Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Shackleton’s shipwreck found near Antarctica



Shackleton’s shipwreck found near Antarctica

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The SA Agulhas II docked in the sea ice during the ‘Endurance 22’ expedition’s AUV operation searching for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship the Endurance and doing scientific research on the sea ice. AFP

Shackleton’s shipwreck found near Antarctica

One of the famous shipwrecks in history, Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance, has been discovered off the coast of Antarctica more than a century after its sinking, explorers announced on Wednesday.

Endurance was discovered at a depth of 3,008 metres (9,869 feet) in the Weddell Sea, about six kilometres (four miles) from where it was slowly crushed by pack ice in 1915.

“We are overwhelmed by our good fortune in having located and captured images of Endurance,” said Mensun Bound, the expedition’s director of exploration.

“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,” he said in a statement.

The expedition, organised by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, left Cape Town on February 5 with a South African icebreaker, hoping to find the Endurance before the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer.

As part of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition between 1914 and 1917, Endurance’s crew was meant to make the first land crossing of Antarctica.

But their three-masted sailship fell victim to the tumultuous Weddell Sea.

Just east of the Larsen ice shelves on the Antarctic peninsula, the timber vessel became ensnared in pack ice in January 1915.

It was progressively crushed and then sank 10 months later.

‘Worst sea in world’

Shackleton’s expedition became legendary thanks to the miraculous escape he and his 27 companions made on foot and in boats.

The crew first camped on the sea ice, drifting northwards until the ice cracked open, and then took to lifeboats.

They sailed first to Elephant Island, a bleak and treeless place where most of the men were dropped off and set up a camp.

Using just a sextant for navigation, Shackleton then took five others in the strongest and most seaworthy boat on a 1,300-km voyage to South Georgia, a British colony where there was a whaling station.

Defying mountainous seas and freezing temperatures, the 17-day trek aboard the 6.9m open boat is often considered one of the most remarkable achievements in maritime history.

All 28 expedition members survived.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The monitors show photo, video and laser pictures of Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance displayed in the control room of the AUV. AFP

The explorers used underwater drones to find and film the shipwreck in the merciless Weddell Sea, which has a swirling current that sustains a mass of thick sea ice that can challenge even modern ice breakers.

Shackleton himself described the site of the sinking as “the worst portion of the worst sea in the world”.

The region remains one of the most difficult parts of the ocean to navigate.

“This has been the most complex subsea project ever undertaken,” said Nico Vincent, the mission’s subsea project manager.

Ship’s helm

The underwater drones produced stunningly clear images of the 44m-long ship.

Amazingly, the helm has remained intact after more than a century underwater, with gear piled against the taffrail as if Shackleton’s crew had only recently left it.

The ship’s timbers, while damaged from the crush of ice that sank in, still hold together. A mast had snapped into two across the deck, and portholes hinted at what secrets may still lurk inside.

Sea anemones, sponges and other small ocean life made homes on the wreckage, but did not appear to have damaged it.

Photographs of the expedition showed South Africa’s Agulhas II icebreaker surrounded by ice, with crew lifted by crane over the frozen sea.

Under international law, the wreck is protected as a historic site. Explorers were allowed to film and scan the ship, but not to touch it at all – meaning no artefacts may be returned to the surface.

The team used underwater search drones known as Sabertooths, built by Saab, which dove beneath the ice into the farthest depths of the Weddell Sea.

During the mission, scientists also researched climate change, documenting ice drifts and weather patterns.

Stefanie Arndt, a sea ice researcher from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institut, said on Twitter that she was returning with 630 ice and snow samples. “An incredible number,” she said.

The team now must make the 11-day journey back to port in Cape Town.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement