The abandoned vessel of legendary explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) was one of the greatest undiscovered shipwrecks in recent history. Lost for 107 years, the Endurance had sunk 3,008 meters beneath the Antarctic Sea. A team of scientists finally found the wreck, looking just as it did the day it vanished over a century ago.
“We have made polar history with the discovery of Endurance,” announced John Shears, the expedition team leader.
In 1915, the ship became trapped in sea-ice for several months during one of Shackleton’s expeditions to the Antarctic. It was eventually crushed by the ice, sinking soon after all the 28-man crew had escaped. The crew camped on the ice before boarding lifeboats to South Georgia Island from where they returned home.
Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust launched the mission ‘Endurance22’ to locate the ship to mark the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s death. Described by Shears as “the world’s most difficult shipwreck search”, the team had to contend with raging blizzards, unpredictable temperatures, and constantly shifting sea-ice. The “remarkably intact” ship was found only a few weeks later around four miles south of its last known position in the Weddell Sea, which was meticulously recorded by its captain.
According to Mensun Bound, maritime archaeologist and director on the expedition, Endurance is “by far the finest wooden shipwreck“. An eery underwater video captured by the expedition team reveals its incredible preservation due to the low temperatures. The vessel’s famous name is still completely intact on the stern, emblazoned in brass above a Polaris star. Even some boots and crockery are scattered around.
“I tell you, you would have to be made of stone not to feel a bit squishy at the sight of that star and the name above,” said Bound. But the wreck has not been alone down there all this time – an impressive diversity of deep-sea marine life have made it their home, including stalked sea squirts, anemones, sponges of various forms, brittlestars, and crinoids.
History Hit, acclaimed historian Dan Snow‘s platform, will produce a documentary about the expedition and discovery. “The Antarctic seabed does not have any wood eating micro-organisms, the water has the clarity of distilled water,” explained Snow. “We were able to film the wreck in super high definition. The results are magical.”
The wreck is now protected as a historic site and designated monument under The Antarctic Treaty, and as such everything on the wreck was left undisturbed during the filming, a perfect relic of the past.