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How Did the Wreck of the Endurance Survive in Such Good Condition?

The wreck of the Endurance, Shackleton's legendary ship, remained remarkably preserved under the Antarctic waters due to the frigid temperatures, which slowed decay, and the absence of wood-eating organisms. Encased in a dark, oxygen-poor environment, the ship avoided the typical deterioration seen in warmer seas. Intrigued? Discover how these unique conditions safeguarded a piece of polar history.

Talk about an appropriate name. In March 2022, Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance was discovered off the coast of Antarctica, 107 years after sinking into the Weddell Sea.

Mensun Bound, director of exploration at the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, which oversaw the discovery, said he and others were amazed to discover that the wooden vessel was "virtually intact," with its name still visible on the stern. “The preservation is beyond imagination. It’s beautiful. It just doesn’t get any better," Bound said. The Weddell Sea's sub-zero temperatures would have kept the historic vessel safe from wood-eating microorganisms.

Discovered off the coast of Antarctica this month, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was remarkably well-preserved.
Discovered off the coast of Antarctica this month, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was remarkably well-preserved.

Shackleton and the Endurance crew were hoping to become the first to cross Antarctica by land, but they became stuck in heavy ice for 10 months. They eventually left on foot and in lifeboats, but Capt. Frank Worsley noted the ship's coordinates, which led to the 2022 team finding the Endurance about 10,000 feet (3,048 m) below the surface of the sea.

Who was Ernest Shackleton?

  • Shackleton first saw Antarctica on a 1901-1904 expedition with another famous explorer, Robert Falcon Scott.

  • Shackleton narrowed the 5,000 applicants for his Endurance journey down to 26, sometimes by asking whether the applicant could hold a tune.

  • Despite saving his crew and making it back to England, Shackleton was turned down for the army because of health concerns.

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    • Discovered off the coast of Antarctica this month, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was remarkably well-preserved.
      By: air
      Discovered off the coast of Antarctica this month, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was remarkably well-preserved.