Frank Hurley/Scott Polar Research Institute/1915
A century after Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance sank in the waters of Antarctica, resulting in one of the greatest survival stories in the history of exploration, a team of modern adventurers, technicians and scientists is setting sail to find the wreck.
With a crew of 46 and a 64-member expedition team aboard, a South African icebreaker, the Agulhas II, is set to leave Cape Town on Saturday, bound for the Weddell Sea. Once there, the team hopes to find the wreck and explore it with two underwater drones.
Shackleton himself, whose plans to be the first to cross Antarctica were derailed by the loss of his ship, described the site of the sinking as “the worst portion of the worst sea in the world.”
“It’s the most unreachable wreck ever,” said Mensun Bound, a marine archaeologist and director of exploration of the expedition, Endurance22. “Which makes this the greatest wreck hunt of all time.”
Endurance is also one of the most famous shipwrecks, perhaps on par with the Titanic. It’s a relic of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, when adventurers undertook elaborate, risky and wildly popular expeditions to the continent and the pole. Some, like Roald Amundsen, succeeded. Others, like Robert Falcon Scott, died in the process.
Bravery against the elements has been a signal characteristic justifying the existence of our species.