The SS Terra Nova holds a hallowed place in the history of exploration. The ship was used by Robert Falcon Scott on his ill fated mission to Antarctica that lasted from 1910-1912 and ended with his death on the return trip from the South Pole. After that the vessel was bought and commissioned for other types of service which eventually led to it running supplies to Greenland during World War II. In 1943 it hit thick ice and took damage to her hull, causing the ship to sink in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, never to be seen again. That is until now.
A research vessel for the Schmidt Ocean Institute was recently testing new equipment off the coast of Greenland when they came across the wreckage. Unsure of what they had found, the team took the opportunity to explore their discovery further by sending a submersible camera down to examine the ship more closely. The camera took images of the Terra Nova which were then compared to historical photos which confirmed the identity of the vessel.
Built in 1884, the Terra Nova was first used as a whaling and sealing vessel. In 1903 she was put to work as an expedition vessel under Scott, who sailed the ship into the Antarctic where her reinforced hull was perfectly suited for duty. Scott would take her back to the Antarctic seven years later when he made his bid for the South Pole. While Scott and his men were making their way to 90ºS, the Terra Nova and her crew were conducting scientific research off the coast of the frozen continent and making supply runs back to New Zealand.
Following Scott’s death, the ship was sold to new owners who put her back to work at a seal fishery in Newfoundland. By 1942 the vessel had been pressed into service as a supply ship to Greenland and a year later it was sunk off the south-western tip of that country. She still sits there today, although the discovery of the ship will certainly be of interest to history buff and fans of explorers like Scott.
It would be amazing if the ship could be recovered and possibly added to a museum somewhere. But it seems that the Terra Nova incurred quite a bit of damage when she went down and now rests 1000 feet beneath the surface. It would be very expensive to try to recover the vessel, which could potentially fall apart if moved. So, she’ll probably stay in her current location forever, a sunken monument to history long past.
I can’t help but think that it is quite serendipitous that the Terra Nova was discovered exactly 100 years after the Scott expedition.