The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT) is planning an expedition, ‘Endurance22’, to locate, survey and film the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legendary ship ‘Endurance’ which sank in the Weddell Sea in November 1915.
Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of the most famous polar explorers, died on January 5, 1922 in Grytviken on South Georgia. 100 years later, in February 2022, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (fmht.co.uk) is planning an expedition to locate, survey and film the wreck of the Endurance.
The Trust will submit an application to the UK authorities for permission to undertake an expedition with the polar supply and research vessel SA Agulhas II.
The SA Agulhas II is a South African research vessel designed as an icebreaker. The expedition “Endurance22” will start in Cape Town. An international team of maritime experts, engineers, environmental scientists and educators will accompany the expedition.
The expedition leader will be Dr John Shears, who led the Weddell Sea expedition in 2019, and Mensun Bound, a Falkland Islands-born marine archaeologist and trustee of the FMHT. The Trust is delighted that Richard Garriott, President of the Explorers Club (explorers.org) has accepted an invitation to join the Expedition Team.
As the wreck of the “Endurance” is protected as a historic site and monument under the umbrella of the Antarctic Treaty, the search will be non-intrusive. The goal will be to locate, survey and film the Endurance, to pass on the stories of Shackleton to new generations, and to answer questions people have been asking since the ship sank in November 1915:
- Was the wreck virtually intact due to the strength of the structure, or had it been completely crushed in the ice?
- Are there organisms that have consumed the hull?
- Will it be possible to find photographic glass plates left behind by photographer Frank Hurley?
- Will the cameras show the lab and specimen jars of biologist Robert Clark?
Subject to obtaining UK regulatory approval and any COVID-related restrictions that may apply in early 2022, the Trust plans for the expedition to depart Cape Town in early February 2022 aboard the research and supply vessel SA Agulhas II. The ship, its captain, ice pilot and crew already proved their skills in 2019 as part of the “Weddell Sea Expedition 2019” at the location where the “Endurance” is believed to be.
To locate, survey and film the wreck, the team will use SAAB Sabertooth hybrid underwater search vehicles. These combine the features of autonomous underwater vehicles, which can follow a pre-programmed course without a physical connection to the surface, and remotely operated vehicles, which send real-time digital signals to the surface via a fiber-optic cable.
The Sabertooths will be equipped with sensors, lights and high-definition cameras that can bring the moment of discovery to a global audience with unprecedented immediacy.
While Sabertooths can be launched directly from SA Agulhas II, the plan is to set up ice camps, with a Sabertooth then being launched through an ice hole.
Education, public relations and environment
Shackleton and other explorers of the so-called “Heroic Age” of polar exploration made important contributions to knowledge about the fragile environment of Antarctica. We still know remarkably little about the continent, but have come to realize that our climate is affected by it and that human activities have an impact on it. The Trust aims to raise awareness among younger generations of the value of exploration, increasing our environmental awareness and scientific study.
Accordingly, the Trust is in discussion with potential media partners who can take these messages to a wider young audience. The aim is to include a representative of the US organisation Reach the World on the team, which brings young people into direct contact with explorers in their classrooms. There will also be scientists with expertise in ice, climate and related research on board, adding to our knowledge of the Antarctic environment.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal