Lost Antarctic shipwreck from 1915 Shackleton expedition, Endurance, rediscovered

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Stern of Endurance as uncovered on March 7, 2022.
Image: Endurance22.

The shipwrecked remains of Endurance, which carried the British 1915 expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton to Antarctica, were rediscovered beneath the Antarctic waters on March 7, it was announced yesterday.

The find by the Endurance22 expedition comes over a century after the vessel was marooned off the Antarctic coast and pushed by sea ice to the bottom of the Weddell Sea.

The vessel appeared to be in excellent condition, preserved by the frigid waters. The ship's timbers seem intact, and the name Endurance is clearly visible below the stern and above the five-pointed star Polaris — both unchanged after so much time.

Endurance sinks into the ice, November 1915.
Image: Royal Geographical Society.

Submersible craft launched by Endurance22, formed and funded by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, laid cameras on the Endurance at a depth of about 3,008 meters (9,868.8 ft). The probing vehicles were launched from the main hub of the expedition, the South African icebreaker S.A. Agulhas II.

The Endurance was originally the main vessel of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition by the United Kingdom, which sought to complete the first land crossing of Antarctica. Sir Ernest, a pioneer in British Antarctic exploration in the early twentieth century, and his expedition were stranded when the Endurance became trapped by sea ice and was slowly crushed.

They camped on the ice until able to launch lifeboats to eventually reach safety. All survived, but the Endurance sank.

For years, it had been nearly impossible for explorers to locate the ship's remains, as the Weddell Sea is covered by thick sea ice year-round. However, the past month has seen the lowest recorded level of Antarctic sea ice since satellite records began. This allowed the multinational team of experts assembled by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust to make its uncovering.

Expedition leader Dr. John Shears said of the successful expedition: "We have made polar history... and successfully completed the world's most challenging shipwreck search" and that it was "what human beings can achieve and the obstacles they can overcome when they work together."

Director of exploration Menson Bound said: "It is not all about the past; we are bringing the story of Shackleton and Endurance to new audiences, and to the next generation, who will be entrusted with the essential safeguarding of our polar regions and our planet. We hope our discovery will engage young people and inspire them with the pioneering spirit, courage and fortitude of those who sailed Endurance to Antarctica."