Imagine the setting of the Pirates of the Caribbean in Antarctica. Imagine Captain Jack Sparrow’s ship was found centuries after he left it in the Caribbean peninsula. But as fiction goes, this story isn’t any less interesting. This is the tale of Ernest Shackleton, a veteran of the First World War as well as a decorated English explorer. While he did make a name for himself a century ago, his ship resurfacing in the frigid waters of the South Pole have dredged him up again.
One can attest to it being something akin to time travel. While you may have seen ships in bottles, a team of scientists and marine archaeologists located his ship Endurance, recently. Interestingly, it is quite fortunate that his ship was lodged in ice. For it did preserve the contains carefully. Even the name of the ship is visible to this day- even though almost a century has passed since it disappeared during a voyage.
Lost In Antarctica- A Song Of Ice And Shipwreck
Mensun Bound, the director of the exploration for this expedition to Antarctica, has stated, “We are overwhelmed by our good fortune in having located and captured images of Endurance. This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation. You can even see ‘Endurance’ arced across the stern.”
This expedition under the bureaucracy of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust set sail on the 5th of February. As it goes with most ships veering towards the Pole, it started off from Cape Town with a South African icebreaker. As a poignant part of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition between 1914 and 1917, the ship was prophesied to make the first South Pole crossing. But as fate would have it, it got wrecked in the tumultuous Weddell Sea. (1)
What makes this discovery even more inspiring is that all of the previous attempts ended up in smoke. None of the ships which set sail towards Antarctica hoping to find some glory were successful. One reason behind this abject failure would be the hostile conditions of the Weddell Sea, under which the wreckage lies. (2)
Read: Scuba diver captures breathtaking labyrinth of underwater caves worshipped by the Mayans
Ernest Shackleton- The Modern Francis Drake?
History would attest to the efforts put forward by Ernest Shackleton to chart Antarctica. In fact, the famous explorer had planted the Union Jack just 100 miles away from the South Pole. But what made him a household name was this expedition which led to shipwreck and further abandonment.
Post the accident, the explorer and his crew had to survive by holding on to ice sheets. They had to go to lengths that they would never have, simply to stay alive in harsh environments. First, they started living on seal meat and penguin, but then they had to turn towards their dogs.
‘Call Me Ernest’- A Crash Course In Braving Antarctica
After surviving the initial months in the treacherous ice of Antarctica, the crew had to row 800 miles to South Georgia. Fortunately, they could then avail a whaling station- which took them home. Needless to say, there was an immense celebration when they did finally come home They received a heroes’ welcome. Ironically, what made Shackleton more famous was his return from a metaphorical hell- rather than his attempt to reach said hell. (2)
When we return to the 21st century and gaze at this display of ‘time-travel’, we do have to give credit where credit is due. The Endurance was a piece of work, and underwater drones attest to that. The drones have put up clear images of the 44 meter-long ship. Unsurprisingly, the helm has remained intact even a century underwater. (1)
- “Shackleton’s lost ship discovered off Antarctica after 100 years.” Aljazeera. March 9, 2022.
- “Shackleton’s ship “Endurance” found beneath Antarctic ice, 100 years on.” Reuters. Michael Holden.