Long-Lost Shipwreck Has Been Discovered 107 Years Later in the Antarctic

Endurance Shipwreck in the Weddell Sea

Photo: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

In the early 20th century, the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration was a period of intense voyages. At this time, Antarctic expeditions pushed the limits of what was possible in order to make discoveries about the icy continent. During this time, Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton led three expeditions to Antarctica, making him a leading figure of the period. While on one of his most well-known adventures, his ship was swallowed up by ice and sank to the ocean floor, stranding Shackleton and his crew for months. Now, the wreck of his ship—Endurance—has been found.

It's an incredible discovery considering that Endurance sank in 1915. Under the direction of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, the Endurance22 Expedition had been combing the seafloor for the historic ship. They located it 3,008 meters (9,868 feet) deep in the Weddell Sea. Images released by the organization show that the ship is in relatively good condition with its wheel and name clearly visible.

“We are overwhelmed by our good fortune in having located and captured images of Endurance,” shares 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, directly below the taffrail.  This is a milestone in polar history.  However, it is not all about the past; we are bringing the story of Shackleton and Endurance to new audiences, and to the next generation, who will be entrusted with the essential safeguarding of our polar regions and our planet.

Portrait of Ernest Shackleton Before 1909

Ernest Shackleton (Photo: National Library of Norway, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shackleton was in the middle of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition when the wreck occurred. The expedition had the aim to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. However, Endurance became surrounded by ice in the Weddell Sea and, being packed in by the ice, drifted. Eventually, the ship was crushed and sank. This left Shackleton and his 27-man crew no option but to make camp on the ice. The entire party eventually took lifeboats to an uninhabited island, after which Shackleton and five crew members made a long open-boat journey to the South Georgia islands. From there, Shackleton was able to arrange a rescue of the remaining crew left behind on Elephant Island.

It's an incredible story that will be brought to new light as the team records the wreckage. Currently, short-form content regarding the expedition is being released on TikTok, with a long-form documentary commissioned by National Geographic set to air in 2022.

The wreckage of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance was discovered after 107 years.

Endurance Shipwreck in the Weddell Sea

Photo: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

Endurance Shipwreck in the Weddell Sea

Photo: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

During a 1915 expedition, the ship became surrounded by ice in the Weddell Sea.

Shackelton's Endurance in 1915

Endurance trying to break through ice in the Weddell Sea in 1915. (Photo: Frank Hurley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The ice pulled the ship adrift and, eventually, it sunk.

Endurance Sinking in the Weddell Sea

Endurance sinking in 1915. (Photo: Royal Geographic Society, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shackleton and his 27-man crew camped on the ice before landing on an uninhabited island.

Expedition photographer Frank Hurley and Shackleton camping on ice

Expedition photographer Frank Hurley and Shackleton camping on ice. (Photo: Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

They then took a lifeboat to look for help and were eventually rescued.

Launching James Caird from Elephant Island

Launching the lifeboat “James Caird” from Elephant Island in 1916. (Photo: Probably Frank Hurley, the expedition's photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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