Famed explorer’s ship found in Antarctica 106 years after sinking

Photo: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/National Geographic Society

The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust has confirmed that the Endurance22 Expedition has located the wreck of Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship that has not been seen since it was crushed by ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica in 1915.

One hundred years after Shackleton’s death, Endurance was found at a depth of 3,008 metres in the Weddell Sea, within the search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town, and approximately four miles (6.4 kilometres) south of the position originally recorded by the ship’s captain, Frank Worsley.

The team worked from the South African polar research and logistics vessel SA Agulhas II and used hybrid unmanned underwater search vehicles.

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 neither be touched nor disturbed in any way.

It was Sir Ernest Shackleton’s intent to achieve the first land crossing of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea via the South Pole to the Ross Sea. The Ross Sea Party, which was landed at Hut Point on Ross Island, had the task of laying supply dumps for Shackleton’s crossing party, and achieved its objective, but at the cost of three lives lost.

In the Weddell Sea, Endurance never reached land and became trapped in the dense pack ice and the 28 men on board eventually had no choice but to abandon ship.

After months spent in makeshift camps on the ice floes drifting northwards, the party took to the lifeboats to reach the uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton and five others then made an extraordinary 800-mile (1,300-kilometre) open-boat journey in the lifeboat James Caird to reach South Georgia.

Shackleton and two others then crossed the mountainous island to the whaling station at Stromness. From there, he was eventually able to mount a rescue of the men waiting on Elephant Island and bring them home without loss of life.

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