The wreck of Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance ship has been found, 106 years after it sank east of Antarctica trying to reach the pole. A team of marine archaeologists, technicians, and “Adventurers” dubbed Endurance22 reported it found on Wednesday, having spent over two weeks searching the ice-choked area using undersea drones.
“We have made polar history with the discovery of Endurance, and successfully completed the world’s most challenging shipwreck search,” expedition director John Shears said in a statement issued by the expedition on Wednesday.
Three-masted wood ship measuring 144 feet was found at the bottom the Weddell Sea. It had been discovered by a team of researchers in unusually good condition. Its unique conditions may have prevented it from succumbing to the diseases that can occur in shipwrecks located in more traveled waters.
Mensun Bound (expedition director), a veteran of previous shipwreck exploration missions, called the Endurance his favorite wreck. With the ship both upright and clear of the seabed, it was in a “Amazing state of preservation,” he said in the expedition’s statement. While video taken by the expedition team appeared to show some broken masts and damage to the decks, Bound nevertheless referred to it as “Intact.” The vessel was found four miles south of the last location recorded by Shackleton’s navigator.
Although the South Pole was not reached by Shackleton in 1915’s expedition, his entire crew managed to escape the doomed vessel, which had become stuck in the sea ice 100 miles short of its intended destination. Shackleton had intended to make the Antarctica land-crossing first, but the ship got crushed over 10 months. The crew eventually set up camp on the sea ice, as the ticket home was gradually being destroyed. Shackleton, along with a handful of crewmen, managed to steer a small boat 800 miles to South Georgia Island, where the expedition leader organized rescue efforts for the rest of the crew.
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Over a century later, the discovery voyage took place over a shorter distance on board Agulhas II, an icebreaker that was based in Cape Town. Under the Antarctic Treaty’s terms, the wreck will be preserved as an historical monument. The crew however took numerous photos and films of the wreck, so a documentary as well as museum exhibits were planned.
This voyage, which cost upwards of $10million, was funded by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. Project manager Nico Vincent said several world records had been set to “Endurance can be detected safely.” While the shipwreck hunters sought out the famous vessel, a team of scientists took hundreds of ice samples hoping to learn to what extent climate change had altered the region’s notoriously persistent ice cover.
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