Endurance shipwreck found in Antarctic's Weddell Sea

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Scientists report that they have found the sunken wreck of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship “Endurance.”

The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust said in a release that the ship was found more than 3,000 meters below the surface of the Weddell Sea. 

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Now, more than a century after the ship was crushed by ice and sank in 1915, the vessel lies about 4 miles south of the location recorded by its captain Frank Worsley. 

An expedition under Master, Capt. Knowledge Bengu aboard the South African polar research and logistics vessel S.A. Agulhas II – owned by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment – set off from Cape Town last month. 

It used Saab’s Sabertooth hybrid underwater search vehicles. 

According to the Trust, the wreck is protected as a historic site and monument under the Antarctic Treaty.

Mensun Bound, director of exploration for the “Endurance22” expedition, said footage revealed the ship to be in remarkably good condition.

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“This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation. You can even see ‘Endurance’ arced across the stern, directly below the taffrail. This is a milestone in polar history,” he said. “However, it is not all about the past; we are bringing the story of Shackleton and Endurance to new audiences, and to the next generation, who will be entrusted with the essential safeguarding of our polar regions and our planet.”

Endurance22 scientists completed hundreds of hours of climate change-related studies over the duration of the exploration, including researching the ice drifts, weather conditions of the Weddell Sea, studies of sea ice thickness and mapping the sea ice from space.

In this photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, a view of the bow of the wreck of Endurance, polar explorer's Ernest Shackleton's ship.

In this photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, a view of the bow of the wreck of Endurance, polar explorer’s Ernest Shackleton’s ship.
(Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/National Georgraphic via AP)

Content covering the setting up of the expedition, the voyage and search and the discovery was conducted and the team has been filming for a long-form observational documentary commissioned by National Geographic to air later this year as part of the EXPLORER series.

The expedition to find the ship comes 100 years after Shackleton’s death in 1922.

Shackleton’s 1914-16 attempt to become the first person to cross Antarctica via the South Pole failed. 

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However, his successful bid to reach help at a remote South Atlantic whaling station and rescue his men is considered a heroic feat of endurance. All the men survived and were rescued many months later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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