It was one of the last great lost shipwrecks of history - Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance. But now, incredibly, it has been rediscovered - over a century after it sank beneath the ice in freezing Antarctic waters.
Organised by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, the expedition to locate the shipwreck, which has for over a century remained inaccessible and undiscovered, set off on the South African ice-breaker Agulhas II from Cape Town on the 5th of February 2022 on a voyage to the Weddell Sea, off the coast of Antarctica where the Endurance sank in 1915. On board is a crew of scientists and marine archaeologists alongside a team of specialist extreme-environment film-makers, complete with History Hit’s very own Dan Snow.
It took 10 days for the crew to reach the area after navigating tricky terrain and icy waters. One hundred years after Shackleton’s death, Endurance was found at a depth of 3008 metres in the Weddell Sea, within the search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town, and approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by Captain Worsley. The wreck has been exceptionally well preserved due to the lack of wood-eating microbes in the Weddell Sea. It will remain, untouched and without any artefacts removed, where it has lain for more than a century, but will provide significant insights into Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition and offers an incredible opportunity to bring the stories of Shackleton to new generations.
Endurance left South Georgia for Antarctica on December 5, 1914, carrying Shackleton and 27 other men with the goal of reaching the South Pole and ultimately crossing the continent. However, when nearing Antarctica the ship became trapped in pack ice and the crew were forced to spend the winter in the frozen landscape. Following the ship’s sinking, the entire crew lived to tell the tale, in one of the most remarkable survival stories in history.
As Dan says "This has been the most exciting and challenging experience of my life as a historian. The team has found not only the world's most famous shipwreck, but also its most inaccessible. People thought the story of Endurance was over when it sank in November 1915, but it wasn't. This is the start of a new chapter."