FOUND! Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance discovered by SA icebreaker off Antarctica

One of the world’s most storied shipwrecks, 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 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.

On Saturday, 5 February, a South African icebreaker departed in search of Shackleton’s Endurance, which sank off the coast of Antarctica in 1915 after being slowly crushed by pack ice.

“The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust is pleased to confirm that the Endurance22 Expedition, which is aiming to locate, survey and film the wreck of Endurance,… has departed on schedule from Cape Town, headed for the Weddell Sea in Antarctica,” the expedition’s organisers announced at the time of departure.

As part of the renowned polar explorer’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition between 1914 and 1917, Endurance was meant to make the first land crossing of Antarctica, but it fell victim to the merciless Weddell Sea.

Just east of the Larsen ice shelves on the Antarctic peninsula, it became ensnared in sea-ice for over 10 months before being crushed and sinking some 3 000 metres below the surface.

Ernest Shackleton and his crew made a miraculous escape

The voyage is something of a legend, due to the miraculous escape Ernest Shackleton and his crew made on foot and in boats.

The crew managed to escape by camping on the sea ice until it ruptured.

They then launched life boats to Elephant Island and then South Georgia Island, a British overseas territory that lies around 1 400km east of the Falkland Islands.

The South African icebreaker SA Agulhas II set off from Cape Town with a crew of 46 and a 64-member expedition team aboard, including scientists from top international institutions.

“The preparation has been comprehensive, although not without its challenge, including COVID,” said Donald Lamont, chairperson of the organisers.

But “the team has remained nimble and determined and this has brought us to where we are today”.

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse

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