Antarctic Expedition Goes in Search of Shackleton’s Ship

Shackleton Ship: While the last of the South Pole skiers are now approaching the finish line there are still some interesting projects taking place in and around the Antarctic. Take for example the Weddell Sea Expedition 2019, which has only now just arrived in the region and embarked on an interesting and ambitious endeavor.

Made up of a team of glaciologists, marine biologists, oceanographers and marine archaeologists, the primary goal of the mission is to visit the Larsen C Ice Shelf and examine the unique marine life that exists there. But the group is also searching for a historical treasure as well as they sweep the ocean floor looking for Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship.

As most of you no doubt know, Shackleton and his men endured a brutal expedition to the Antarctic that stretched from 1914-1917. The plan at the time was for the famous polar explorer to attempt the first traverse of the Antarctic continent, but he and his men never even made it to the coast.

While en route, their ship –– Endurance –– became stuck in the pack ice surrounding the frozen continent, where it remained locked in place for months. Eventually the ice cracked the hull of the Endurance, sending her to the bottom of the ocean.

Shackleton and his men had abandoned the vessel long before that however and ended up stranded on the ice instead. Their story has gone down in the annals of exploration history and is one of the greatest survival stories ever told.

Now, the members of the Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 hope to locate the famous ship, which is believed to have sunk in more than 3000 meters (9842 feet) of water.

They’ll spend 45 days off the coast of Antarctica conducting their mission, with some of the specialists aboard the S.A. Agulhas II research ship using sonar, autonomous underwater vehicles, and other high tech tools to sweep the ocean floor looking for signs of Shackleton’s missing vessel.

The team arrived at the Larsen C Ice Shelf last Friday and have only just begun to conduct their research, which includes examining the ecosystem that surrounds the ice shelf itself. That will be interesting and important work of course, but for those of us who are fans of polar exploration history, the real interest will be in whether or not they actually locate the Endurance. 

The exact whereabouts of the ship are unknown, although Shackleton’s notes give a good idea of where to start. Hopefully, using their high tech gadgets and remotely operated vehicles, these researchers will be able to find it at long last.

As a big fan of the Shackleton story I’ll be following this expedition closely and looking for updates. If anything interesting is found, I’ll be sure to post a follow-up. Good luck to the team onboard the S.A. Agulhas II, we’ll be anxiously awaiting your results.

Kraig Becker