I promised last week that we were looking forward to sharing some big news. Well the moment has arrived!
The Shackleton Banjo is going to the South Pole!
We are thrilled to announce that The Great British Banjo Company has become official partner of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition 2014 (ITACE 2014), which sets off a year from now to traverse the Antarctic continent by Sir Ernest Shackleton's planned route.
The ITACE 2014 team will become the first Polar explorers to complete Shackleton's route. And what's more they are taking with them a very special 'extreme endurance' version of The Shackleton banjo (currently called the Shackleton E100).
In fact the Shackleton E100 model will be the first banjo ever to be played at the South Pole (or indeed any Pole come to that).
As Polar enthusiasts will know 2014 will mark 100 years since Sir Ernest Shackleton and his extraordinary team set out on one of the most ambitious polar journeys ever attempted.
In 1914, as war clouds gathered over Europe, Shackleton was laying plans for a truly epic expedition; the first ever trek across the Antarctic continent, travelling 1800 miles from sea to sea.
He intended to sail through the uncharted waters of the Weddell Sea to Vahsel Bay before trekking by foot towards the geographic South Pole. From there his team would proceed towards the Ross Sea, destined for a rendezvous with a second ship and a triumphant return home.
Unfinished Antarctic business
Unfortunately disaster struck and Shackleton’s ship Endurance was crushed by sea ice leaving his team stranded in the freezing wilderness. By saving the lives of all 28 of his men, Shackleton’s leadership and survival skills have become the stuff of legend, but his intended course across the Antarctic continent remains uncompleted. Until now.
You might say the ITACE 2014 team are going to settle some unfinished business with the Antarctic.
You will all know by now that our Shackleton Banjo project was inspired by the role that a banjo played on the 1914 expedition. When the Endurance had to be abandoned and all hands had to dispose of practically all their possessions, Shackleton allowed the expedition's meteorologist Leonard Hussey to keep his banjo, declaring: "We must have that banjo: it's vital mental medicine".
Shackleton knew that the banjo would provide morale-boosting music during the many months of hardship that lay ahead.
So Hussey's banjo never made it to the South Pole (although it did make it safely home and is now in the National Maritime Museum, its skin signed by Shackleton and many members of his crew).
So you might also say that there is unfinished banjo business in the Antarctic too: and our Shackleton E100 is going to finish it!
There is so much more to tell you about this story, not least about the amazing team of adventurers who make up ITACE 2014, but also about the limited edition of one hundred Shackleton E100 'extreme Polar' banjos that we will make available in 2014 (one of which will be going to the South Pole). A little bit of history in the making!
We will be donating funds to ITACE 2014 and we will be encouraging anyone who has an interest in Polar adventure and the Shackleton legacy to do so too. More details to follow.
Meanwhile: please do check out the ITACE 2014 adventure at their website www.south2014.com