Antarctic Expedition Closes in on Endurance

A team of researchers and explorers are closing in on what could be a significant find in the Antarctic. The crew of the icebreaker, S.A. Agulhas II broke through some of the pack ice off the coast of the frozen continent a few days back and have now dropped anchor at the last known location of the Enudurance –– the famous ship used by Ernest Shackleton on his ill fated expedition back in 1914.

The members of the Weddell Sea Expedition traveled to the Antarctic last month to conduct a number of research projects, including examining the health of the ice shelves that surround the continent and the diversity of life that lives in the waters just off shore.

But their most high profile mission is to locate the wreckage of Endurance, which sank to the bottom the ocean in December of 1915. By that point, Shackleton and his crew had already abandoned the ship and had set up camp on the ice, although it would still be many months –– with many challenges and hardships –– before they would be rescued.

This past Sunday, the S.A. Agulhas II arrived at the exact spot where Shackleton’s vessel went down. At that point int he Southern Ocean, the water is approximately 3038 meters (9,967 feet) deep, so reaching the Endurance won’t be easy. Upon arrival, the research team conducted tests take readings on the temperature and level of conductivity of the water with plans to deploy an underwater drone to begin the search for the missing vessel.

Underwater archaeologists are intrigued with what they may find in the depths of the water just off the Antarctic coast. Most wrecks of this kind are located at much shallower depths, and typically in warmer conditions. But whatever is left of the Endurance is located in much deeper water, which tends lack oxygen. This can help preserve the condition of the find, perhaps revealing more historical information.

That said, when Endurance went down she was already severely damaged and cracked by the ice. The ship had been locked in place for weeks and the enormous pressure exerted on her hull caused it to crack and break apart. How much of the wreckage survived to reach the bottom of the ocean is unknown. And how much is still there will hopefully be answered soon.

We’ll continue to follow the Weddell Sea Expeditor and share any updates they might make. It would certainly be amazing if they were to discover this long lost piece of exploration history. The search should be underway at this point, so we may learn more soon.

Kraig Becker