In one of the most significant shipwreck discoveries of recent times, the Endurance, long-lost ship of the legendary Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, has been located nearly 9,900 feet deep, pristinely preserved in the icy waters of the
The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust announced in March that its Endurance22 Expedition, which had embarked from Cape Town, South Africa, in February, had located the wreck, which had not been seen since it was crushed by ice and sank in 1915.
According to the expedition’s website, “the mission navigated its way through the heavy sea ice, freezing temperatures, and harsh weather of this extreme and forbidding environment, in a quest to be the first to successfully find the Endurance and survey the wreck using state-of-the-art technology.”
The expedition deployed in the South African polar research and logistics vessel Agulhas II and probed the depths with Saab Sabertooth underwater search vehicles.
“The Endurance22 expedition has reached its goal,” stated expedition leader Dr. John Shears in a press release. “We have made polar history with the discovery of Endurance, and successfully completed the world’s most challenging shipwreck search.”
Shackleton was leading the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition when its three-masted barquentine Endurance got trapped in a Weddell Sea ice floe in January 1915. What followed for her crew remains one of the most astounding tales of hardship and survival in the annals of exploration. Led by the indefatigable Shackleton, the Endurance crew—and never was a group of men more accidentally appropriately named—abandoned ship and, for 346 miles and 497 days, trod across endless frigid whiteness, camped on ice floes, suffered frostbite, staved off starvation by eating their dogs, and finally made it in lifeboats to Elephant Island, close to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
It was a grim and uninviting locale, far astray from the shipping lanes, with no hope of rescue. What followed then for Shackleton and five others was a death-defying open-boat voyage across 720 nautical miles to seek help at the whaling camps of South Georgia, an island in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Remarkably, they made it—only to be stuck offshore for days, trapped in the teeth of hurricane winds.
When they finally did get to shore, it was the south end of the island—the wrong end. The whaling stations all were on the northern coastline. So Shackleton and two others trekked off across bleak and treacherous mountains—an accomplishment not replicated until 1955—to arrive at last at the Stromness whaling station on 20 May 1916.
And now, the Endurance has been found at last. As surveying and filming continue, she is protected under the Antarctic Treaty as a Historic Site and Monument, assuring no depredations will befall this enduring symbol of never-say-die fortitude at the far ends of the earth.