPH Water founder and seven times Guinness World record holder, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, is attempting a record-breaking Antarctic row in honour of Harry McNish, the Glaswegian carpenter of Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance voyage, who Jamie believes was wrongly denied a Polar Medal. Incredibly, Douglas will be embarking on this treacherous adventure, just 5 months after having had open heart surgery.
On January 10th 2023 the crew will begin their intrepid journey, and row 950 miles unassisted and without wind power following the route that Shackleton’s James Caird boat took from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Named The Harry McNish Row, the voyage will follow the route sailed by the James Caird which was built by Harry McNish and which ultimately saved Shackleton and his crew after their main expedition ship, the Endurance, was sunk by pack ice in October 1915. The Scotia Sea is considered the most dangerous ocean crossing in the world, extending from Drake Passage to South Georgia.
The relationship between Shackleton and the outspoken McNish was difficult and Shackleton awarded almost all of the team the Polar Medal excluding McNish. Believing this to be a great injustice, Jamie is calling out for the Polar Medal to be awarded to Harry McNish’s family posthumously.
Jamie explained, “None of the crew would have made it back if it was not for Harry McNish. Not only did he build the boat that saved the whole crew with the most limited of tools, but he created the crampons for Shackleton, Crean and Worsley to cross the mountains of South Georgia to the whaling station on the other side.”
“Without McNish speaking up to Shackleton on the pack ice the lifeboat hulls would have been irreparably damaged. He was portrayed as a mutineer but was the real hero.”Jamie Douglas
Jamie and his crew are yet again attempting to enter the history books with a world first, after their last expedition in 2019 which saw them row 750 miles from Cape Horn in South America to mainland Antarctica across Drake Passage. This voyage, which will take them from Antarctica to South Georgia is equally as treacherous. No one has rowed this stretch of water before.
Jamie is the only British member of a team of six who will row in 90-minute shifts around the clock, with little to no sleep for 24 hours a day for around three weeks in cold to freezing conditions. On completion of the row, the crew will have scooped 3 world first records – first to row from the Antarctic continent, first to row the Scotia Sea by human power alone and first to row the Southern Ocean from South to North.
What might seem like an impossible feat for most, will be all the more challenging for Jamie, who is recovering from open heart surgery which he underwent in August 2022. Feeling unwell during early 2022, Jamie was shocked to discover that he had a leaking aortic valve, a hereditary condition requiring immediate open heart surgery to replace the aortic valve in his heart. In August 2022, he underwent an operation at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary. Jamie plans to raise over £100,000 for the British Heart Foundation during his expedition in honour of his experience and the care and support he received.
Jamie said, “When I was a boy I read Endurance about Shackleton’s rescue voyage when they sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia in a small lifeboat and I couldn’t believe the hardship they went through. I’m excited to be going on this adventure in memory of Harry McNish. We have named our expedition boat ‘Mrs Chippy’ after his cat who accompanied the Endurance.
“It was a shock to me when I discovered the issue with my heart and that I needed immediate open heart surgery. I felt as if my life had been turned upside down, however, it turned out to be the biggest blessing of my life. The operation makes you feel like you have been hit by a bus and the recovery takes a long time but I feel so much better now and my fitness levels are increasing. I’m ready to take on the challenge and am incredibly honoured to be rowing on behalf of Harry McNish, who I believe ultimately saved Shackleton’s crew from disaster.”
John McNish, Harry McNish’s great nephew said, “Our family are incredibly touched that Jamie is rowing the treacherous seas of the Antarctic which my great uncle sailed in the early 1900s and that the journey will be made in honour of him. Our family is incredibly proud of my great uncle, and we have always believed it to be very unjust that Chippy wasn’t given the Polar Medal. It is very exciting that this expedition, The Harry McNish Row, will highlight just how brave and courageous my great uncle was.”
Jamie will be leaving the UK on January 2nd 2023 from Edinburgh Airport and will meet his crew in Ushuaia, Argentina. They will set off from Antarctica on January 12th and aim to arrive in South Georgia 16-20 days later.
Captaining Mrs Chippy is Icelandic Fiann Paul, the world’s most record-breaking explorer and ocean rower. He has led some of the world’s most challenging and record-breaking expeditions to international acclaim. He is the first person to achieve the Ocean Explorers Grand Slam – completing open water crossing on all five oceans using human-powered vessels. Fiann has broken the Guinness rowing speed record on the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Fiann holds the world’s highest number of performance-based Guinness World Records ever achieved within a single athletic discipline. He’s the fastest ocean rower and was captain of the only three successful human-powered pioneering expeditions into the open-waters of both polar regions.
Icelandic explorer and Captain of The Harry McNish Row, Fiann Paul, said and the world’s most record breaking explorer and ocean rower said, “I am extremely excited about this expedition and about making yet more historic record breaking achievements. As of 2022 I have been captain of the only three successful human-powered pioneering expeditions into the open waters of both polar regions.
“The Harry McNish Row will lead us in to the Scotia Sea which has never been rowed before. The most treacherous ocean in the world, the Scotia Sea will be an incredible challenge, and it is fitting that my last ever expedition row will take place there.”
Other members of the team include Austrian Lisa Farthofer who will be the first woman to have ever rowed in the Antarctic, American Mike Matson and Brian Krauskopf who holds world records for rowing the Atlantic, and Bulgarian Stefan Ivanov who rowed the Atlantic and has won awards for completing endurance events.
The expedition can be followed online with updates on social media @actiphwater.
To donate to Jamie’s British Heart Foundation cause please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/page/jamie-row-challenge