April 2022

Historic Shipwreck Found


The Endurance rests on the ocean floor off the coast of Antarctica.

The shipwreck of the Endurance has been found in the icy waters off the coast of Antarctica. Trapped and crushed by sea ice, the ship sunk more than 100 years ago. Until recently, finding this historic shipwreck seemed impossible. The wreck itself sits on the sea floor at a depth of more than 9,000 feet. In addition, the sea there is frozen into thick sheets of ice for much of the year.

Led by Dr. John Sterns, a team of scientists aboard the icebreaker Agulhas II were eager to take on the challenge. An icebreaker is a ship specially designed to sail through ice-covered waters. Despite the difficult conditions, the team found the Endurance on March 5, 2022. They used a combination of historic records and modern technology to find the shipwreck.

Before the Endurance sank, the ship’s navigator recorded its final location. The team aboard the Agulhas II used this information to help determine the search area. To search, they used a high-tech underwater robot. Unlike humans, the robot could more easily explore the great depths and frigid waters.

When the robot sent the first images to their screens, the team was amazed. E-N-D-U-R-A-N-C-E could clearly be read on the ship’s stern. The same icy Antarctic waters that had crushed and sank the ship had also preserved it surprisingly well.

The Endurance was the ship of famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. After completing an expedition to explore Antarctica in 1909, Shackleton set off again in 1914. The goal this time was to cross the Antarctic continent and, in the process, be the first to reach the South Pole.

Unfortunately, Shackleton’s expedition never really got started. Their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the ice off the coast of Antarctica. Before the Endurance sank on November 21, 1915, the crew abandoned ship with as much gear as they could carry and the ship’s lifeboats. An expedition of exploration had turned into a battle for survival.

Shackleton and his crew survived on the Antarctic ice for more than a year. They traveled about 800 miles by foot and by lifeboat before reaching South Georgia Island. It was there that they were finally able to organize a rescue. Amazingly, every member of the Endurance crew survived the ordeal. Many historians credit Shackleton’s leadership and determination for the crew’s miraculous survival.

Credit: ©Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy
Question 1
In what year did the Endurance become trapped in the Antarctic ice and sink?

Question 2
What surprised the Agulhas II team most when they found the shipwreck?

Rate this story:
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars