Endurance is found
On Saturday, with less than a week left of Endurance22 Expedition’s 45-day mission, the wreck hunters succeeded in what was hailed the most challenging, shipwreck search by locating the wreck of Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship made all the more poignant falling on the 100th anniversary of his funeral.
The venture, mounted by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust using the South African icebreaker, Agulhas II, and equipped with remotely operated submersibles, faced constantly shifting sea ice and temperatures as low as -18°C. After weeks scouring an area of 150 square miles, historian Dan Snow recalls “a fizzing in the air, doors banging, the sound of people running down corridors”, as news spread onboard of the find. There was euphoria, excitement, happiness and relief. Endurance lay waiting on the bottom of the Weddell Sea a mere four miles south of the position recorded by Captain Worsley.
Even though Endurance was sitting in 3km of water for over a century, images show it looks just like it did on the November day in 1915 when it went down. “This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation. You can even see ‘Endurance’ arced across the stern, directly below the taffrail,” reports marine archaeologist Mensun Bound. And beneath, as bold as brass, is Polaris, the five-pointed star, after which the ship was originally named. Nails and even paint are beautifully preserved, and her wheel, anchors, rudder and funnel were all located. The debris field contains boots and crockery.
Humans have left a limited mark on a continent first sighted in 1820. Just 90 historic sites, structures and objects known as Historic Sites and Monuments (HSMs) make up Antarctica’s contribution to humankind’s cultural heritage. So, locating one such connection between man and land is extremely special. Endurance ticks the event, person and feat boxes of the criteria recognising its historic value. Safeguarded by the Environmental Protocol in the Antarctic Treaty, Endurance is protected from damage, removal or destruction. The site was carefully filmed, scanned and surveyed but will remain untouched. The site contributes to our shared, global cultural heritage and the discovery will engage and inspire the next generation to safeguard our polar regions and our planet.
"Finding the wreck of the Endurance during the Centenary year of Shackleton’s passing is a special moment in the history of Antarctic exploration. It reminds us of Sir Ernest’s achievements and of his outstanding leadership qualities that continue to inspire so many people. The Endurance is now a protected heritage site under the Antarctic Treaty System and will forever be a signpost to the heroic age". John Pye, Chair, UKAHT.
Image credit: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic