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‘Like Time Travel’: Explorer’s Ship Found Off Antarctica’s Coast 100 Years After South Pole Expedition

The ship of British explorer and World War I veteran Ernest Shackleton has been found in the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica — more than 100 years after it was lost — by a team of marine archeologists and scientists. 

Shackleton’s ship, called the Endurance, was well preserved by the frigid waters and its name could still be seen on the side, long after it wrecked in 1915.

“This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation,” said Mensun Bound, one of the directors of the mission.

Shackleton made several expeditions to try to reach the South Pole, and once planted the British flag just over 100 miles away from it. His travels were made famous during his expedition from 1914-1916 when the Endurance became stranded in ice and Shackleton and his crew were forced to abandon it. 

For the next five months, Shackleton and his crew survived by floating on large sheets of ice before making it to Elephant Island. They lived off penguin and seal meat, and had to eat their dogs while on the island, located in the South Shetland Islands. 

Eventually, they made it to South Georgia Island, after an 800-mile trip in a whale boat. Shackleton and all of the Endurance crew were able to make it off the island alive four months later. The British explorer would later die in 1922. 

Now the ship, once lost to the ice, has been found using submersibles, after efforts by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and the S.A. Agulhas II, a logistics ship. The submersibles would, for several hours at a time, search the seafloor for any objects around where the archeologists believed the ship might have went down. 

“The water was as clear as distilled water, with a visibility of 30 meters at least. It felt like time travel,” historian Dan Snow said. 

Bound, one of the mission’s directors, added that the discovery was a “milestone in polar history” and that he hoped it would inspire others to be interested in the arctic region. 

“We hope our discovery will engage young people and inspire them with the pioneering spirit, courage and fortitude of those who sailed Endurance to Antarctica. We pay tribute to the navigational skills of Captain Frank Worsley, the Captain of the Endurance, whose detailed records were invaluable in our quest to locate the wreck,” he said.  

A documentary about the expedition to find the lost ship is expected to be aired in the fall of 2022 by National Geographic. 

John Shears, the expedition leader, stated that he believed his team had “made polar history” after finishing “the world’s most challenging shipwreck search.”

The effort to locate the historic ship began in early February, after an anonymous donor provided the $10 million needed to fund the trip. 

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