Having successfully completed the pioneering science programme at the Larsen C Ice Shelf, the Expedition enters its exploration phase with the aim of locating the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship ‘Endurance’
The Weddell Sea Expedition, which is funded by the Netherlands-based not-for profit charity the Flotilla Foundation, is pleased to announce that it has successfully completed the scientific research programme at the Larsen C Ice Shelf and is now sailing towards the site of the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship Endurance.
The Expedition’s research team of world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, and oceanographers has collected extensive measurements, samples and survey data around the Larsen C Ice Shelf and A68 iceberg, which will provide new information on this very remote and little studied extreme environment.
The Expedition vessel, S.A. Agulhas II, is now sailing towards the site of the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship Endurance, which was crushed by sea ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in November 1915. From its current position, the S.A. Agulhas II still has 120 km of sea ice to break to reach the search area, pushing the S.A Aghullas II to her limits. However, with ice and weather conditions currently looking favourable, the Expedition is hopeful of being able to reach the search location in the coming days.
The search area has been defined by using the precise and detailed records kept by the Captain 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 II and attempt to locate and survey the wreck on the sea bed. If Endurance is 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.
Director of Exploration on the Expedition Mensun Bound, said:
“It is with great excitement that we begin the exploration phase of the Expedition, where we hope to achieve what was thought to be impossible; locating Endurance, the vessel which sunk in the harshest of environments. Although the odds of success were initially against us, the mood within the team is upbeat given the favourable ice and weather conditions which we think will allow us to reach the search area. We now view this as the best opportunity in history to locate Endurance and we are relishing the chance to be involved in a search of such significance. We believe that through the deployment of the best possible technology and a world-leading exploration team, we can achieve something truly unique that would 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, said:
“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.”
Further updates regarding the search for ‘Endurance’ and the continuing scientific research of the Expedition will be provided in due course.
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The original Endurance Expedition had set out from the UK in August 1914, hoping to achieve the first land crossing of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea via the South Pole to the Ross Sea. However, Endurance became trapped in the dense pack ice and the 28 man crew had no choice but to abandon ship. After months spent in makeshift camps as the ice continued its northwards drift, the party took to the lifeboats to reach the inhospitable, uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton and five others then made an 800-mile (1,300 km) open-boat journey in the James Caird to reach South Georgia. From there, Shackleton was eventually able to mount a rescue of the men waiting on Elephant Island and bring them home without loss of life.
List of partners involved in The Weddell Sea Expedition 2019:
African Marine Solutions (AMSOL)
Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)
Deep Ocean Search Ltd
DP & Marine Assurance Norway AS
Eclipse Group Inc
Nekton Foundation / University of Oxford
Nelson Mandela University
Netherlands Institute of Marine Research (NIOZ)
Royal Geographical Society (RGS)
Scott Polar Research Institute
Shears Polar Ltd
The Explorers Club
The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)
University of Canterbury
University of Cape Town
University of Stellenbosch
SOURCE Weddell Sea Expedition 2019