A research expedition that left South Africa last February confirmed having found in good condition the remains of the Endurance, the ship of the legendary Anglo-Irish polar explorer Ernest Shackleton that sank in 1915, as confirmed Wednesday by sources of the project.
“One hundred years after Shackleton’s death, the Endurance was found at a depth of 3,008 meters in the Wedell Sea (in the Antarctic Ocean),” the expedition, christened Endurance22, said Wednesday in a statement.
The remains of the legendary ship were found, according to the text, “within the search area defined by the expeditionary team before its departure from Cape Town” (southwest of South Africa), in an area about 4 miles south of the position that the then captain of the ship, Frank Worsley, recorded before the crew had to abandon it, being trapped in the ice.
“The Endurance22 expedition has achieved its goal. We have made polar history with the discovery of the Endurance and successfully completed the search for the world’s most challenging shipwreck,” expedition leader John Shears said in the statement.
“We are overwhelmed by our good fortune to have located and imaged the Endurance. This is by far the highest quality wooden wreck I have ever seen. She stands tall and proud on the seabed, intact and in a state of brilliant preservation,” said Mensun Bound, Exploration Director of Endurance22.
According to this expert, the “Endurance” inscription engraved under the handrail of the gunwreck can still be read on the shipwreck.
The discovery will not only serve to “safeguard” the history of polar research, but to encourage a new generation to be inspired by the “pioneering spirit, courage and fortitude” of those who sailed to Antarctica on the ship, Bound said.
The Endurance22 team – a project organized and funded by The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT) – worked from the South African icebreaker S.A. Agulhas II (owned by the southern nation’s Ministry of Environment), under the orders of Captain Knowledge Bengu, and employed hybrid underwater vehicles for the search.
The wreck is protected as a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, the search project emphasized in its release, so the researchers made sure that while the wreck was being probed and filmed it was not “touched or disturbed in any way.”
History of the expedition
The expedition that wrecked the Endurance had set out in 1914 to try to reach from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea (both in the Antarctic Ocean), passing through the South Pole.
After the wreck of the Endurance, which had been trapped and damaged by ice with its 28 crew members just 100 miles from Antarctica, Shackleton (1874-1922) led his men across the ice in lifeboats to Elephant Island, where the vast majority survived for months by feeding on seals and penguins.
Shackleton knew that no one would come looking for them, so he decided to leave 22 of his men waiting on Elephant Island and set off with the rest of his sailors in a lifeboat for South Georgia in an epic quest for help.
Seventeen days and 1,300 kilometers later, they reached a whaling center and, four months later, returned to the island to rescue alive the 22 companions who had been left behind.