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Modern Mysteries

Will Shackleton's lost ship ever be found?

By T.K. Randall
April 23, 2020 · Comment icon 5 comments

Finding the wreck of the Endurance is easier said than done. Image Credit: Royal Geographic Society
The famed Antarctic explorer's ill-fated vessel Endurance remains lost in the Weddell Sea over 100 years on.
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.

But what about the Endurance ?
Most recently, the Weddell Sea Expedition, which in 2019 ventured to the Antarctic to search for the vessel's whereabouts, succeeded in reaching the area where it was thought to have gone down, however after launching an autonomous underwater vehicle to investigate, the robot suddenly went silent and was never heard from again, scuppering the team's attempts to find the ship.

Efforts to find out what happened to the robot were then hampered by encroaching sea-ice.

"To finally locate the Endurance on the seafloor would require favorable sea-ice conditions in the central western Weddell Sea, including the presence of wide (open water) leads," said Dr Christine Batchelor from the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI).

"In addition, a two-ship operation may be needed to break ice and successfully launch and recover an autonomous underwater vehicle."

In other words - finding the Endurance is likely to prove challenging even under ideal conditions.

"It is a shame the 2019 search failed in their attempt to locate Endurance's wreck as they had the best ice conditions seen in the past 17 years," said oceanographer David Mearns.

"This proves my long-held contention that a 'single-ship' expedition is too risky, even with good ice conditions, and that the key to finding Endurance lies in a different approach."

Source: BBC News | Comments (5)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by quiXilver 4 years ago
He lost his ship in spite of his legendary fortitude (folly) and considerable expertise. Any attempts to reach said vessel should expect to encounter an equal degree of outrageous difficulty and challenge in reaching it...   There are reasons why certain areas of earth remain pristine.  They are utterly inhospitable to prolonged human activity.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
Would be awesome that most of it sank at the same place. The Endurance was crushed and is probably scattered by the ice shelf, It will be more easy to find traces of it but to identify without finding the main wreck will be difficult. The Antarctic sank in the Weddel sea too and probably other ships like whaling ships. Maybe they will find some surprising stuff!
Comment icon #3 Posted by DieChecker 4 years ago
If it has ice over it most of the time, I'd set up a camp on the ice. I'd attack anchors to the ice underneath, to prevent to fast of movement, and chop a hole big enough to launch and return the UAVs. Sounds like they are getting close though. Remarkable Shackleton lost no one in the wreck, and afterward.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Torviking 4 years ago
I would do what Nansen did. It may take quite a long time, but the ship will eventually come out of the other side due to the Arctic current.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Festina 4 years ago
Expensive adventuring for what purpose?  Curiosity?  What important information would they gain from its discovery?  None.   Some people just need to be noticed — at any cost.  The story however is very worthy of knowing. A most excellent read and the photographs — Yummy.  18,000+ ratings

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