A man from Falmouth is among a team of Naval adventurers who are embarking on the journey of a lifetime that will test their grit, determination and leadership as they follow in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Departing in mid January, 11 participants from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines will undertake a six week expedition to the Antarctic and South Georgia – a century after Shackleton’s extraordinary recovery from the Weddell Sea.

The aim of Exercise Antarctic Endurance (AE16) is to inspire a new generation of sailors and marines to seek adventure but will also provide the Navy and Ministry of Defence with research into team dynamics and leadership.

On the team is Royal Navy Sub Lieutenant Alex Saunders, from Falmouth, a 25-year-old who is nearing the end of his young officer training as a warfare officer. He said: “I grew up reading Ranulph Fiennes’ accounts of Antarctica during the course of the Transglobe Expedition and this lead to a real fascination with the continent and a desire to experience the conditions.

“What I’m really looking forward to is the opportunity to test both my physical and mental limits, while learning something about teamwork, leadership and all-important team bonding with a fantastic group in a challenging environment.”

The journey will begin and end in the Falklands having travelled through the Weddell Sea, landed on the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, and Elephant Island, before sending a team overland from King Haakon Bay to Stromness, in South Georgia – the same route travelled by Shackleton and his companions 100 years ago.

Along with research into team dynamics and leadership, data will also be collected on climate, environment and hydrography on behalf of British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge and Plymouth Universities and the UK Hydrographic Office.

The 11 service participants are made up of qualified and experienced sailors and mountaineers, with six of them in the first five years of their careers. S/Lt Saunders is one of those at the start of their career having only been in the service for two years after obtaining a degree in zoology at the University of Exeter.

Having previously worked as a marine biologist and diving instructor, Alex is also a keen rugby player, freediver and sea kayaker. Now assigned to the Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship, HMS Protector, he added: “Despite serving on HMS Protector I haven’t yet made it to Antarctica and had already left the ship which is now enroute to Antarctica.

“This expedition is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime experience, plus, it will give me something to talk about if I ever meet Brian Blessed, who is an inspirational figure of mine.”

More information about the AE16 can be found at http://www.antarcticendurance.co.uk/.