'We Have Made Polar History': The Endurance Is Found

Incredibly well-preserved shipwreck discovered some 10K feet down in Weddell Sea
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2022 8:33 AM CST
'We Have Made Polar History': The Endurance Is Found
The stern of the Endurance with the name and emblematic polestar.   (Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic)

(Newser) – Ernest Shackleton wrote that his ship the Endurance sank in "the worst portion of the worst sea" in 1915. Now, more than a century later, its wreckage has been found some four miles from where the ship's captain believed it went down. "We have made polar history with the discovery of Endurance, and successfully completed the world’s most challenging shipwreck search," the leader of the expedition announced Wednesday. What remains of the 144-foot ship was located in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica's northern coast, some 10,000 feet below the surface of an ocean whose waters are almost unparalleled in their coldness. And what remains is stunning.

One photo shows the stern still marked with the name ENDURANCE; another, the ship's wheel, frozen in time. The BBC notes the ship's timbers "are still very much together." As the expedition's director of exploration, Mensun Bound, puts it, "Without any exaggeration this is the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen—by far ... in a brilliant state of preservation." A press release notes the wreck falls under the protection of the Antarctic Treaty, so the wreck will be surveyed and filmed but not touched; all artifacts will remain in the deep. The New York Times gives context to the significance of the find, writing the Endurance "spawned one of the greatest survival stories in the annals of exploration" and has long been "among the most celebrated shipwrecks that had not been found."

Shackleton set off for Antarctica in 1914, hoping to be the first person to cross the frozen continent, but never got the chance to try after his ship became stuck in pack ice. Shackleton and his crew of 27 survived and made it to Elephant Island; six of them made it to a whaling station some 800 miles away using lifeboats, per the Wall Street Journal. Those who remained on the island were rescued. CNN reports Saab-manufactured Sabertooth hybrid underwater search vehicles spent two weeks poring over a predetermined search area before coming upon the wreck on Saturday, which happened to be the 100th anniversary of Shackleton's funeral. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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