Shackleton’s Endurance found off coast of Antarctica

Shackleton’s Endurance

The Ship Lost To The Sea

Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which sank in 1915 on the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica, has been found. A group of experts searched for the ship with underwater drones for two weeks before it was found at a depth of three kilometers (3,008 metres).

The discovery of Endurance was announced a century from Shackleton’s burial to the day, and a video of the wreck was published online. The ship is remarkably well preserved considering that it has been in the sea for over a hundred years. However, this was to be expected due to the depth it is at and the extreme cold it has been in.

The Shackleton Expedition

A cutaway view of the Endurance.

The explorer Ernest Shackleton led the expedition to Endurance, with Frank Worsley as captain. A total of 28 people were on board the ship when it sailed from England in 1914. Shackleton’s goal was to be the first to cross the Antarctic.

The route lay on a bay in the Weddell Sea, from where Shackleton’s voyage was to begin.

However, the ship ran aground on 19 January 1915 and sank on 27 October. It proved impossible for the men to tow their lifeboats and supplies along the ice to the sea. So they waited until the ice began to break.

They managed to row to the uninhabited Elephant Island, which was nearly 1,300 km to the nearest settlement on the island of South Georgia, where Norwegian whalers were staying. Shackleton decided to leave most of the men behind and rowed with five others for help.

The voyage took fifteen days, but they were not rescued, as they landed on an uninhabited part of the island and had to walk for 36 hours in extremely difficult conditions.

All the men were rescued, but the men on the uninhabited Elephant Island were not rescued until August 30, 1916.

The Search for Endurance

Brief overview of attempts to locate Endurance through the years.

  • 1998, wreckage found at Stinker Point on the southwestern side of Elephant Island was incorrectly identified as flotsam from the ship. It instead was from the 1877 wreck of the Connecticut sealing ship Charles Shearer.
  • 2001, wreck hunter David Mearns unsuccessfully planned an expedition to find the wreck of Endurance.
  • 2003, two rival groups were making plans for an expedition to find the wreck, but plans did not pan out and no attempt was made.
  • 2010, Mearns announced a new plan to search for the wreck. The plan is sponsored by the National Geographic Society but is subject to finding sponsorship for the balance of the US$10 million estimated cost.
  • 2018–2019 A Weddell Sea Expedition to locate and possibly photograph the wreck using long-range Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV). This expedition failed when the researchers’ AUV was lost to the ice.
  • 2021 in July, it was announced that Endurance22, a new expedition to explore the wreck of Endurance would launch in early 2022 using Saab submersible technology. If found, the wreck would not be disturbed, but scanned in 3D.

Finding Endurance

On 9 March 2022, it was announced that Endurance22 had successfully found the wreck of Endurance in the Weddell Sea at 3,008 meters deep. The discoverers on board the research vessel S.A. Agulhas II report that the wreck is in remarkably good condition, and have filmed and photographed it extensively. They have deliberately not salvaged any part of the wreck or its contents.

Endurance final resting place

Interesting Twitter Threads

Dan Snow’s account has great stuff from the expedition.

Huw Griffiths, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey wrote an interesting thread about the creatures that now call Endurance home.

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