Research Team May Look for Shackleton’s Ship in the Antarctic This Year


An team of researchers heading to the Antarctic later this year may go in search of a long-lost piece of exploration history. A group of international climate scientists will travel into the Southern Ocean to study the massive iceberg that broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf last summer, but while they’re in the neighborhood, they’re also hoping to locate Ernest Shackleton’s ship the Endurance.

The primary goal of the research project is to visit the giant slab of ice that separated itself from Antarctica last July. That won’t necessarily be easy, as thick ice throughout the region has already thwarted at least one attempt to get close to the large chunk of ice. The hope is to study the environmental factors that are causing Larsen C, and other glaciers in the Antarctic to calve off an an alarming rate.

But, a secondary objective of the team is to locate and potentially photograph the Endurance, which sunk back in 1915 after Shackleton and his men became stuck in the pack ice. Eventually, the ice created too much pressure on the hull of the wooden vessel, which had its hull crack, sending it to the ocean floor. The crew escaped of course, but were forced to endure many long months in the Antarctic before escaping to Elephant Island, and famously making an open ocean crossing to South Georgia.

In order to study the ice bergs in the area, the team will take several underwater drones capable of using sonar that can map the shape of the sea floor and other objects in the area. The plan is to use those drones to also find Shackleton’s long-lost ship. It is believed that the Endurance is located more than two miles (3.2 km) beneath the surface of the ocean.

All in all, the team will spend about 45 days in the Southern Ocean, most of which will be spent studying the ice. But, given enough time and sufficient access, they hope to catch a glimpse of the famous ship too. Only time will tell if that will actually happen, but those of us who are fans of Shackleton and his story are certainly hoping that will be the case.

Kraig Becker