After successfully completing research at the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, a team of world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, and oceanographers is now sailing towards the site of the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s long-lost ship Endurance.
The Weddell Sea Expedition aboard SA Agulhas II, a 13,700-tonne icebreaker, have successfully collected extensive measurements, samples and survey data around the Larsen C Ice Shelf and A68 iceberg, which will provide science with important new information on this very remote and little studied extreme environment.
Now, S.A. Agulhas IIis sailing towards the approximate site of the wreck of Endurance, which was crushed by sea ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in November 1915.
To reach the area S.A. Agulhas II has to break through another 120 km of thick sea ice to break, pushing the vessel to its structural limits.
The search area has been defined by using the precise and detailed records kept by the master of Endurance, Captain Frank Worsley, who used a sextant and chronometers to measure the exact location of the ship in 1915.
On arrival at the wreck site, the team will deploy Ocean Infinity’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from S.A. Agulhas IIand attempt to locate and survey the wreck on the sea bed.
If Enduranceis found, the wreck will not be touched or disturbed as its protection and conservation is of paramount importance, but images and footage of the vessel will be collected.
“The odds of success were initially against us, but the mood within the team is now very upbeat given the favourable ice and weather conditions,” says Director of Exploration on the Expedition, Mensun Bound.
“We believe this is the best opportunity ever to locate Enduranceand we’re relishing the chance to be involved in a search of such significance.
“Through the deployment of the best possible technology and a world-leading marine exploration team, we can achieve something truly unique that will be a landmark moment in polar history.”
Professor Julian Dowdeswell, the Expedition Chief Scientists and Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, says: “We have acquired detailed observations on the glaciology, oceanography, biology, and geology of the little-known area around the Larsen C Ice shelf and the huge A68 iceberg. Analysis of this data will allow us to better understand the contemporary stability and past behaviour of Larsen C, with its wider implications for ice sheet stability more generally.”
Polar geographer and Expedition Leader, Dr John Shears, says: “We are very pleased to report that we have successfully completed the initial phase of our ground-breaking scientific research program. This is truly remarkable given that we lost vital science time during the search and recovery of one of the AUVs which was lost under a thick ice floe for four days. The research team on board, as well as the officers and crew of S.A. Agulhas II, must take enormous credit for the work they have done to date, working all hours in snow and freezing cold, gathering data which will provide a great and important insight into the environment of the Weddell Sea We now look forward to the next stage of the Expedition, as we begin the search for Ernest Shackleton’s Enduranceand we sincerely hope to get to the wreck site. It will be an epic and exciting challenge!”
Further updates regarding the search for Endurance and the continuing scientific research of the Expedition will be provided by the team in due course.