Royal Geographical Society via Getty Images
EXPEDITION – “He is the hero of anyone interested in the Arctic,” explorer Alban Michon had testified at the HuffPost, at the start of the Endurance22 expedition last February. The wreck of the Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s ship that broke through ice off the coast of Antarctica in 1915, was discovered in the Wedell Sea at a depth of 3,000 meters, the explorers announced on Wednesday, March 9.
“We are very moved to have found and captured images of the Endurance,” Mensun Bound, director of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust’s reconnaissance expedition, told the BBC. “Without exaggeration, this is by far the most beautiful wooden wreck I have ever seen. It is intact and in a wonderful state of preservation,” he added.
“Discovering the wreck is an incredible achievement,” Arctic geographer John Shears told British media, changing seas, snow storms and temperatures as low as -18°C. We have achieved what many people said was impossible.”
A Legendary Expedition
The wreckage was discovered about four miles from the sinking site, the discoverers said. The research expedition – with about a hundred people – had left Cape Town on February 5 aboard a South African icebreaker, hoping to find the wreck before the end of the Australian summer.
In August 1914 the Endurance left Plymouth (England) harbour. On board 28 men, 69 dogs, a cat and the equivalent of two years of food. But after five months of sailing, the ship is stuck in the pack ice. Alone in this white desert, the crew must wait for the end of winter and the melting of their ice prison. The men blacken their logbooks with despair.
But life on the ship isn’t all torture. “We have images of men playing football on the ice floe, it’s unbelievable,” Alban Michon recently exulted. Australian photographer Franck Hurley has indeed immortalized these jubilant scenes between the crew members.
The Australian summer finally arrives, but instead of freeing the ship, the ice traps it. As a spectator of the agony of L’Endurance, the men decide to leave it. Then they camp on the Antarctic ice for almost two years. It was not until April 1916 that Ernest Shackleton left to seek help from five of these men.
A new journey begins. The sailors spend 16 days crossing 1,300 km of ocean in a small boat to reach the island of South Georgia, where they find help at a whaling station. Then they return to rescue the 22 men left behind. This odyssey is Ernest Shackleton’s most famous.
“End the story of one of the most beautiful Arctic explorations”
Since then, all attempts to find L’Endurance have failed, to this day. The Endurance22 expedition used state-of-the-art technology, including two underwater drones, to explore the area, described by Shackleton himself as “the worst part of the world’s worst sea” due to its ice conditions.
For this very dangerous mission, the divers who were to study the wreck had received specific training. “The training is used to teach divers to withstand the cold, to tinker underwater when they are at the wreckage level and most importantly to disable the robot,” detailed Alban Michon on HuffPost† This deep-sea exploration robot weighs almost a ton. “It’s only two or three divers and will have to free it if it gets stuck under the ice.”
“If the explorers discover the wreck, they will even get the chance to close the story of one of the most beautiful polar explorations,” he concluded. It’s done now.
See also on The HuffPost: Sea ice in critical situation, these researchers sound the alarm