The search for the wreckage of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance is set to sail next month, it was announced today on the centenary of the polar explorer’s death.
Endurance was one of two ships used by the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914–1917, which hoped to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic.
Carrying an expedition crew of 28 men, the 144-foot-long Endurance was a three-masted schooner barque sturdily built for operations in polar waters.
Aiming to land at Vahsel Bay, the vessel became stuck in pack ice on the Weddell Sea on January 18, 1915 — where she and her crew would remain for many months.
In late October, however, a drop in temperature from 42°F to -14°F saw the ice pack begin to steadily crush the Endurance, which finally sank on November 21, 1915.
The crew made its way across the ice to Elephant Island, where most remained while Shackleton and five others sailed off in an open boat to South Georgia to get help.
On board the steam tug Yelcho — on loan to him from the Chilean Navy — Shackleton was able to return to rescue the rest of his crew on August 30, 1916.
Now, the crew of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust’s Endurance22 Expedition are making final preparations to set sail from Cape Town, South Africa, on February 5.
On board the research vessel SA Agulhas II, they will voyage to Antarctica’s Weddell Sea to find and film the wreck non-intrusively using underwater search robots.
The SA Agulhas II previously took part in the ‘Weddell Sea Expedition’ in 2019, where it succeeded in reaching the rough location of the wreck, yet did not find it.
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The expedition to find the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’sIt will sail Next Month with Endurance, as announced by the Polar Explorer’s Centennial Celebration. Photo of the ship stuck in packice, taken just weeks before her sinking.
Endurance was one of two ships used by the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914–1917, which hoped to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic. Endurance was the three-masted, schooner boat barque that was built to withstand harsh polar conditions. It carried an expedition crew consisting of 28 men.
Aiming to land at Vahsel Bay, the vessel became stuck in pack ice on the Weddell Sea on January 18, 1915 — where she and her crew would remain for many months. In late October, however, a drop in temperature from 42°F to -14°F saw the ice pack begin to steadily crush the Endurance — which finally sank on November 21, 1915. Pictured: British explorer Frank Wild evaluated the Endurance’s wreckage, which was eventually crushed by a tightening pack of ice.
On February 5, 2018, the crew of Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust’s Endurance22 Expedition will make final preparations to sail from Cape Town in South Africa to the Weddell Strait onboard the research-and-icebreaker vessel SA Agulhas II.
On board the research vessel SA Agulhas II, the Expedition crew will voyage to Antarctica’s Weddell Sea to find and film the wreck non-intrusively using underwater robots (as pictured)
Part of the preparations already undertaken for the launch of the expedition next month were sea trials that saw the deployment and testing of the so-called SAAB Sabertooth hybrid underwater search vehicles in deep waters.
These unmanned crafts, according to marine archaeologists are capable of following pre-programmed courses and relaying sensor data and footage to the surface using a fibre optic cable.
When the expedition reaches Antarctica, the search robots will be deployed from camps set up on the sea ice some distance from the Agulhas II, lowered carefully into the waters via holes drilled through the ice.
John Shears, an established Polar Explorer and expedition leader said that everything was on schedule for expedition departure from Cape Town on February 5th.
“The entire team have worked diligently since July. Sea trials were a wonderful opportunity to test the technology.
These trials allow engineers and technicians to practice and get invaluable experience in benign environments, before they can launch through the frozen ice.
“Whilst success is not guaranteed, we have all the tools and knowledge necessary to embark on this incredible mission of exploration.”
Endurance22’s director of exploration — maritime archaeologist Mensun Bound — said that Ernest Shackleton was a figure ‘who epitomised the golden age of Antarctic exploration.’
“One hundred years have passed since Shackleton’s death, it’s unbelievable to say that we’ll soon embark on an expedition to find the wreck of Endurance,” he said.
“We will do all we can to photograph Endurance and bring to life the incredible tale about her last voyage as well the courage, fortitude, and leadership of her crew.
According to the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, one of the main aims of Endurance22 Expedition is to tell the stories of Shackleton and his ship as well as the team members to younger audiences.
The trust said that the story includes “the challenges of exploring and carrying out scientific research fundamental to understanding climate change,”
To this end, it has teamed up with History Hit — the media service co-founded by the British historian Dan Snow — and plans to air documentary footage from the Expedition on several digital channels and social media platforms.
‘The hunt for Shackleton’s wreck will be the biggest story in the world of history in 2022,’ said Mr Snow, who serves as History Hit’s creative director.
“As the partner radio broadcaster, I will be able reach tens to millions of history enthusiasts around the world in real time.
“We’re going to tell Shackleton’s tale and his expedition to recover the lost ship, like never before.”
Planned, he added, are ‘live streaming and podcasting from ice camps — recording a vast amount of content that will live online and be accessible for generations to come. This is a true dream.
John Shears, an established polar explorer and expedition leader said that they are pleased to announce that all is in order for the Expedition’s planned departure from Cape Town on February 5th. Pictured: The Endurance is stuck in pack-ice and listing heavily towards port.
“The whole team worked hard since July. The sea trials gave Dr Shears a chance to thoroughly test search technology. Shears added that engineers and technicians had the opportunity to practice in calm conditions and then to see if they can launch through the snow. Pictured here is the SA Agulhas II (the expedition’s icebreaking-polar research vessel), seen in 2019.
‘Whilst there remains no guarantee of success, we are now fully prepared and ready for this amazing mission of exploration,’ Dr Shears said. Pictured is the Agulhas I as seen in 2019.
Endurance22’s director of exploration and maritime archaeologist Mensun Bound said that Ernest Shackleton — pictured here standing on the deck of the Endurance, while photographer Frank Hurley sits aloft — is a figure ‘who epitomised the golden age of Antarctic exploration’
Alongside this, collaborations with the the Royal Geographical Society and the US-based education organisation Reach the World will see students engaged through freely available teaching resources and direct connection to the Expedition crew.
Particularly, these educational materials aim to show pupils why Antarctica is so important, what polar exploration means since Shackleton’s days, and how to make the most of the southmost continent.
Alongside maritime archaeologists, the Endurance22 Expedition will also be carrying a contingent of leading polar scientists who will be conducting a variety of studies into the frozen Antarctic environment and the impact on such of global warming.
One activity, for example, will see the researchers measuring the state of the sea-ice surrounding the polar continent, with the goal of developing a system to provide continuous data on sea-ice changes to help fill gaps in our current knowledge.
His comments were: “One hundred and fifty years after the death of Shackleton it is amazing to announce that soon we will be embarking upon a modern day expedition to locate Endurance’s wreck,” Bound stated. Pictured: The Endurance crew used ropes, ice mounts and other means to return to the ship after dark and snow storms.
“We will do all we can to capture footage and survey Endurance, as well as to tell the story of her epic voyage and the courage, fortitude, and leadership of her crew to people around world,” Mr Bound said. Pictured: the members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition play an impromptu game of football on the ice near the Endurance
Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust stated that the Endurance22 Expedition’s primary goal is to tell the story about Shackleton’s ship, and those who were part of it to a new audience. To this end, the Trust have teamed up with History Hit — the media service co-founded by the British historian Dan Snow — and plan to air documentary footage from the Expedition on several digital channels and social media platforms. Pictured, left: sailors walk the Endurance’s sled dogs while, right, Captain Frank Worsley and physicist Reginald James take observations next to the Endurance while she was stuck in the ice
‘The hunt for Shackleton’s wreck will be the biggest story in the world of history in 2022,’ said Mr Snow, who serves as History Hit’s creative director. Photo: The 20 members of Shackleton’s blighted Expedition, as seen in the mid-1916 after the Endurance disappeared.
Donald Lamont is the chairman of Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and a former governor of the Falkland islands.
The challenges presented by war and ice were the main concerns for Shackleton. Ice remains our main challenge — but COVID has been a threat throughout our planning and preparation.’
“The crew, master, and ice pilot of the South African ship Agulhas II are highly experienced, and they have proven their abilities to reach the wreck site in 2019.
“We have the ability to use the most up-to-date technology. We also have the expertise of a team made up of scientists, engineers, technicians, marine archaeologists and scientists who are capable to apply their knowledge in locating the wreck and surveying it.
The trust has form in locating lost ships — in 2019, it mounted a successful mission to locate the Imperial German Navy cruiser SMS Scharnhorst, which was sunk by the British during the 1914 Battle of the Falkland Islands.
The Endurance’s crew had aimed to land at Vahsel Bay, but instead the vessel became stuck in pack ice on the Weddell Sea on January 18, 1915 — where she and her crew would remain for many months before a drop in temperature from 42°F to -14°F saw the ice pack begin to steadily crush the Endurance. On November 21st 1915, the vessel finally fell to sea.
The SA Agulhas II (pictured) previously took part in the ‘Weddell Sea Expedition’ in 2019, where it succeeded in reaching the rough location of the wreck, yet did not find it
Endurance22 does not mark the centenary of Shackleton’s death, but it is one of many Antarctic expeditions.
Tomorrow, the US National Science Foundation’s icebreaker ‘Nathaniel B. Palmer’ will set sail with a crew of 32 researchers from Punta Arenas, Chile, bound for the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.
The scientific expedition will deploy a fleet of underwater robots — including the UK’s famous ‘Boaty McBoatface’ and Sweden’s ‘Ran’ — to assess how global sea level rise resulting from climate change is impacting the glacier.
Karen Heywood, University of East Anglia (UEA) project leader and physical oceanographer said that this is a hugely ambitious mission.
“We’ll deploy two large underwater robots under the ice in order to gather detailed information from this critical area of glacier. This will allow us to predict the future.
“By studying the ocean’s properties within sub-ice shelf cavities we can determine how heat is transported by the ocean and the impact it has on the glacier.
‘I’m going to remotely fly the six ocean gliders with my team at UEA, and smaller robots once they’re launched into the sea.
Meanwhile, later this year, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust is planning to install a new weather station at Port Lockroy, a location which was established as the first British science station on the Antarctic peninsula back during the Second World War.
The new station will continue this long-standing tradition of investigation, helping to provide scientists with a better understanding of the changing temperatures and rainfall in the region.
‘My grandfather’s incredible legacy, from heroic expeditions to scientific endeavour, must be kept alive for future generations,’ said Alexandra Shackleton.
‘UKAHT’s conservation of Britain’s history in Antarctica continues to inspire the pioneers we need now.’