Will the team find the wreck of the Endurance ? Image Credit: Royal Geographic Society
Researchers with the Weddell Sea Expedition are hoping to find the wreckage of Shackleton's vessel Endurance.
Believed to lie 3,000 meters beneath the freezing waters of the Antarctic, the famed vessel, which carried Shackleton and his crew on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914, has long been sought-after due to its role in one of the most incredible adventure stories of the modern age.
Shackleton had aimed to lead the first ever land crossing of the Antarctic continent, however the plan was abandoned after the loss of his vessel left he and his crew stranded in the middle of nowhere.
After spending months camped on drifting sea ice, the crew ended up on Elephant Island - an isolated location hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement or shipping route.
In an effort to find help, Shackleton and a few of his men set out across the ocean in a tiny boat to reach the island of South Georgia which was situated approximately 720 nautical miles away.
After several perilous weeks at sea, they finally arrived on the island. Shackleton and two of his men then had to cross the mountainous terrain of the island on foot to reach an occupied whaling station.
Incredibly, in the end, every single member of his crew was rescued.
Now Professor Julian Dowdeswell and colleagues are hoping to make history themselves by tracking down the last known location of the Endurance and using robotic submersibles to find the wreck.
Even getting to the site however will be an endeavour worthy of Shackleton himself.
"We've got a journey of several hundred km from where we are now through really heavy and quite difficult sea-ice," said Prof Dowdeswell.
"We shall do our best to get there with the excellent ice-breaker that we have, but in any given year it will be very difficult to judge whether you will be able to penetrate the sea-ice."
With any luck, the ship itself will still be relatively intact on the sea floor.
"I think that if we locate the Endurance, the greater likelihood will be that her hull is semi-upright and still in a semi-coherent state," said marine archaeologist Mensun Bound.
"However, on the evidence of the only deep-water wooden wreck I have been privileged to study, I must concede that there is every possibility that she could have been wrenched wide open by impact (with the seafloor), thus exposing her contents like a box of chocolates."
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