Locating Polar Explorer Shackletons Ill-Fated Ship Endurance

The wait to know about the fate of the wrecked polar expedition ship from 1915 may soon be over with Falklands Maritime Heritage Trusts new search
The hut on the edge of McMurdo Sound of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton
The hut on the edge of McMurdo Sound of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton

If all goes according to plan, in less than a year&rsquos time, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT) will launch a new search for the ship Endurance, which disappeared under the ice in the Weddell Sea in November 1915. After floundering in the sea for almost a year, the crew finally managed to escape on foot and in lifeboats across the frozen expanse became a legend in its own time.

Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton believed that after the conquest of the South Pole by Amundsen (who beat the British Expedition under Scott by a few days), &lsquothere remained but one great main object of Antarctic journeying - the crossing of the South Polar continent from sea to sea&rsquo.

So he launched the Imperial Trans-Antarctica expedition of 1914 &ndash 1917.

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The plan was to set out from the Weddell Sea region (to the south of South America) across a completely unexplored region of Antarctica, to the pole, and then to the Ross Sea / McMurdo sound area (to the south of New Zealand).

The ship Endurance had sailed from Grytviken on the island of South Georgia on December 5, 1914, heading for the southern regions of the Weddell Sea. Unfortunately, the ship got trapped in the ice, stranding Shackleton and his crew. After drifting around the Weddle Sea between January and November, the ship sank on November 21, 1915. Shackleton and his crew managed to escape.

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FHMT&rsquos expedition, called Endurance22, is expected to depart from Cape Town in early February 2022, a month after the 100th anniversary of Shackleton&rsquos death on January 5, 1922 in South Georgia in the South Atlantic.

According to the Trust, Endurance22 will attempt to locate, survey and film the wreck, which is believed to lie in about 3,000 metres (9,843 feet) of water. The last expedition to reach the wreck site, in 2019, was forced to abandon the search by encroaching sea-ice and loss of equipment.

Leading the Endurance22 expedition will be British polar explorer, Dr John Shears, who also led the 2019 expedition, and Falklands-born maritime archaeologist, and a Trustee of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, Mensun Bound.

A team of 50 will be on board the SA Agulhas II, including the British-born American explorer, Richard Garriott, who made headlines in 2008 when he joined a Soyuz mission to the International Space station as a private astronaut. In March 2021, Garriott, who is President of The Explorers Club, tackled the depths of the oceans, when he dived in a submersible a record-breaking 10,973m (36,000ft) into the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific.

According to FMHT, finding where to search for the wreck of Endurance is not the problem the ship&rsquos captain, Frank Worsley, logged the position using a sextant and a theodolite. The main obstacle to getting to the site and locating the wreck is the ice.

The search team will use advanced underwater technology to locate the wreckage &ndash specially built hybrid Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) called Sabertooths fitted with High-Definition cameras and side-scan imaging capability.

For those interested in maritime history, shipwrecks, and adventure, there is some good news from the Trust. FMHT&nbspintends to ensure that the entire Endurance22 expedition will be shared around the world via a unique link up with the US-based educational organisation Reach the World.

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