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Now that Shackleton's Endurance has been found, who determines what happens to the famous shipwreck?

Still Waters

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There is enormous excitement around the discovery of the Endurance.

The wreck provides a physical connection to a great tale of human survival, as it was the vessel used during the British explorer’s 1914-1916 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

It became stuck in the ice and eventually sunk. Remarkably, none of the men died during the ordeal, despite having to camp on the ice for months during an austral winter.

But now the Endurance has been found, who owns it and who should look after it?

Antarctica is governed differently from other parts of the world. The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959, with its first provision stating “Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only”. It also provides for free and cooperative scientific investigation on and around the frozen continent.




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 Not sure how that works but usually anything within 12 nautical miles is under the governance of that country.


But it is no longer merely a matter of access to shipping lanes. The reason for the current international conflicts actually lies beneath the waves. The disputes revolve around the expansion of territorial seas and economic zones in order to secure exclusive rights to socalled non-living marine resources, like the valuable minerals and fossil fuels buried beneath the sea floor. They are about “territory” in the sea. Absurd? Not if you look at where land begins. And where it allegedly ends.

The foundation is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982). It says that a country may claim an area extending 12 nautical miles from its coast as its own territorial sea. Additionally it can exploit 200 nautical miles of the water column beyond its coast as its exclusive economic zone. The same applies to the first 200 nautical miles of the sea floor, the continental shelf. The resources found there can be exploited by that country alone. And that is not all. If the country can scientifically prove that its continental shelf extends even further – that it is continuously geologically connected to the mainland – it also has the sole rights to the resources there as well. This territorial claim includes islands but not rocks or other outcroppings.


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  • 6 months later...

Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship, Endurance, will “decay out of existence” on the Antarctic seabed unless it is raised and preserved, the archaeologist who discovered the wreck has said.

Mensun Bound, who found the vessel in March, said the question of whether it should be hauled out of the freezing waters is a “hot potato” and brings forth a cavalcade of legal and logistical issues.

Asked at an event in London, organised by law firm BDB Pitmans that assisted his expedition, Bound said: “There are a lot of contrasting views about [raising the ship]. We have a range of ideas on that one, and we have to remember the Shackleton family, who very likely own the ship, they have fairly strong views of their own.

“Bringing it up – we’ve got to think about conserving it and the process of that, which museum is going to take that, which could take forever and a day. But if we leave it there, it’s organic, it’s going to decay some time beyond our lifetime.”


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