Is there anything more fascinating than shipwrecks? As tragic as they often are, the unfathomable depths of the world’s oceans and lakes hold an undeniable mystique. And when a ship sinks beneath waters as cold as those surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula, the sea becomes a time capsule, perfectly preserving the vessel. For decades, even centuries, the shipwreck rests on the frozen ocean floor, awaiting discovery.
What to Know:
- The Endurance sank to the bottom of the Weddell Sea over 100 years ago
- Modern researchers launched an expedition to find The Endurance
- On Wednesday, The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust discovered the Antarctic shipwreck
Researchers Discover The Endurance, the Legendary Antarctic Shipwreck
With advances in technology, scientists have been able to explore deeper and deeper into the unknown. On Wednesday, The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust announced that a search expedition for the SS Endurance was successful. They discovered Ernest Shackleton’s legendary ship that was swallowed by the arctic waters of the Weddell Sea over 100 years ago.
The Endurance rests 10,000 feet below the surface, far out of reach of a single ray of sunlight or gust of wind. That, combined with the frigid temperatures, gifted researchers with a ghostly three-masted wooden ship in flawless condition, the gold-leaf letters spelling “Endurance” still intact.
Behold! #ENDURANCE The lost ship of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest #Shackleton has been found on the floor of the Weddell Sea. After more than two weeks of searching, the @Endurance_22 project found the ship on Saturday. https://t.co/klujpcPGeH pic.twitter.com/XH2XFwDmHw— Jonathan Amos (@BBCAmos) March 9, 2022
“This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen,” said Mensun Bound, the director of the exploration. The Endurance was not only “in a brilliant state of preservation” but also rests upright, clear of the seabed.
As the Endurance sank in “one of the world’s most challenging conditions,” it marks a “titantic find” by explorers. Although the Weddell Sea is a treacherous place, it provides the perfect habitat for a shipwreck. According to researchers, the frigid floor of the Weddell Sea is “a very inhospitable environment for the kind of bacteria, mites and wood-eating worms that would otherwise enjoy munching on a wooden shipwreck.”
The History of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Stunning Ship
On December 17th, 1912, the gorgeous ship commissioned by Adrien de Gerlache was complete. The vessel, crafted for hosting polar cruises for tourists, was built with superior durability and strength. At the time, in fact, she held the title of the strongest wooden ship ever built.
Legendary explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, purchased the ship in the spring of 1914. Shackleton hoped to use the vessel to become the first person to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. After stripping the ship of its original name, Polaris, and re-christening her Endurance, Shackleton and his crew of 27 men, sled dogs, and one cat set off on their adventure.
Donald Lamont, Chairman of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust: “Our objectives for Endurance22 were to locate, survey and film the wreck, but also to conduct important scientific research, and to run an exceptional outreach programme.” pic.twitter.com/KCo5sGbQ6w— Endurance22 (@Endurance_22) March 9, 2022
Designers of the Endurance built her with breaking through pack ice in mind. However, the heavy ice of the Waddell Sea still proved unnavigable. “The end came at last about 5 p.m.,” Shackleton wrote. “She was doomed. No ship built by human hands could have withstood the strain.”
Thankfully, all 28 men (and the cat) survived, thanks to Shackleton’s exploration expertise. Transferring their belongings and supplies to three lifeboats, the crew escaped the Endurance before she sank to the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker.