The discovery of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance

the stern of Endurance after 107 years
Taffrail and ship's wheel, aft well deck

The above two photos flashed across the news wires and the internet on 5 March 2022...which happened to be 100 years to the day after Shackleton was buried on South Georgia, and 107 years since Endurance, being crushed by ice, sank on 21 November 1915. At left, the ship name Endurance on the stern, below which was a Polaris star image, designating the former name of the vessel. At right...the well deck with the ship's wheel.

Note that the above photos, as well as this 90-second underwater video, are © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust; for larger versions and many more more photos see the links below.

Leonard Hussey with presumably the first banjo in AntarcticaThe discovery was made at 1605 UTC on Friday 5 March 2022 (or 0405 Pole time on the 6th, or 1005 MST Friday in Denver/Boulder)...per this 9 March Endurance22 blog post by expedition director Mensun which he notes that the vessel was found only 4 nautical miles/4.6 miles/7.4km south of Frank Worsley's documented coordinates of the sinking. And Mensun even mentions the banjo playing of expedition meteorologist Leonard a bluegrass nut I must include a photo of Leonard at right...although the expedition members were limited to 2 pounds of personal effects, Shackleton insisted that Leonard bring his banjo along for entertainment. It's a zither banjo with 4 strings despite the six-string head...the instrument is currently in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. This photo is from a trailer for Frank Hurley's remastered 1919 silent film South released in 2022 in the UK.

Back to the history...the story of the discovery by the South African icebreaking research vessel S.A. Agulhas II after 8 days of searching, has been well covered, including in the first story I saw from BBC News on 9 March. Here is an 11 March Wired article entitled "How a Plucky Robot Found the Long-Lost Endurance Shipwreck." This long and detailed New York Times article titled "106 Years, 4 Weeks, 1 Wreck: How Shackleton's Ship Was Found" includes many new and historical photos, and this 12 March New Yorker article describes the music the folks on the Agulhas II had been listening to. It also mentions the earlier unsuccessful search in 2019, also from the Agulhas II, when the AUV was lost. Saab Sabertooth

This time, the search team was equipped with two Saab Sabertooth underwater vehicles--13 feet long x 5 feet wide, with thrusters that could move the vehicle in any direction. These were tethered to the ship with a thin cable that would allow control and send photos and video, but not provide power...and interestingly, the AUV's battery was almost dead when the first suspected images of Endurance were seen. The image at left is from the Saab Sabertooth data sheet; additionally here is a February Saab press release about their part in the search effort. The search project has been supported by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT), financed with more than $10 million from an anonymous donor...the official project name is Endurance22 which is also the project website. Endurance route and search area Here is another BBC News article from 9 March which also features a 3-minute video of Mensun Bound describing the discovery of Endurance. Here is the official 9 March Endurance22/FMHT press release announcing the discovery; at the bottom of this press release are links to two pages of many expedition photos.

underwater team

At right is a map showing the original 1915 track of Endurance and the search area; this is from this BBC News report mentioned above. Also note that the underwater equipment was operated by a team from Ocean Infinity; here is their home page and an article about their participation in the earlier 2019 search efforts. At left is a 13 March photo by Esther Horvath of the underwater team with one of the AUVs, from this project tweet.

Shackleton's graveA may have noticed the extensive sea life present aboard Endurance...two great articles with more coverage: First, an 11 March New York Times article titled "The New Captain of the Endurance Shipwreck Is an Anemone." An alternative is this 9 March Vox article "The Bizarre deep-sea creatures living on the Endurance shipwreck."

Shackleton's graveside ceremonyAnother footnote: just 6 days after the discovery of Endurance the Agulhas II visited Grytviken, South Georgia...where Ernest Shackleton died and was buried. Ceremonies were held at the South Georgia Museum and at Shackleton's graveside. Here is a 16 March BBC News article describing the visit. At left is a view of the graveside ceremony, historian/broadcaster Dan Snow making a presentation, from the South Georgia Heritage Trust Facebook page. At right is my October 2016 photo of Shackleton's gravestone...and here's my rare view of the back of the gravestone, with a Robert Browning quote: "I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life's set prize."

For a personal South Pole connection, I must add that when I heard news of the Endurance discovery, I was reminded of one morning in early September 1985 when I was watching the TV news, which was describing the discovery of the sunken RMS Titanic. The video suddenly switched to an electronics-filled container on the deck of Robert Ballard's research vessel Knorr, and the guy sitting at the console was introduced as...Stu Harris...a good friend whom I'd wintered with at Pole in 1977.