The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust announced the Endurance22 Expedition has successfully located the wreck of Endurance, the ship of famous explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. The ship was crushed by ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915. While the amazing discovery may not strictly be photography news, the Endurance22 Expedition has shared some amazing underwater photos and 4K footage.
A century after Shackleton’s death, his famous ship was found 3,008 meters (1.87 mi) beneath the surface of the Weddell Sea. The ship was found within the expedition team’s defined search area, approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by Captain Worsley.
Endurance’s starboard bow. Video still: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic
The team worked with the South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II, which is owned by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment and is commanded by Mast, Capt. Knowledge Bengu. The team used Saab’s Sabertooth hybrid underwater search vehicles.
The wreckage is protected as a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, ensuring that, if found, the shipwreck would not be touched or disturbed. However, it can be surveyed and filmed, as seen in the 4K video below.
As you can see, the ship is remarkably well preserved. While sea life has made its own in the wreckage over the past 107 years, you can still see the ship’s name and its numerous components. Endurance22 has performed detailed imaging, including 3D scanning, of the ship.
The Endurance, a three-masted barquentine, was built in Norway and first hit the open seas in 1912. In 1914, it set sail from Plymouth, England and headed toward Buenos Aires, Argentina, under Captain Worsley’s command. Shackleton joined the voyage and Endurance set sail from Argentina toward South Georgia before heading to Antarctica with 28 crew – and the ship’s cat, Mrs. Chippy – aboard. Two days after leaving South Georgia, the vessel encountered a polar ice pack, and its progress stalled. The crew decided to push through, which ultimately resulted in the ship becoming icebound.
The crew eventually had to abandon ship and established makeshift camps on ice floes. The party then took lifeboats to the uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton and five others made a 1,300km (800 mi) journey by lifeboat to South Georgia. Shackleton and two other crewmembers trekked across the mountainous island to a whaling station to organize a successful rescue mission.
‘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 program,’ said Donald Lamont, Chairman of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. ‘Today’s celebrations are naturally tempered by world events, and everybody involved in Endurance22 keeps those affected by these continuing shocking events in their thoughts and prayers.’
There have been many people involved in the Endurance22 mission. Lamont continues, ‘The spotlight falls today on Mensun Bound, the Director of Exploration, and Nico Vincent, Subsea Project Manager. Under the outstanding leadership of Dr. John Shears, they have found Endurance. But this success has been the result of impressive cooperation among many people, both onboard the remarkable S.A. Agulhas II with its outstanding Master and crew, a skilled and committed expedition team and many on whose support we have depended in the UK, South Africa, Germany, France, the United States and elsewhere. The Trustees extend to them all our warmest thanks and congratulations on this historic achievement.’
Taffrail and ship’s wheel, aft well deck. Video Still: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic
Mensun Bound adds, ‘We are overwhelmed by our good fortune in having located and captured images of Endurance. This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation. You can even see ‘Endurance’ arced across the stern, directly below the taffrail. This is a milestone in polar history. However, it is not all about the past; we are bringing the story of Shackleton and Endurance to new audiences, and to the next generation, who will be entrusted with the essential safeguarding of our polar regions and our planet. We hope our discovery will engage young people and inspire them with the pioneering spirit, courage and fortitude of those who sailed Endurance to Antarctica. We pay tribute to the navigational skills of Captain Frank Worsley, the Captain of the Endurance, whose detailed records were invaluable in our quest to locate the wreck. I would like to thank my colleagues of The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust for enabling this extraordinary expedition to take place, as well as Saab for their technology, and the whole team of dedicated experts who have been involved in this monumental discovery.’
To read more about the remarkable discovery, click here. The mission has numerous scientific benefits, including detailed mapping of sea ice from space, which will help our collective understanding of the remote region and better assess how the changing climate impacts it. The Endurance22 mission will be highlighted in an upcoming documentary commissioned by National Geographic. The documentary is slated to premiere this fall as part of National Geographic’s EXPLORER series and will end up airing on Disney+. For National Geographic subscribers, you can read about the discovery mission now.