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Scientists Have Discovered the Remains of the Endurance Shipwreck

Endurance discovered by scientists
(Photo : Dan Snow)

Crossing through Antarctica is no simple feat. Witnessed in the tragic losses of various ships and aircraft in the area, including the HMS Terror (and Erebus), San Telmo, Jenny, and more, Antarctic voyages are plagued with ill-fated attempts of braving its freezing temperatures, ice, and difficult maneuverability.

One such ship, led by the heroic Ernest Shackleton, proved to be somewhat different in the climax of its polar expedition. The Endurance set sail in 1912 bound for the Antarctic from Norway. It carried a crew of 27 men and a cat, all of whom survived following its disastrous crash three years after launch when it was decimated by pack ice and sank into the deep blue.

Nearly 107 years later, the Endurance has finally been discovered. The find comes via a crew of scientists and expeditioners on the S.A Agulhas II, an icebreaker that was cast off from South Africa a month prior. Director Mensun Bound, head of the Endurance22 expedition, voiced optimism in the state of the ship’s condition.

Despite being ice-bound and sunken around 3,008 meters (10,000 feet) below the Weddell Sea, Shackleton’s Endurance still maintains its stature in “remarkably good condition.” Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust details the shipwreck as being 6.4 kilometers (four miles) south from where captain Frank Worsley last recorded the location back in 1915.

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“This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen,” says Bound. “It is upright, well proud (clean) of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation. You can even see ‘Endurance’ arced across the stern, directly below the taffrail.”

The remarkable find comes a century “to the day” following the burial of Shackleton himself, says British historian Dan Snow, who tweeted on Saturday, March 5, as soon as the ship’s identity was proven. The Endurance will remain untouched on the seafloor, protected by the Antarctic Treaty as a historic site and monument.

Snow says: “Nothing was touched on the wreck. Nothing retrieved. It was surveyed using the latest tools and its position confirmed. It is protected by the Antarctic Treaty. Nor did we wish to tamper with it.”

Shackleton set Endurance as a springboard for naval travel, attempting to cross Antarctica through the South Pole. As is clearly the case, Shackleton’s dream no sooner failed. The story, fortunately, didn’t end with the loss of the crew, however, as is so often the case with Arctic-bound vessels before modern-day naval technology.

Shackleton took it upon himself to save his crew by traversing to a South Atlantic whaling station in the hopes of finding some form of aid. Luckily, he did and the crew of the Endurance would be rescued several months following the pack ice disaster.

Endurance’s story, unlike the many still unfound ships lost to the Arctic void before it, can now live on as a historic entity and a tale that proves the Antarctic’s treachery isn’t without good endings.

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