Shackleton's lost ship Endurance is found 107 years after sinking

Shackleton’s lost ship is FOUND: Endurance is discovered at the bottom of Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, 107 years after it sank – and it’s still in remarkable condition

  • Endurance has been found 107 years after it became trapped in sea ice and sank off the coast of Antarctica
  • Sir Ernest Shackleton’s wooden ship had not been seen since it sank in Weddell Sea, Southern Ocean in 1915
  • The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust said Endurance was discovered at a depth of 9,868 feet (3,008 metres)

The wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance has been found 107 years after it became trapped in sea ice and sank off the coast of Antarctica.

The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust said wooden ship, which has not been seen since it went down in the Weddell Sea in 1915, was found at a depth of 3,008 metres (9,868 feet). 

The Endurance22 Expedition had set off from Cape Town, South Africa in February this year, a month after the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest’s death on a mission to locate it. 

Endurance was found approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by the ship’s captain Frank Worsley, but within the search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town.

Back in 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out to achieve the first land crossing of Antarctica, but Endurance did not reach land and became trapped in dense pack ice, forcing the 28 men on board to eventually abandon ship.  

Photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust of the stern of the wreck of Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship which has not been seen since it was crushed by the ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915

The taffrail, ship’s wheel and aft well deck on the wreck of Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, which has been found 100 years after Shackleton’s death

 

The standard bow on the wreck of Endurance, which was found at a depth of 9,868 feet (3,008 metres) in the Weddell Sea, within the search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town

The team worked from the South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II, assisted by non-intrusive underwater search robots. 

The wreck is protected as a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, ensuring that whilst the wreck is being surveyed and filmed it will not be touched or disturbed in any way, according to the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. 

The expedition’s director of exploration said footage of Endurance showed it to be intact and ‘by far the finest wooden shipwreck’ he has seen. 

‘We are overwhelmed by our good fortune in having located and captured images of Endurance,’ said Mensun Bound, maritime archaeologist and director of the exploration. 

‘It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation. You can even see Endurance arced across the stern, directly below the taffrail.

‘This is a milestone in polar history.’

Dr John Shears, the expedition leader, said his team, which was accompanied by historian Dan Snow, had made ‘polar history’ by completing what he called ‘the world’s most challenging shipwreck search’.

The ship was found approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by Captain Worsley. Pictured is the the South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II

Photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust of the South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II, on an expidition to find the wreck of Endurance

Bird’s eye view shot, taken by drone, of the South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II, on the expedition surrounded by ice

Carrying an expedition crew of 28 men, the 144-foot-long Endurance was a three-masted schooner barque sturdily built for operations in polar waters. Pictured: the Endurance, stuck in pack ice, listing heavily to port

Endurance was one of two ships used by the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914–1917, which hoped to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic. Pictured: a photograph of the vessel stuck in pack ice taken in the October of 1915, a few weeks before she sank

He said: ‘In addition, we have undertaken important scientific research in a part of the world that directly affects the global climate and environment.

‘We have also conducted an unprecedented educational outreach programme, with live broadcasting from on board, allowing new generations from around the world to engage with Endurance22 and become inspired by the amazing stories of polar exploration, and what human beings can achieve and the obstacles they can overcome when they work together.’

Endurance was one of two ships used by the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914–1917, which hoped to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic.

Carrying an expedition crew of 28 men, the 144-foot-long Endurance was a three-masted schooner barque sturdily built for operations in polar waters.

Aiming to land at Vahsel Bay, the vessel became stuck in pack ice on the Weddell Sea on January 18, 1915 — where she and her crew would remain for many months.

In late October, however, a drop in temperature from 42°F to -14°F saw the ice pack  begin to steadily crush the Endurance, which finally sank on November 21, 1915.

The crew made its way across the ice to Elephant Island, where most remained while Shackleton and five others sailed off in an open boat to South Georgia to get help.

On board the steam tug Yelcho — on loan to him from the Chilean Navy — Shackleton was able to return to rescue the rest of his crew on August 30, 1916.  

Sir Ernest Shackleton: Famed British Antarctic adventurer

Sir Ernest Shackleton during the 1908 expedition to Antarctica

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton  was a British Antarctic explorer who led three expeditions to the frozen continent. 

He was at the heart of a period in history that later came to be known as the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’.

Born in Ireland, Shackleton moved to London with his family when he was 10 and first experienced polar climates as an officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery expedition of 1901–1904.

He was sent home early from that expedition after work experiencing poor health that had been ascribed to scurvy. New studies suggest he had beriberi. 

During the Nimrod expedition of 1907–1909, Shackleton and his companions created a new recorded of farthest south latitude at 88 degrees south. 

Disaster struck his next expedition, the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–1917, when the ship, the Endurance, became trapped in pack ice.

The crew were able to escape by launching lifeboats and reaching nearby islands, travelling through stormy oceans for 830 miles.

He returned to the Antarctic for one final time in 1921 with the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition, but died of a heart attack on January 5, 1922, while his ship was moored in South Georgia. 

While Shackleton is best known for his exploration, his legacy is also one of enabling a considerable amount of scientific research.

 His expeditions helped produce comprehensive scientific and geographical surveys — among which were the first surveys of Antarctica’s interior and the effective location of the Magnetic South Pole.

‘Shackleton is an iconic figure of Antarctic history with the most incredible legacy of courage and endeavour,’ noted the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s CEO, Camilla Nichol.

‘But we sometimes overlook the contribution his expeditions made to science.

‘To this day Antarctica is an essential barometer for climate change at the heart of climate science. 

‘We preserve Shackleton’s legacy to inspire the next generation of pioneering scientists and explorers.’

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