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New Search Underway for Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance

When asked about a favorite sailing book, many sailors and Good Jibes guests respond with Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. The 1959 book by Alfred Lansing covers the dramatic journey of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew aboard the barkentine Endurance, and their attempt to cross the South Pole.

Endurance departed England in August 1914, and in January 1915, only a day short of her destination of Vahsel Bay, the 144-ft ship became stuck in drifting pack ice in the Weddell Sea. There she stayed for 10 months, moving with the ice as it drifted northwest. Eventually the ship could no longer withstand the constant pressure and movement and began to break up. The order was given to abandon ship on October 27, and on November 21, 1915, she sank. Now, a new expedition, named Endurance22, is underway to locate the sunken ship, this time aboard a vessel built 100 years after the Endurance was built, in Sandefjord, Norway.

Shackleton Endurance
This photo of Endurance taken from Lansing’s book is perhaps one of the most well-known images of the stricken vessel.
© 2022 Frank Hurley
This photo was taken by Frank Hurley as Endurance lay stuck in the ice.
© 2022 Frank Hurley

The S.A. Agulhas II, a 440-ft icebreaker carrying 46 crew and a 64-person expedition team, set off for Antarctica last month to locate the Endurance, which rests in around 10,000 feet or water. The Weddell Sea covers around one million square miles, yet thanks to the records made by Endurance‘s captain and navigator, Frank Worsley, the Aghulas II team is able to zero in on a seven- by 14-mile zone in the western Weddell Sea. Edurance22 leader John Shears told The New York Times, “We know pretty much where we need to go. We’re very optimistic that we’ll get over the wreck site with the ship.”

S.A.Agulhas II docked in the sea ice of Weddell Sea.
© 2022 Esther Horvath

The expedition will be the first to deploy SAAB Sabertooth underwater vehicles: hybrid vehicles that combine the attributes of a Remote Operating Vehicle (ROV) — always linked to the surface— and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) capable of operating without such a link. But the job will be far from easy. Shackleton’s journey took place amidst conditions that Lansing described as “… the worst they had ever been in the memory of the Norwegian whaling skippers operating in the area.” And, while the Weddell Sea has been deemed by scientists to have the clearest water of any sea, the waters are at best, a swirling mass of “thick, nasty sea ice that can be a match even for modern icebreakers,” wrote the New York Times.

Test deployment of the AUV in the Antarctic.
© 2022 Esther Horvath

Thanks to modern communications, you can follow the Endurance22 Expedition in real time. The expedition website features a range of materials including, maps, photographs, video links and educational resources. Here you can find everything from the Agulhas II‘s current location to history about the Endurance and Shackleton’s voyage.

We’re interested in the outcome and will keep an eye out for updates and news of the team’s success, or failure should that be the case.

1 Comment

  1. milly Biller 2 years ago

    This is very interesting. The story of Shacklelton ‘s voyage is among the most compelling in maritime history.
    Thanks for the contact info to their website

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