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Legendary Endurance Shipwreck Discovered off Antarctica

Endurance Shipwreck Antarctica
The sinking of the Endurance. Credit: Royal Geographic Society/Public Domain

The Endurance, one of the greatest ever undiscovered shipwrecks, was found over the weekend at the bottom of the Weddell Sea off Antarctica — 107 years after it sank.

The vessel of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton 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.

Video of the remains shows the Endurance to still be in remarkable condition.

Even though it has been sitting in 3 km (10,000 feet) of water for over a century, it looks just like it did on the November day it went down.

Its timbers, although damaged, are still very much together, and its name — Endurance — is clearly visible on the stern.

“Without any exaggeration, this is the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen – by far,” said marine archaeologist Mensun Bound, who is on the discovery expedition and has now fulfilled a dream ambition in his near 50-year- long career.

“It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation,” he told BBC News.

Discovery of shipwreck an “incredible achievement”

The mission’s leader, the veteran polar geographer Dr. John Shears, described the moment cameras landed on the ship’s name as “jaw-dropping.”

“The discovery of the wreck is an incredible achievement,” he added.

“We have successfully completed the world’s most difficult shipwreck search, battling constantly shifting sea-ice, blizzards, and temperatures dropping down to -18C (0 degrees F). We have achieved what many people said was impossible.”

Endurance wreck Antartica
Shackleton (R) looks over the broken remains of his ship just before it sank. Credit: University of Cambridge

“Endurance” lost before Shackleton and his men even landed on Antarctica

It was Shackleton’s ambition to achieve the first land crossing of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea via the South Pole to the Ross Sea.

The Ross Sea Party which was landed at Hut Point on Ross Island had the task of laying supply dumps for Shackleton’s crossing party, and achieved its objective, but at the cost of three lives lost.

In the Weddell Sea, Endurance never even reached land and became trapped in the dense pack ice and the 28 men on board eventually had no choice but to abandon ship.

After months spent in makeshift camps on the ice floes drifting northwards, the party took to lifeboats to reach the inhospitable, uninhabited, Elephant Island.

Shackleton and five others then made an extraordinary 800-mile (1,300 km) open-boat journey in the lifeboat called the James Caird, to reach South Georgia. Shackleton and two others then crossed the mountainous island to the whaling station at Stromness.

From there, Shackleton was eventually able to mount a rescue of the men waiting on Elephant Island and bring them home without loss of life.

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