Shackleton’s iconic Antarctic wreck finally found in world’s ‘worst sea’

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have discovered one of history’s most famous shipwrecks, Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance, deep in an icy sea off the coast of Antarctica more than a century after it sank, they announced Wednesday.

Endurance” was discovered at a depth of 3,008 meters (9,869 feet) in the Weddell Sea, about six kilometers (four miles) from where it was slowly crushed by pack ice in 1915.

Shackleton entered the legends of expeditions thanks to the epic escape that he and his 27 companions made on foot and in boats.

We are thrilled that we were lucky enough to find and capture Endurance, said Mansoon Bound, the expedition’s director of research.

“This is by far the most beautiful wooden wreck I’ve ever seen. It stands upright, holds up well on the seabed, is intact and in excellent condition. You can even see the ‘Endurance’ sign on the stern,” he said. in your statement.

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The expedition, organized by the Falkland Islands Maritime Heritage Trust, left Cape Town on February 5 on a South African icebreaker, hoping to find the Endurance before the end of summer in the southern hemisphere.

As part of Shackleton’s Imperial Transantarctic Expedition from 1914-1917, the crew of the Hardy was to make the first overland crossing of Antarctica. But their three-masted sailboat fell victim to the rough Weddell Sea.

East of the Larsen Ice Shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula, in January 1915, a wooden ship was caught in pack ice. It gradually collapsed and sank after 10 months.

The worst sea in the world

The crew first camped on the sea ice, drifting north until the ice broke, then boarded the lifeboats. First they sailed to Elephant Island, a gloomy and treeless place where most of the people were disembarked and camped.

Using only a sextant to navigate, Shackleton set out with five other men in the strongest and most seaworthy boat on a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) voyage to South Georgia, a British colony where a whaling station was located.

Shackletons iconic Antarctic wreck finally found in worlds worst sea 3

The 17-day trek in a 6.9-meter (22.4-foot) open boat, overcoming mountainous seas and low temperatures, is often considered one of the most extraordinary achievements in the history of navigation.

All 28 members of the expedition survived.

Modern explorers have used underwater drones to search for and film a shipwreck in the merciless Weddell Sea. Its churning current supports a mass of thick sea ice that can challenge even modern icebreakers.

Shackleton himself described the sinking site as “the worst part of the worst sea in the world.” This region remains one of the most difficult parts of the ocean to navigate. “This was the most complex underwater project ever undertaken,” said Nico Vincent, the mission’s underwater project manager.

Like the Titanic

Underwater drones captured stunningly clear images of the 44-meter (144-foot) ship. Surprisingly, the helm remained intact after being submerged for more than a century, and the gear was piled on the taffra, as if Shackleton’s crew had just left it.

Shackletons iconic Antarctic wreck finally found in worlds worst sea 4

The logs of the ship, although damaged by the ice chips that had sunk in, still held together. The mast broke in two on the deck, and the portholes hinted at what mysteries might still lurk within.

Sea anemones, sponges, and other small forms of ocean life have made their homes on the wreckage, but do not appear to have damaged it. “Just seeing photos of this ship on the seafloor is like discovering the Titanic,” said Adrian Glover, a deep-sea biologist at Britain’s Natural History Museum.

“It’s not a forgiving place, as Shackleton and others found out,” he told AFP. “The sea ice there can get very thick, very quickly, and crush a ship, or at least stop its progress.”

A previous mission in 2019 failed to find the Endurance, the South African Ministry of the Environment, which owns the icebreaker, said. According to international law, the wreck is protected as a historical object. Researchers were allowed to film and scan the ship, but not to touch it – meaning no artifacts could be brought to the surface.

The team used underwater search drones, known as Sabertooths, built by Saab, to descend under the ice to the farthest depths of the Weddell Sea. During the expedition, the scientists also investigated climate change, documenting ice drifts and weather patterns.

Stefanie Arndt, a sea ice researcher at Germany‘s Alfred Wegener Institute, said on Twitter that she was returning with 630 ice and snow samples. “An incredible number,” she said. The team now has an 11-day journey back to the port of Cape Town.

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