A South African icebreaker left Cape Town early Saturday morning in search of Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which perished off the coast of Antarctica in 1915 after being slowly crushed by pack ice.
“The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust is pleased to confirm that the Endurance22 Expedition, which is aiming to locate, survey and film the wreck of Endurance… has departed on schedule from Cape Town, headed for the Weddell Sea in Antarctica,” the expedition’s organizers said.
Endurance was supposed to conduct the first land crossing of Antarctica as part of the legendary polar explorer’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition between 1914 and 1917, but it was sunk by the Weddell Sea.
It became caught in sea ice for almost ten months just east of the Larsen ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula before being crushed and sinking 3,000 meters below the surface.
Due to Shackleton and his crew’s amazing escape on foot and in boats, the trip has become something of a legend. By sleeping on the sea ice until it burst, the team was able to get away.
They immediately sent lifeboats to Elephant Island and subsequently South Georgia Island, which is a British foreign territory some 1,400 kilometers east of the Falkland Islands. With a crew of 46 and a 64-member expedition team aboard, the South African icebreaker S.A. Agulhas II set out from Cape Town on Saturday morning.
The voyage will span between 35 and 45 days, with the ship maneuvering through thick ice and freezing weather.
It plans to use cutting-edge technology to locate the famed wreckage and examine it with two underwater drones. However, the road will be challenging.
The sinking location was characterized by the Anglo-Irish explorer as “the worst portion of the worst sea in the world.” The 144-foot-long ship sank in the Weddell Sea, which features a whirling circulation that supports a thick layer of sea ice that may present issues for even contemporary icebreakers. It’s one of the most difficult areas of the ocean to cross.
Mensun Bound, Endurance22’s director of exploration, stated in a statement that his team “extremely hopes” to “do justice to this magnificent chapter in polar exploration.”
If they do discover it, it will be left alone, but a 3D image will be taken and aired in real time. Despite the anticipation, the 110-year-old ship’s location is not guaranteed.
“In terms of shipwreck challenges, it is the most difficult,” David Mearns, one of the world’s top shipwreck searchers, told AFP. “You won’t get any more difficult than this because of the ice conditions”
If Endurance22 is successful in locating the missing ship, no artefacts will be recovered.
The ship is a historically significant landmark that has been declared as a monument by the International Antarctic Treaty. It must not be disturbed in any way.
According to Mensun Bound, the crew will instead do an extremely comprehensive 3D scan.
“Raising something like the Endurance is pointless anyhow. What would you do with it if you had it? There isn’t a museum on the planet that would be willing to take it. The cost of its restoration, preservation, and display would eternally be a burden on any institution.”