There have been plenty of famous shipwrecks on Earth: The RMS Titanic, The Nuestra Senora de Atocha, The Mary Rose. Now thanks to recent findings from a group of marine archaeologists, another ship can be added to this list of impressive wreckages, The Endurance.
Endurance is the lost vessel of Sir Ernst Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer who led multiple missions to the polar south. These challenging expeditions went down in the history books as a tale of remarkable perseverance and survival.
How did the ship sink?
The ship has been missing since November 1915, when it sank deep into the Weddell Sea due to being crushed by sea-ice. Remarkably, Shackleton and his 27 shipmates managed to escape the disaster with their lives, reportedly finding their way to safety on foot and in small boats. What’s interesting about how the ship sank was the gradual fall of the vessel, with it being progressively crushed to sink over a period of 10 months.
What state was The Endurance in?
The 106 years of being submerged over three kilometers (10,000 feet) below the surface interestingly did not damage its structure too much. “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,” said Mensun Bound, the explorer who directed the Endurance22 mission.
He continued: “You can even see the ship’s name – E N D U R A N C E – arced across its stern directly below the taffrail (a handrail near the stern). And beneath, as bold as brass, is Polaris, the five-pointed star, after which the ship was originally named.”
What life inhabited the ship?
The team found an abundance of life had colonized the wreckage. “The Endurance, looking like a ghost ship, is sprinkled with an impressive diversity of deep-sea marine life – stalked sea squirts, anemones, sponges of various forms, brittle stars, and crinoids (related to urchins and sea stars), all filter feeding nutrition from the cool deep waters of the Weddell Sea,” said Dr. Michelle Taylor, a biologist from Essex University.
The project to seek out the lost ship was organized by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, with their goal to locate the wreckage by the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer. “This has been the most complex subsea project ever undertaken,” stated Nico Vincent, the mission’s subsea project manager.
Under international law, The Endurance is protected as a historic site. This meant for the mission, the team was not allowed to touch the ship or bring any artifacts to the surface. Instead, all information was gained through film and scans using underwater drones called Sabertooths.