Shackleton’s lost ship found in Antarctic

Published on March 9th, 2022

Scientists have found and filmed one of the greatest ever undiscovered shipwrecks 107 years after it sank. The Endurance, the lost vessel of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, was found at the bottom of the Weddell Sea on March 5, 2022.

At 144-feet, Endurance was crushed by sea-ice and sank in 1915, forcing Shackleton and his men to make an astonishing escape on foot and in small boats. Even though it has been at a depth of 3,008m for over a century, it looks just like it did on the November day it went down.

The Endurance left South Georgia for Antarctica on December 5, 1914. Onboard were 27 crew members plus a stowaway, 69 dogs and one cat. Shackleton, the expedition leader, was aiming to establish a base on Antarctica’s Weddell Sea coast and then keep going to the Ross Sea on the other side of the continent.

Within two days, the ship encountered the barrier of thick sea ice around the Antarctic continent. For several weeks, the Endurance made painstaking progress, but in mid-January a gale pushed the ice floes hard against one another and the ship was stuck – “frozen like an almond in the middle of a chocolate bar,” according to crewman Thomas Orde-Lees.

The men could do nothing but wait. After nine months of being beset in ice, they abandoned the badly damaged ship, decamping on to the ice. From the ship they took food, bibles, books, clothing, tools, keepsakes and – crucially – three open lifeboats. The cat and some of the dogs were shot.

A few weeks later, on November 2, 1915, almost a year after they had set out, the Endurance finally sank. Using basic navigational tools, Frank Worsley, the ship’s captain and navigator, recorded its location. Without that information, it would almost certainly never have been found.

The men formed a plan to march across the ice towards land. But after travelling just seven and a half miles in seven days, they gave up. “There was no alternative but to camp once more on the floe and to possess our souls with what patience we could till conditions should appear more favorable for a renewal of the attempt to escape,” wrote Shackleton.

When the ice broke up the following April, the crew took to the lifeboats, rowing to Elephant Island, a remote and uninhabited outcrop. The men were exhausted, some afflicted by seasickness, others convulsed with dysentery. “At least half the party were insane,” wrote Frank Wild, Shackleton’s second in command.

But they made it. On April 15 they clambered ashore on Elephant Island. It was the first time the men had stood on solid ground in almost 500 days. – Full story

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