Expedition to find Shackleton’s lost ship will ‘excite his fans’
An expedition to find the lost ship of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton will excite a lot of his fans, according to the curator of Cambridge’s Polar Museum.
Charlotte Connelly believes that although the story of the shipwreck is familiar, the appetite for information about Shackleton means there is great interest in the quest to survey and film the wreck of Endurance, which sank during Sir Ernest’s quest to Antarctica in 1915 and now lies somewhere at the bottom of the Weddell Sea.
She said: “There’s nothing new historically that the ship is going to tell us. We know where it went down and it's really well documented how and why it went down. But there's a lot of people who really admire Shackleton and have a lot of respect for him. And so it's really more about that emotional connection for those people, I think.
“My understanding is they won't be attempting to bring anything back up, but rather to document it. And what they're likely to find is the ship in very close to the same condition that it was in when it went down. The water is about 3,000 metres deep. It's very cold. So we don't think that there'll be an awful lot of wildlife eating the ship and the other organic matter. And because it's covered in ice, there's not likely to be a lot of dust or sediment that's landed on it. So there might just be a very thin layer of sediment over the top.
“It's not an area of the sea floor that's been heavily studied. So they might find some new interesting animals."
The Polar Museum - the home of the Scott Polar Research Institute - is not involved in the expedition itself, but has an exceptional collection of material relating to Shackleton. Some of it can also be explored online at spri.cam.ac.uk/museum/shackleton/.
“All of our visitors, I'm sure, will be really interested to learn more about it. And we're always happy to tell Shackleton story.
“Shackleton as a character really appeals to a lot of people and he's particularly famous for his leadership skills. He was obviously very personable and got on really well with a lot of people that applied whether they were officers like he was or whether they were the non-commissioned men on the expedition.
"He got along with all of them equally well and was really good at finding the things that motivated people to make them work better.. So there's been a lot written about him about his leadership skills. I think that's really what gets people excited about.”
TV historian Dan Snow has said that finding the ship would be “ground-breaking for maritime archaeology”.
The Endurance22 Expedition set off for Antarctica from Cape Town, South Africa, on Saturday - one month after the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest’s death.
Dan, who is joining the expedition, said: “I think engaging the world with one of the great stories of history is incredibly exciting.
“As a historian and someone with a great passion for this, finally locating the site of the shipwreck really is what I live for.”
Sir Ernest’s trip gained notoriety due to icy conditions which caused the boat and crew to be trapped in sea ice for more than 10 months, before they successfully escaped in lifeboats and on foot.
Dan added: “We’ll be vulnerable to bad weather, ice, storms and very cold climates, holding on like ants to the big plates of Arctic ice around us.
“This is very significant, it’s a modern and ambitious search for the shipwreck. If we do find Endurance, it will be ground-breaking for maritime archaeology.”
Operating from the South African-registered research ship, the Agulhas II, the expedition will be at sea for at least 35 days.
Underwater search vehicles will be used to locate, survey and film the wreck, which could be up to 3,000m down, without touching or disturbing it.
Donald Lamont, chairman of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, said: “The preparation has been comprehensive, although not without its challenge, including Covid.”
He said the team has remained “nimble and determined” with the plan to “locate and survey Endurance”.
Dr John Shears, expedition leader, said: “I would like to thank the entire team, both those heading to Antarctica and the many in important support functions, for their outstanding work across the past month during the final preparations, which have been suitably thorough, and we leave Cape Town on the SA Agulhas II knowing that we have the very best people and technology available to us.
“We are excited to keep the world up to date with progress on this remarkable Antarctic mission.”
Mensun Bound, director of exploration, said: “Embarking on this expedition to locate the wreck of Endurance is incredibly exciting for all who are involved.
“We are very grateful to everyone who has made this possible, and we will do everything in our power to shine further light on this inspiring story.
“We very much hope we can do justice to this magnificent chapter in polar exploration, by capturing images of Shackleton’s iconic Endurance to share with the world.”
Additional reporting by PA News.