Explorer ‘Ernest Shackleton’s mythical vessel sank over a century ago, giving rise to a fable
The great explorers and their boats have always fascinated the general public as well as researchers. But few stories are as remarkable and ingrained in popular culture as that of Briton Ernest Shackleton, whose ship Endurance sank off Antarctica in 1915. And enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that this mythical wreck, which gave rise to one of the most gripping fables in modern history, has finally been found!
This fabulous discovery, we owe it to a large team of marine archaeologists and technicians who reviewed the Weddell Sea in search of the wreck. This expanse of water that borders Antarctica is one of the few areas on Earth where there is still ice as far as the eye can see.
For more than two weeks, they had to struggle to comb through this area where even icebreakers struggle to navigate. A real maritime haystack that they explored using underwater drones equipped with sonars; they must have covered more than 400 square kilometers before finally falling on the remains of this 43-meter three-master, stranded more than three kilometers below the frozen surface.
A crew of madmen returned from the dead
If this discovery is so sensational, it is largely because of the epic story around its sinking. It is in fact right in the middle of a period now called the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”, during which different countries were engaged in a real race to discover the secrets of this land of ice. It was during this time that Roald Amundsen became the first explorer to reach the South Pole, in 1911.
In this context, Ernest Shackleton recruits 27 exceptional sailors to launch an assault on the frozen continent. He and his crew set out from England in 1914 hoping to achieve a historic feat: to become the first to cross Antarctica from end to end. Unfortunately, the expedition was cut short when the Endurance found itself trapped by the ice of the Weddel Sea.
The vessel could not resist the grip of the pack ice which was closing inexorably around it. For ten consecutive months, the boat was gradually crushed, forcing the poor devils to establish a makeshift camp on the ice, hundreds of kilometers from civilization. A situation that seemed hopeless… but that was without taking into account the exceptional resources of the crew.
An upcoming documentary on Disney+
After collecting as many provisions as possible before the sinking, they had to wait until the ice finally offered them an opportunity to escape from this frozen hell. At the first sign of improvement, the entire crew crammed into three meager rescue boats in a bid to reach Elephant Island, a deserted area off Cape Horn.
They finally succeeded, but it was not the end of their troubles for all that; the horizon continued to darken as fatigue set in and resources dwindled. Shackleton therefore tried everything for everything; with 6 trusted sailors, he embarked on a desperate 16-day crossing in hopes of reaching the Sandwich Islands. He eventually achieved his goal by rallying a whaling station from which he was able to organize the rescue of the rest of the crew; ultimately, all the sailors miraculously escapedwhich has largely contributed to the legend of Endurance.
This mythical wreck, “in a brilliant state of preservation” according to the research team, is now considered a historical monument according to the New York Times. It will also be the subject of a long documentary produced by National Geographic which will be broadcast on Disney+.