December 1, 2022

The Endurance Shipwreck Is a Bridge to a Bygone Age, and a Reminder of Antarctica’s Uncertain Future

By Hanne E.F. Nielsen and Alessandro Antonello
March 17, 2022

The wreck of Endurance is a bridge to a bygone age, and a pointer of Antarcticas uncertain future.
Magnificently clear images of the shipwreck Endurance, 3,000 meters (~ 10,000 feet) below the oceans surface area in Antarcticas Weddell Sea, were relayed worldwide recently. Found by the Endurance 22 Expedition utilizing a cutting edge autonomous undersea vehicle, we now have images almost as iconic as those taken of the stricken ship by Australian professional photographer and expedition member Frank Hurley in 1915.

Stamina was the ship of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Led by British-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, the expedition aimed to cross Antarctica on foot for the first time, from the Weddell Sea (south of the Atlantic Ocean) to the Ross Sea (south of New Zealand), through the South Pole.
Voyages of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Red, trip of Endurance; yellow, drift of Endurance in pack ice; green, sea ice drift after sinking of Endurance; blue, voyage of James Caird; cyan, prepared trans-Antarctic path; orange, trip of Aurora; pink, retreat of Aurora; brown, supply depot path. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Endurance left England in August 1914, just as the very first world war was breaking out. The ship entered Antarcticas pack ice in December 1914 and by February 1915 was securely ice-bound in the Weddell Sea. By October, the shifting pack ice started to crush the ship, which sank the following month.
Hurley famously dived into the flooded interior of the sinking Endurance to retrieve about 120 photographic plates, leaving some 400 behind. The crew then trekked to the edge of the sea ice, and got to Elephant Island in April 1916. From there, Shackleton led a smaller sized team, utilizing the lifeboat James Caird to cross the stormy Southern Ocean and reach the island of South Georgia to raise the alarm.
The expedition team– and Hurleys plates– were lastly saved in August 1916. His expressive images of the sinking ship assisted the exploration gain prevalent attention and cemented Endurances place in Antarctic history. What ended up being of the sunken ship?
Among Hurleys photos of the stricken Endurance caught in pack ice. Credit: Frank Hurley/Wikimedia Commons
The look for Endurance
The last recognized collaborates of the vessel were taped by skipper Frank Worsley as 68 ° 39 30 “S, 52 ° 26 30 “W, however this was not verified up until today. The successful discovery came during the 2nd significant attempt in recent years to discover the wreck.
In early 2019, the Weddell Sea Expedition, likewise independently financed and performing a more comprehensive, multidisciplinary clinical survey of the location, was unsuccessful, having actually lost its autonomous submarine.
The present Endurance 22 Expedition has been similarly multidisciplinary, and gained from an anonymous US$ 10 million personal donation. This personal sponsorship echoes Shackletons scenario; his explorations were funded through donations of both money and products (which later appeared in ads).
Endurance shipwreck. Credit: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust
Stamina is now a global heritage site
Even prior to its rediscovery, Endurance was a secured heritage site. In 2019, nations within the Antarctic Treaty System designated the unidentified website of the wreck a “Historic Site and Monument.”
Other unsure websites have actually also been preemptively recognized in this way, such as the tent left by Norwegian pioneer Roald Amundsen at the South Pole in 1911, now buried under snow, and the wreck of the San Telmo, a Spanish warship that sank south of Cape Horn in 1819.
These designations point to the significance of creativity whenever we handle the very far south. The majority of individuals will never ever check out Antarctica, however the stories we bring with us about the location have broad cultural blood circulation.
Wreckage of Ernest Shackletons Endurance. Taffrail and ships wheel, aft well deck. Credit: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust
The “historical website” designation safeguards “all artifacts included within or previously contained within the ship, which may be resting on the seabed in or near the wreck within a 150-meter radius.”
Appropriately, the Endurance 22 Expedition did not take anything physical from the wreck. But the brand-new photos of the ships final resting location tell a powerful story.
Altering views on Antarctica
The photos not just bring Endurance strongly back to life; they welcome brand-new ways of imagining Antarctica in general. Deep sea animals, consisting of sea anemones, sea squirts and even a crab, crawl over the wreck, showing the vitality of the Antarctic seafloor and providing a window into an undersea world about which little is understood. In much the very same method, the recent amazing discovery of 60 million ice fish nests in the Weddell Sea also shows this vigor.
A dead ship, brimming with marine life. Credit: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust
The images also raise concerns about why we want to Antarctica, and what we see when we do. Is it a place for daring travellers to test their mettle– the view that prevailed during the “brave age” of Antarctic expedition that ended with Shackletons voyage? Or is it a location for collaboration and cumulative endeavour between nations, as represented by the Antarctic Treaty and the continents latter-day status as primarily a location for scientific research?
Nowadays, Antarctica is viewed through an environmental lens; instead of a location for humans to conquer, it is closely linked in the cultural creativity to climate modification and pictures of melting ice. That makes the discovery of the ship much more fascinating, given the current discovery of the wreck took advantage of a record low sea ice extent this summer.
Endurance 22 Expedition worked out of the South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II. Credit: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust
Technology such as satellites and autonomous underwater lorries imply Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are more surveilled than ever previously. Yet much stays unidentified about the frozen continent, and particularly about the deep seas that encircle it.
The discovery of Endurance demonstrates how modern-day technology can assist us find past artifacts and likewise seek to the future. The ship offers a conceptual bridge in between Antarcticas history as a frontier of expedition, to our modern ideas of heritage preservation, international cooperation, clinical research study, and environment action.
Put more just, finding the wreck of the Endurance presents us with an essential minute to believe about Antarcticas storied past and its unsure future.
Composed by:

Hanne E.F. Nielsen– Lecturer, University of Tasmania
Alessandro Antonello– Senior Research Fellow in History, Flinders University

Red, trip of Endurance; yellow, drift of Endurance in pack ice; green, sea ice drift after sinking of Endurance; blue, trip of James Caird; cyan, planned trans-Antarctic path; orange, voyage of Aurora; pink, retreat of Aurora; brown, supply depot path. Hurley notoriously dived into the flooded interior of the sinking Endurance to retrieve about 120 photographic plates, leaving some 400 behind. His evocative images of the sinking ship helped the exploration gain extensive attention and cemented Endurances place in Antarctic history. Wreckage of Ernest Shackletons Endurance. The photographs not only bring Endurance clearly back to life; they welcome brand-new ways of imagining Antarctica in general.

This article was first released in The Conversation.

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