Antarctic Expedition Searches for the Wreck of the Endurance

Image courtesy Weddell Sea Expedition 2019

Published Jan 28, 2019 12:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Next month, scientists and explorers with the Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 hope to reach the location where Ernest Shackleton's famous ship, the Endurance, foundered and sank in November 1915. 

The scientific mission, organized by the Scott Polar Research Institute and funded by the Flotilla Foundation, has completed its first tasks near the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and it is now attempting to break through heavy ice to the site. If it is possible to reach the Endurance's last known location, the team will deploy autonomous underwater vehicles to search for the wreck. 

“We now view this as the best opportunity in history to locate Endurance and we are relishing the chance to be involved in a search of such significance," said expedition director Mensun Bound. "Although the odds of success were initially against us, the mood within the team is upbeat."

The Weddell Sea is usually covered in heavy ice of up to 10 feet thick - well within the capacity of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star and the Russian Arktika-class nuclear icebreakers, but near the limits of performance for a medium icebreaker. The team's vessel, the S.A. Agulhas II, is rated for medium first-year ice with old ice inclusions (PC 5). 

From her current position, the team still has 65 nm of ice to to transit to reach the search area. However, expedition leaders say that ice and weather conditions are looking favorable, and they hope to reach the site within days. 

On arrival, the effort to search for the Endurance with AUVs will not be easy. According to expedition leader Dr. John Shears, the science mission was already delayed for four days due to a search and recovery effort for one of the AUVs, which was lost under a thick ice ice floe.