Returning Antarctic explorer enjoys standing shower after three weeks on sailboat

A fascinating world of ice awaited a university student from Aberfeldy on his first major sailing trip aboard a tall ship in Antarctica.

Alex Maciver (18) missed New Year’s Eve in Perthshire while aboard the Bark Europa, representing the 17th Perthshire (Aberfeldy) Scouts, on ReQuest2021.

Explorers of the Shakleton/Rowett Expedition of 1921-22 traveled to Antarctica on a ship called Quest. They took a small contingent of scouts with them.

The recent sea voyage of the ReQuest2021 project was organized by Alan Noake of the Kent Scouts, who dreamed of recreating elements of Ernest Shakleton’s historic voyage to Antarctica 100 years earlier.

Alex had the good fortune to participate in the mission to carry out geographical research in the most remote region of the world.



Alex Maciver on a shore visit to explore his cold environment in Antarctica

Alex had to be tough to follow in Shakleton’s footsteps.



Coping with daily life on the Bark Europa sailing yacht was a challenge in itself for Perthshire lad Alex Maciver
Coping with daily life on the Bark Europa sailing yacht was a challenge in itself for Perthshire lad Alex Maciver

After flying for the first time to Buenos Aires in Argentina on Boxing Day, nine other Scouts from the UK along with Alex and two adult leaders boarded the huge three-masted vessel which has a permanent trained crew to see novices correctly.

Alex was missing for three unforgettable weeks during which he suffered seasickness, bumps and bruises as he navigated the deck.

He dove in 0.1°C water and saw several whales and penguins.

Alex said one of the most poignant moments of her trip was her arrival at Port Lockroy, a colony that has Britain’s only Antarctic post office.



Alex Maciver (back row, third from right) and his ReQuest2021 group in Port Lockroy, founded in 1943 by James Marr, one of the first Shackleton Scouts
Alex Maciver (back row, third from right) and his ReQuest2021 group in Port Lockroy, founded in 1943 by James Marr, one of the first Shackleton Scouts

Port Lockroy was founded in 1943 by James Marr who was one of Shackleton’s first scouts.

“It was a particularly poignant landing for the group.”



Alex approached a chinstrap penguin
Alex approached a chinstrap penguin

He got close to many different species of penguins, took ice samples and conducted research experiments.

When he returned home to Aberfeldy last week, he brought photographs, stories – and lots of dirty laundry.

The Heriot-Watt University physics student said one thing he missed on his travels was Irn Bru. The other thing was his pets, two dogs and a cat. Alex joked that it was a relief to be able to stand up in a shower – the washing situation on board the Bark Europa was very cramped.

His worst accident was when the ship heeled over and a heavy pair of binoculars on a rack above his berth fell on his head.

Hoisting the sails and dragging the ropes hurt his back.

“Navigating the wild Drake Passage was a great experience,” he recalls. “I think there was only one of us who didn’t get seasick.”

A moment of madness was when the sailors went for a very quick dip in the almost freezing sea.

“The temperature was 0.1°C. It was just seconds, it was freezing cold.”

According to Alex, the most anticipated moment was when the boat arrived in the port of Orne, the first land point after the difficult four-day crossing of the Drake Passage.

The cove was surrounded by the most massive mountains covered in snow and it was the first time ReQuest had set foot on the continent of Antarctica.



Alex Maciver (right) sits with shipmates during a shore visit
Alex Maciver (right) sits with shipmates during a shore visit

On January 23, the ten-man team sailed up the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia, Argentina.

Three weeks at sea, after £10,000 fundraising, was ‘one hundred per cent worth
this”.

Alex said “you couldn’t put a price on it” remembering the great time he had.

And back on dry land, the ReQuest2021 group are still good friends.

“I think like-minded people tend to come together and we all really bonded as a team,” he concluded.

The lasting aspect of the project is the legacy, where Alex and the rest of the team now share their experience and encourage other young people to undertake their own projects.

● A JustGiving page launched by Kent Scouts hopes to raise £100,000 to make future ReQuest projects possible. Visit https://bit.ly/32XgQu0

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