Health & Science

A sunken ship off the coast of Antarctica found a century later well preserved

A ship that sank more than 100 years ago off the coast of Antarctica was found in a "brilliant state of preservation".

Endurance sunken wreck in Weddell Sea, near Antarctica
Taffrail and ship’s wheel, aft well deck | © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic

Scientists from the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust say they have found the sunken ship Endurance more than a century after it was lost to the Antarctic ice.

The vessel lies 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) below the surface of the Weddell Sea, off the Antarctic continent in territorial claims of Argentina.

The wreck was found about 6.4 kilometers (four miles) south of the location recorded in 1915 by its captain, Frank Worsley. The vessel became stuck in ice in January 1915, it slowly drifted but was squeezed by ice so that its structure fissured. The ship eventually sank in November 1915.

An expedition set off from South Africa last month to search for the ship.

Mensun Bound, director of exploration for the Endurance22 expedition, said footage revealed the ship to be in remarkably good condition. “This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen,” he said. "It is intact and in a brilliant state of preservation". The ship's name Endurance is even clearly visible on the boat.

The ship sank after British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton tried to become the first person to cross the Antarctic continent by foot. He never set foot on the continent.

However, all crew members survived and were rescued many months later. They abandoned the ship and walked on ice with food ration, dogs and lifeboats. Shackleton then succeeded a 1,500 km (932 mi) expedition on a lifeboat with few people to reach a remote Atlantic whaling station before going back to rescue the 22 members who were left surviving for a year on an inhospitable island. The whole rescue was considered a heroic feat of endurance.

The expedition to find the ship comes 100 years after Shackleton’s death in 1922.

The ship was filmed but nothing was touched or explored. "The wreck is protected as a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, ensuring that whilst the wreck is being surveyed and filmed it will not be touched or disturbed in any way," Endurance22 wrote in a statement.

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