Chris PhilpotChris Philpot

An Essex farmer is following in the footsteps of heroic explorer Ernest Shackleton by trekking across Antarctica in the hope of reaching the South Pole.

Chris Philpot, a former NFU Chelmsford branch chairman, has joined a group of 12 trekkers – among them explorer David Hempleman-Adams and former SAS sergeant turned author Andy McNab.

See also: Tractor arrives in Artarctica for South Pole expedition

The 2015 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition also includes relatives of geologist Sir James Wordie, who was a key figure on Shackleton’s famous 1914 expedition.

Shackleton’s expedition saw his ship, the Endurance, become icebound during the winter of 1915. The vessel was crushed and sank – stranding its crew on the ice, which continued to drift.

The Endurance trapped in ice

The Endurance trapped in ice. © TS/Keystone USA/Rex Shutterstock

Following the loss of the ship, the crew of the Endurance spent five days travelling across the sea in lifeboats landing at Elephant Island, 346 miles from where their vessel had sunk.

From Elephant Island, Shackleton and five others set off on a 800-mile open-boat journey to reach help from whaling stations based on South Georgia – leaving the rest of the expedition behind.

Despite facing hurricane-force winds, Shackleton’s contingent managed to reach the unoccupied southern shore of the island, from there he and two others attempted a land crossing to reach help – leaving the three other crew members behind 

After a 32 mile trek, Shackleton reached a whaling station and sent a boat to pick up the three men he had left behind on the other side of South Georgia, and then set to work rescuing the rest of the expedition from Elephant Island.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges, not one member of the expedition died and the remaining men from the Endurance were successfully rescued in August 1916.

Ernest Shackleton

© Associated Newspapers/Daily Mail/Rex Shutterstock

The 2015 expedition aims to follow some of the route that Shackleton and his team would have taken in November 1915 had the Endurance not become trapped in the ice.

Mr Philpot’s group aim to ski the last 100 nautical miles (115 miles) to the South Pole.

“It was a spur of the moment decision to join the group which I made very recently and I am looking forwarding to testing myself to my absolute limit,” he said.

“I’ll also be raising money for two very worthy causes along the way – Essex Air Ambulance and Breast Cancer Now. It will certainly be an adventure.”

The expedition left England on Wednesday (25 November).

The team aim to arrive at the South Pole on 15 December after ski-trekking the 100 nautical miles at 8,000ft in temperatures as low as -40C pulling all their supplies by sledge.

The expedition is the brainchild of Alice Holmes, the granddaughter of Sir James Wordie.

She said: “This completes some unfinished family business, but is also a way to understand the hardships and remember the heroism of those who set out 100 years ago.”

Donations can be made via Mr Philpot’s two JustGiving pages. One JustGiving page collects money for Essex Air Ambulance while the other is dedicated to collecting for Breast Cancer Now.