Long-Lost Shackleton Vessel Is Found

Quest, the last ship helmed by the adventurer, is discovered off Canada's east coast
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2024 12:00 PM CDT
Wreck That Ended the 'Heroic Age of Exploration' Is Found
Sir Ernest Shackleton aboard the Quest.   (Royal Canadian Geographical Society)

Though not as famous as Ernest Shackleton's Endurance, one of the most sought-after shipwrecks in the world before its 2022 discovery, the sunken ship on which the Antarctic explorer made his final voyage has now been discovered, too. Quest, on which Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to reach Antarctica in January 1922, was found Sunday in the Labrador Sea off the coast of Labrador, Canada, where it sank in 1962, the BBC reports. "In the pantheon of polar ships, Quest is definitely an icon," says David Mearns, an esteemed shipwreck hunter who served as search director for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society operation backed by Shackleton's granddaughter, Alexandra.

The 125-foot schooner-rigged steamship sits largely intact in 1,280 feet of water, though with a broken main mast "hanging over the port side," per the BBC. Shackleton initially planned to use the ship to explore the Arctic north of Alaska before the Canadian government yanked its financial support, the outlet reports. He then set out to map the Antarctic islands and search for potential infrastructure sites, but he never got the chance. He died midway through the mission, in South Georgia's Port of Grytviken, at age 47. "His final voyage kind of ended that Heroic Age of Exploration, of polar exploration, certainly in the south," Mearns tells the BBC.

Quest was later used in a privately funded expedition of Greenland and as a minesweeper in World War II, per the CBC. It was operating as a sealing vessel in 1962 when it was pierced by thick sea ice and sank. "The irony, of course, is this was the exact same damage inflicted on Shackleton's Endurance," which sank in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica's northern coast in 1915, per the BBC. In both cases, the crews survived. "Right now, we don't intend to touch the wreck," which "lies in an already protected area for wildlife," says associate search director Antoine Normandin. However, there are plans to photograph the wreckage, perhaps later this year. (More shipwreck stories.)

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