Scientists have discovered the lost ship of Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton 107 years after it sank, at the bottom of the Weddell Sea
In the centenary year of his death, and on the anniversary of the day of his funeral, Shackleton’s, lost vessel, The Endurance, was found 3km down at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, in the northern most part of mainland Antartica.
In 1915 the ship was crushed by sea-ice and sank, forcing Shackleton and his men to escape the boat on foot and in small boats. To this day, the ship had never been found and it was one of the 20th century’s greatest historical mysteries and challenges, considering the harsh conditions of where it had disappeared.
The Endurance sank during Shackleton’s ambitious Imperial Trans-Antarctic, or Endurance Expedition, which set off in 1914. However, when the ship was crushed, he was forced to abandon his original goal and concentrate on getting his men home safely. As part of the rescue mission Shackleton himself took a small lifeboat out on the ferocious seas to find help. And it paid off, all of his men were brought to safety.
Despite being under 10,000 feet of water for over a hundred years, scientists were amazed to discover that the ship was in remarkable condition. The Endurance was found upright and intact with its name still clearly visible on the stern.
In fact, the ship looks miraculously similar to when it was photographed for the last time by Shackleton’s filmmaker, Frank Hurley, who was a part of the expedition, in 1915. The last photographs of the ship show the masts down and the rigging tangled, but the hull is mostly intact. This was what the scientists discovered when they found the ship on the seabed, with only some extra damage evident on the bow, from where the sinking ship hit the seafloor. The submarines also managed to spy some boots and crockery belonging to the men who had been forced to abandon it.
The project to find the lost ship was led by The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. The mission’s leader, Dr John Sears, commented ‘we have successfully completed the world’s most difficult shipwreck search, battling constantly shifting sea-ice, blizzards, and temperatures dropping down to -18C. We have achieved what many people said was impossible. ”
The wreck itself is a designated monument under the international Antarctic Treaty, so it must not be disturbed in any way and no physical artefacts have been brought to the surface.
The Alguhas, the icebreaker used to find the shipwreck, departed the site on Tuesday with the intention of calling into the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia, where Shackleton is buried to pay ‘respects to The Boss’, on its way home to South Africa.
Read more about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his enduring legacy in a piece written by Camilla Nichol, CEO of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, in the April/May 2022 issue of Discover Britain, out on 11 March.