Our boat is coming together nicely. The boys and girls at the International Boatbuilding Training College in Lowestoft are in full swing, lofting the profile of the boat, cutting timber and shaping the stem and stern posts. In a few months time we will have a recognizable shape; something a bit more 'boat shaped' awaiting planking and fittings.
The lead-up to building a replica of such a historical vessel has been one of intrigue and in-depth research. Last October (2014) we began to ask ourselves why did Shackleton and Worsley purchase a third lifeboat for the Endurance? Anyone who knows the story of this famous vessel will know that Worsley ordered a new lifeboat to his specification; a slightly lighter lifeboat than that required by the old Board of Trade regulations.
After months of research we believe that changes in maritime safety regulations were ultimately the reason why Shackleton and Worsley purchased the James Caird. The introduction of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention in February 1914 gave new legal safety requirements to all owners and operators of merchant shipping. Sir Ernest Shackleton was one of the expert advisors to give testimony to the British Wreck Commissioners Inquiry into the Titanic Disaster (1912).
For the first time in history the marine safety regulations stated in SOLAS, Chapter VI, Article 40:
“At no moment of its voyage may a ship have on board a total number of persons than that for whom accommodation is provided in lifeboats on board”.
The two ships' cutters which were bought with the Endurance (later to be named the Stancomb Wills and Dudley Docker) were not adequate enough to accommodate the complete crew of the Endurance, the cubic capacity of each cutter fell short of what was required in accordance with the new regulations.
Writers in the past have suggested that the James Caird was a lifeboat bought on impulse by Captain Worsley. As it happens, it was in fact a requirement by law and we believe we are the first people to make that link. The best equipped polar expedition of the day was also one of most safety conscious. Shackleton and Worsley would eventually pick the strongest and biggest lifeboat to sail across the Southern Ocean, the only relic of the expedition which survives to this day - true testament to the quality of workmanship invested in her timber, and the safety regulations which Sir Ernest Shackleton helped shape.