The expedition is launched: a South African icebreaker set sail as planned on Saturday for an expedition to search for the wreck of the Endurance. This boat of the British explorer Ernest Shackleton was crushed by the ice of the Antarctic coast in 1915 and sank in 3,000 m depth.
“The Endurance22 expedition, aimed at locating, observing and filming the Endurance wreck…departed on schedule from Cape Town, en route to the Weddell Sea, organizers Falklands Maritime have confirmed. Heritage Trust, a foundation showcasing the marine and maritime heritage of the South Atlantic.
The South African icebreaker SA Agulhas II has a crew of 46 and the 64 members of the expedition on board.
The Endurance had left the British island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic at the end of 1914 to take the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition, led by Shackleton, to attempt the first crossing of the Antarctic continent, from the Sea of Weddell to the Sea of Roos, via the South Pole.
But in January 1915, the Endurance found itself caught in the ice of the Weddell Sea, near the Larsen Ice Shelf. Imprisoned for months, the 44m three-masted schooner was slowly crushed and sank in November 1915, at a depth of 3,000m.
This expedition has become legendary because of the survival of the crew who camped for months on the pack ice before it broke, then joined by canoe and found refuge on the inhospitable and icy Elephant Island, facing the Antarctic Peninsula. But also because of Shackleton’s daring journey in an Endurance canoe with a few companions to seek help as far as South Georgia and who will return to save his entire crew.
“You won’t find anything more difficult”
The Endurance22 expedition should last between 35 and 45 days through ice and cold. She hopes to find the wreckage of the Endurance using advanced technologies and explore it using two underwater drones.
Shackleton had described the spot where the Endurance sank as “the worst part of the worst sea in the world” and the Weddell Sea remains one of the toughest places to navigate, with the thickness of its pack ice likely to cause problems even for modern icebreakers. If it is discovered – which is far from certain – the wreckage will not be affected but a 3D scan will be carried out.
“In terms of finding wrecks, this is the hardest,” renowned wreck hunter David Mearns told AFP, “you won’t find anything harder, because of the glacial environment.”