Researchers to look for Shackleton’s Endurance 100 years after it sank
Researchers are to search for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship as part of a scientific expedition to the Antarctic next year.
Endurance was the ship in which Shackleton sailed for the Antarctic on the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. She was launched in 1912 from Sandefjord in Norway and was crushed by ice, causing her to sink three years later in the Weddell Sea near Antarctica.
Led by scientists at Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), the team hopes to finally locate Endurance, which has lain at the bottom of sea since ever since.
Slated for 2019, the scientific mission to investigate the Larsen C Ice Shelf will also search for the wreck 3,000m beneath the waves.
The group, which includes researchers from universities in South Africa and New Zealand, will be the first to use autonomous underwater vehicles to scan the seabed for the ship’s remains.
Thick pack ice and extreme weather are among challenges faced by those who venture to the isolated and wild region, much as Shackleton faced more than a century ago.
SPRI’s director, Professor Julian Dowdeswell, chief scientist of the Weddell Sea Expedition 2019, told The Times that the Agulhas II expedition ship would be put to the test by the conditions.
He said: “Whatever ship you have, it’s possible it won’t get there. It could be a better or worse sea ice year, so everybody is going into this with their eyes open.”
Despite the sinking of the Endurance, the explorer and his crew survived for six months before reaching uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton and five other men then set off to seek help at a whaling station on the island of South Georgia, with their perilous journey regarded as one of the most heroic feats of navigation. After three unsuccessful attempts, Shackleton finally rescued his men in August 1916.
Alexandra Shackleton, the explorer’s granddaughter, supports Prof Dowdeswell’s expedition, but as her family owns the wreck their permission will be needed if any items are to be recovered.
She told the paper: “I would love to see her image. But I’m not sure how I would feel about having her touched.”
As for the team’s chances of actually finding the Endurance, she said it is a “very big if”.
“People plan to do things in the Antarctic and the Antarctic decides otherwise, as my grandfather found,” she said.