68°39′ South, 52°26′ West

Angie Yang ‘24

On March 5th, 1922 the famous British explorer Ernest Shackleton was buried after passing away from a heart attack two months earlier. Exactly a century later, March 5th, 2022 marked the discovery of his famous ship, Endurance, whose sinking led to one of the greatest survival stories of all time.
On December 5, 1914, Shackleton left South Georgia with a crew of 27 on Endurance, a 144-foot, three-masted wooden ship. Little did they know, this would be the beginning of an enduring journey battling the elements to make it home. Their goal was to establish a base camp along the coast of the Weddell Sea, which would serve as a starting point for their journey to reach the South Pole.
Unfortunately, on January 18, 1915, Endurance got stuck in multiple sheets of floating ice with no way to move forward or back. From there, the crew waited ten months for the ice to thaw, instead, the ship continuously got crushed by the ice and eventually sank on November 21. The crew would continue to live on the floating ice until it broke as well and they launched lifeboats. After enduring 6 days of freezing ocean spray, cold waves, and seasickness, on April 15th, they landed on Elephant Island, an island 150 miles northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. This was the first time they’ve been on land after 497 days. However, with very low possibilities another ship could save them, Shackleton boarded a lifeboat with five other members to travel 800 miles to South Georgia once again enduring days of battling the elements and physical exhaustion. Once they arrived in South Georgia, they were able to send out a rescue mission. After two failed attempts, the rest of the crew were saved on the Yelcho, a Chilean tugboat, everyone survived [1].
In early February of 2022, Endurance22 departed from Cape Town on the icebreaker, S.A. Agulhas II. Besides archaeologists and researchers looking for the shipwreck, aboard the ship were also ice researchers who were collecting samples and studying the sea ice. They were searching along a 150 square mile area around the reported location the ship sunk, 68°39′ South, 52°26′ West. Battling the same icy seas, they dealt with floating ice like the crew of Endurance did. However, recent climate change and modern technology made it easier for this modern crew. Using 12 foot-long undersea drones called Sabertooth 12, these submersibles would search the seafloor, blasting sonar to try and detect anything that stood out of the smooth seabed. Once the shipwreck was located, high-resolution cameras and instruments would take detailed photos and confirm the wreckage [2, 3].
Discovered 4 miles south of its last recorded location and 10,000 feet underwater, the wreckage was preserved with astonishing detail. While other shipwrecks usually decay over time from microbes called shipworms that eat wooden ships, Antarctica doesn’t have any of these organisms due to the lack of trees. Without the wood-eating organisms, Endurance has been able to remain intact and has become a home for a diverse set of marine species. Scientists have already identified sea stars, sponges, anemones, and sea squirts. More excitingly, deep-sea squat lobsters, which have never been recorded in this region, were found as well. Sunlight can’t reach that deep so most of the organisms living there are filter feeders, who eat edible particles from the water. Many marine biologists are also hopeful that this will provide a chance to find new species never discovered before due to the unique environment [4].
Endurance is protected as a historical monument under the Antarctic Treaty. Its discovery closes a mystery to one of the most famous shipwrecks and opens a new chapter on the new inhabitants of the famous ship.

[1] https://www.history.com/news/shackleton-endurance-survival
[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/09/climate/endurance-wreck-found-shackleton.html
[3] https://www.wired.com/story/how-a-plucky-robot-found-the-long-lost-endurance-shipwreck/
[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/shackletons-endurance-shipwreck-is-teeming-with-bizarre-ocean-life-180979719/