How Shackleton’s Endurance Was Found
When discovering perhaps the most famous shipwreck in Mensun Bound’s long career as a marine archaeologist, he was seeing some penguins a mile away.
It was the afternoon of March 5. Mr Bound was traveling aboard an icebreaker in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, hunting down the centuries-old remains of Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance with the Endurance 22 expedition.
Technicians had been operating an undersea drone day and night for two weeks, scanning the ocean floor with sonar, searching for the 144-foot wooden ship that had been crushed in the treacherous pack ice of Weddell and Shackleton in 1915. was drowned during the unfortunate attempt of the first to cross antarctica
So far there was no sign of endurance under the ice-covered waters, and only four days were left for the icebreaker to return to port at Cape Town. Mr Bound, the director of exploration who previously described Endurance as “the most impassable wreck ever discovered” due to its location in one of the world’s most remote and icy seas, and expedition leader John Shears was given a break. was required.
“We were talking about how to get off the ship to stretch our legs,” Mr. Bound said later in an interview with Reach the World, a non-profit educational group that developed streaming video from the ship for classes. Prepared. “And we decided today is the day.”
At 4 p.m. they went to an iceberg buried in the pack snow, about a mile away. The views were stunning and there were also some Adélie penguins nearby to keep them company.
When they returned to the ship they were called to the bridge, where they encountered Nicolas Vincent, who managed the underwater elements of the expedition. He was holding his phone so they could see a picture on it, Mr Bound recalled in the interview. “And he said ‘Gents, I want to introduce you to Dheeraj.'”
“It was the first beautiful picture of it,” said Mr. Bound. “I mean, it was incredible.”
After he and Mr. Shear had disembarked, the drone sent back some interesting sonar images. Contrary to some previous false alarms, upon closer inspection it was clear that these belonged to a ship, lying more or less upright on the ocean floor. It can only be stamina.
The image Mr. Vincent had on his phone was the first photograph of the ship since the famous photographs taken by Shackleton’s photographer, Frank Hurley, while the Endurance was being ravaged by ice.
Hunting for the Wreck of Endurance
Struggling with sea ice and freezing temperatures, a team of explorers and researchers found Ernest Shackleton’s ship that sank in the Antarctic in 1915.
- watershed moment, The discovery was announced on March 9. The wreck was located on the bottom of the Weddell Sea using undersea drones.
- Campaign: Endurance22 began its search in February. Researchers studying Antarctic ice and global warming were part of the team.
- Green Garden: Following the discovery, marine biologists are scanning footage of the wreck. This can help determine which species live on it, and if there are any new ones.
- From the archives: Read the cablegram reporting Shackleton’s loss of the ship after making it to safety in the Falkland Islands.
The discovery was announced to the world four days later, along with some photographs and a short video. Endurance, the sinking of which became one of the greatest stories of leadership and survival in exploration history, in which Shackleton and his 27 men reach safety, was in relatively pristine condition, with its name still glazed on the stern, the glass still In the porthole intact, the rump is still visible between the planks of the hull.
Mr Bound, whose archaeological credits include the excavation of a 2,600-year-old Etruscan ship in Italy, described the remains of Endurance as “the finest wooden ship I have ever seen”.
Funding more than $10 million from an undisclosed donor, the expedition left South Africa on the icebreaker Agulhas II in early February. It reached the discovery site on 16 February, a 150-square-mile area chosen based on the last known position of the Endurance, determined by Shackleton’s captain and navigator, Frank Worsley.
A previous operation three years ago had ended in failure when technicians lost contact with the underwater drone and it was not recovered.
This time the campaign had two new drones, a primary and a backup, with flat torpedo-like equipment of approximately 13 feet long and 5 feet wide, which enabled them to move in all directions.
Like the previous expedition, these drones can operate independently, with coordinates and a search pattern programmed in advance. But unlike earlier devices, these were tied to the ship by a thin, mile-long fiber optic cable, which could be unspooled during the drone’s journey to the ocean floor. The cable delivered images to the ship in real time, but could also be used to send new instructions to the drone to change its course if necessary.
Chad Bonin, who oversaw drone operations, said in the same interview that as of March 5, the primary drone for Elephant Island—named Alley—was where Shackleton and his crew sailed to safety for the first time since Endurance sank. Were – had done about 30 dives.
There were some early glitches, Mr Bonin said. The fiber optic cable broke during a dive and had to be re-inserted. Cold water and high pressure below 10,000 feet caused problems with one of the thrusters. There were also problems with the winch used to lift the drone, which weighed over 3,000 pounds, into the water.
“Once we ironed out the kinks and everything else, it was great,” Mr Bonin told Reach the World. “From that point on it was just dive after dive,” he said. Each dive lasted between four and eight hours, with several hours to recharge the drone’s battery.
The drone carried radar equipment on either side, which scanned a mile-wide strip of ocean floor, traveling about 225 feet above it. Mr Bonin and others monitored the images while staring at computer screens in a cramped operations center in the ship’s hold.
“The sea level on the Weddell Sea is fairly flat,” he said. “So anything out of the ordinary would look like a red flag.”
Over two weeks, the team noticed some interesting things, but upon closer inspection all the images turned out to be natural features or were otherwise discarded for lack of endurance.
However, as the deadline for leaving the search site neared, Mr. Bonin remained optimistic.
“Every day I would walk on deck and say, ‘Today’s day’,” he recalled.
When they first saw the image on March 5, they were excited but alert. “My first reaction was – ha! We found it. But we have to verify.” It didn’t take long to agree.
The drone returned to the ship and technicians swapped sonar equipment for a high-resolution camera and a laser-surveying instrument to perform highly detailed scans of the site.
Mr Bound hoped that the wreck would be well preserved given the cold water and lack of parasitic worms, which consume the wood and wreak havoc on ships elsewhere.
Along with the clarity of the water, the drone’s camera revealed remarkable details. At one place a crewman’s boot was seen. Images elsewhere clearly showed that some of the ship’s wood was seen for use on the ice. The camera was also able to see through portholes in some cabins.
The images and scans will be used for educational materials and demonstrations.
“We came, we saw, we measured in detail,” said Mr. Bound. Then they left without touching anything because the debris is protected under the 60-year-old Antarctic Treaty.
Before leaving the Weddell Sea, the expedition crew and the ship’s crew celebrated with a party on the ice, in which a large tent was set up with food, drink and music.
The icebreaker is now headed for Cape Town and is expected to be there in about a week.
On Friday, the ship stopped at Gritviken, a former whaling station on South Georgia Island. Shackleton and his five crew arrived on the island in May 1916 after a 16-day, 800-mile journey across the Southern Ocean in an open lifeboat.
After arranging for the rescue of the remainder of the crew from Elephant Island, Shackleton returned to Britain to receive a hero. He then organized another Antarctic expedition and returned to South Georgia in 1921 where he died of a heart attack at the age of 47.
He is buried there, and members of the expedition visit his grave, leaving new images of his ship against granite headstones.
Stefanie Arndt, a scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany who was aboard the ship, was studying how the Weddell Sea ice might change as the world warms, described the trip on twitter,
“We ended this historic expedition with a visit to South Georgia yesterday,” wrote Dr. Arndt. “Here we visited the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton – and brought his ship back to him by the paintings.
“The emotional end of a long story.”