The search has begun for the Antarctic pioneer’s lost ship

The hunt for Endurance is underway, Ernest Shackleton’s ship lies more than 10,000 meters below the frozen Weddell Sea in Antarctica.

After an 11-day voyage aboard a South African icebreaker, the expedition, known as Endurance22, began searching for the wreck this week. Underwater drones equipped with cameras, sonar and lasers have scanned 100 square miles of the sea floor for the remains of the 144-foot wooden ship, which sank in 1915 after being crushed in the ice.

Mensun Bound, the expedition’s director of exploration, said in an email that after a few technical problems, the subs were still in good working order, performing several dives a day. The image shows the seafloor which is flat and consists of fine sediments and small rocks. “Any debris can be identified quickly,” he said.

The expedition, funded at a cost of more than $10 million by an unnamed sponsor, has only about a week left before the icebreaker, the Agulhas II, is due to return to Cape Town.

But the expedition wasn’t just looking for one of the most famous wrecks still to be found, a ship with a revered place in the history of Antarctic exploration. On board are researchers with a more forward-looking goal: They’re studying the ice cover in the Weddell Sea, looking for signs that it’s changing as the world warms due to human emissions of greenhouse gases. glasses.

Two helicopters aboard the ship were used to ferry these scientists to the icebergs, where ice cores were drilled for later laboratory analysis.

Stamina was lost when transporting Shackleton and his crew of 27 to Antarctica in an attempt to be the first to walk across the continent. The sinking, which occurred months after the ship was first trapped in packing ice, dashed those hopes but led to one of the greatest survival stories in the face of adversity. big scene. Shackleton led some of his men on an epic small boat voyage to the island of South Georgia, an 800-mile journey from which he organized the rescue of the entire crew. He came back He was a hero.

As Shackleton found out before, Weddell is known for having thick, perennial ice, a function of the circular currents of the sea. But the ice on the way to the search site wasn’t too bad, said John Shears, expedition leader. “Our transit was much faster than expected because of the light ice conditions, with many open water passages for the ship to navigate through,” he said.

Ice in the search area is also free of any obstacles, Mr. Bound said. It’s thin enough to wash an icebreaker’s propeller, creating enough fresh water to launch submersibles. He said that while the search is in its early stages, the team is making good progress in covering the search area.

Endurance’s captain, Frank Worsley, was able to use basic navigational tools to locate the ship when it eventually sank. But Worsley’s watch, which he used to watch the sun in his spare time, was off for about 10 minutes. Through analyzes of that and other potential errors, as well as modeling the likelihood of drift, a 7 mile x 14 mile search area was established.

If the remains of the ship are found, submersibles will video, photograph and laser scan the wreck, which will most likely serve as the basis for museum exhibits and educational materials. But the site, classified as Historical siteswill not be disturbed.

The wreck is said to be in relatively good shape, unlike other old wooden wrecks in warmer waters that are often consumed by marine life.

Although pictures taken before the sinking by Shackleton photographer Frank Hurley, Frank Hurley, seem to show Stamina in parts, it’s mainly the mast and the rig. Mr Bound and others said it was more likely that the hull was barely intact when the ship sank, although it could have split apart when it bottomed.

The expedition team hopes to find out the cause soon. “We remain optimistic that with the current sea ice conditions and well-functioning submersibles, we will find Endurance,” Mr. Shears said. The search has begun for the Antarctic pioneer’s lost ship

Fry Electronics Team

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