In November 1915, Ernest Shackleton and his crew were forced to abandon their ship the Endurance after months of drifting in the Antarctic ice pack. It is known where the ship sank, but the wreck has not been found. In a few months, the Antarctic expedition will be looking for the famous shipwreck again. A diving robot must be lowered under the ice and searched at the bottom of the sea for “stamina”.
British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s endurance voyage went down in history. The objective of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which began in 1914, was to cross the South Pole. To do this, Ernest Shackleton and his team were supposed to make contact in the Weddell Sea on the ship “Endurance” and begin to cross from the coast there. A second group headed to the Ross Sea on the other side with the Northern Lights and was supposed to meet the transit team from there.
The story of the hero of Antarctic exploration
But the plan went spectacularly wrong: The endurance team was trapped in an ice pack in the Weddell Sea and Shackleton and his men drifted across the ice with their ship for months. At the end of October 1915, the pressure of the ice pressed the hull together so hard that, despite its particularly stable construction, it broke apart, and the water rushed inward. The crew then had to retrieve their supplies and equipment and leave the ship. They camped on the ice pack, hoping that the ice would clear up and rescue would arrive soon. On November 21, 1915, the “Endurance” finally sank, according to the participants of the expedition, to 69 ° 05 ° S latitude and 51 ° 30 ° W longitude.
How Shackleton and his crew were able to leave the ice pack and reach Earth on foot and with the help of the ship’s previously recovered lifeboats, and how they survived the tribulations of Antarctica without a single man dying, is considered one of the greatest heroic stories of today’s polar search. Although the flight path is well documented with team notes and photos by mission photographer Frank Hurley, the further fate of Endurance remains in the dark. Although the place of their sinking was known, the ice pack made the place largely inaccessible, so the wreck of the famous ship has not yet been found. The last search for the wreck in 2019 had to be called off because the expedition ship was at risk of being trapped in the ice.
New research on “stamina”
A new attempt is now being prepared. Launched by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. In February 2022, a group of underwater archaeologists and polar researchers will set out to the Weddell Sea from Cape Town in South Africa aboard the research vessel Agulhas 2. The goal is to track down, map and photograph the wreckage of the “endurance” that is supposed to be 3,000 meters below the Earth’s surface. Expedition leader Mensun Bound explains: “Trying to find the Endurance Wreck is a very exciting task that has always been considered impossible. Given the harsh environment of Antarctica, there is no guarantee of success for us either, but we are inspired by the great explorers of Antarctica.”
The plan is to lower a ship’s diving robot into the water after it reaches the Weddell Sea. This underwater self-driving hybrid vehicle called “Sabertooth” is equipped with high-resolution cameras and a side-scanning sonar. It can independently search the sea floor to depths of up to 4,000 meters and transmit its data to the surface in real time. If the ice over the likely site of the wreck is too thick to go by ship, the expedition team plans to get to a camp or two on the ice. Of these, the ice is then punctured and the submersible robot is lowered into the sea. According to Pound, the “endurance” was supposed to remain relatively undisturbed on the sea floor. Since there has been no erosion or landslides in this area and the sedimentation rate is as low as one millimeter per year.
In what condition is the debris located?
“After two years of planning this new mission, I think we have a good chance of finding the wreck under the Weddell Sea ice,” says expedition leader John Shears, who led the previous expedition in 2019. “If we can really find stamina, it will be a great moment.” If the search is successful, one of the goals will be to find out the state of the shipwreck. Because it is not yet clear whether the “stamina” sank in one piece or whether it splits in two. The researchers also hope to receive images from inside the ship. These can show, for example, whether some of the portrait paintings left behind in 1915 are still around. The mission could also show if biologist Robert Clark’s microscope containers and glass samples are still intact.
Quelle: The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust