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The search for famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance, which sank in 1915, is finally over. On March 9, 2022, the Endurance22 expedition team announced the wreck had been found in the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica.
The 106-year-old vessel lies at a depth of about 10,000 feet. It is just four miles away from the last location recorded by Endurance's captain and navigator, Frank Worsley. The ship's near-pristine condition can be explained by the lack of wood-eating marine organisms in Antarctica's freezing waters.
"We are overwhelmed by our good fortune in having located and captured images of Endurance," Mensun Bound, Director of Exploration on the expedition, said in a statement. "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."
Shackleton and his crew of 27 left England aboard the 144-foot Endurance in 1914. The ship was headed to a bay on the Weddell Sea — the starting point of Shackleton's attempt to be the first to cross Antarctica by foot. Unfortunately, things did not go quite as planned. In early January 1915, Endurance was 100 miles from its destination when it got stuck in the Weddell Sea's thick ice.
Several attempts to free the ship failed, and things got only worse as the temperatures dropped. By the end of February, the Endurance was firmly settled in the thick ice. The stranded crew spent the next eight months aboard the ship, hoping to complete the journey when the weather improved. However, on November 21, 1915, the massive boat succumbed to the heavy pressure from the ice and sank.
Shackleton and his crew rode out the rest of the winter camped on an ice floe. As soon as the ice began to break up, the men boarded the three lifeboats they had salvaged and headed to Elephant Island. The uninhabited island was inhospitable and far from any shipping routes. Shackleton knew that the only way to save his crew was to get to the whaling station on South Georgia Island.
On April 24, 1916, the brave explorer and a handpicked crew of five embarked on the treacherous 800-mile open-boat journey across the freezing Southern Ocean waters. The exhausted adventurers made it to South Georgia Island after 16 days, only to face another challenge. Their lifeboat, battered by the rough seas, was in no state to make it to the whaling station on the island's other side.
Shackleton decided to land the boat on the beach and cross the island by foot, a feat that had never been accomplished before. Since three crew members were unable to make the crossing, he left them behind to recuperate. The trek through the icy grounds was not easy. But Shackleton and his two team members persevered and got to the whaling station in three days.
The crew members on the island's other side were rescued the following day. After several failed attempts, the remaining expedition members were finally picked up from Elephant Island on August 30, 1916. Shackleton never achieved his dream of crossing Antarctica on foot. However, the polar explorer's ability to survive and keep his crew members safe while stranded for nearly two years made him a hero worldwide.
Resources: Nationalgeographic.com,Newscientist.com, endurance22.org