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Meet The Antarctic Sea Creatures That Have Made Shackleton's Endurance Their Home

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Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockMar 10 2022, 16:36 UTC
endurance sea creatures

The Endurance has taken on a new crew during its 100+ years in the Weddell Sea. Image credit: © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic

Huge news for shipwreck enthusiasts: Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance was discovered this week, 100 years after his death. Incredible photographs and videos from the Endurance 22 expedition show the remarkably well-preserved wreck in all its haunting beauty – but as some keen-eyed scientists have spotted, they also reveal its new inhabitants.

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“The wreck is amazing but can we also talk about some of the #Antarctic sea floor creatures that now call it home!” Said marine biologist and cold water critter enthusiast Huw Griffiths from the BAS-Arctic Working Group in a Twitter thread revealing some of the fascinating shipmates now aboard the Endurance.

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After the Endurance’s turbulent voyage across the Antarctic came to an untimely end, it sank and was carried by ice to an unknown location, making it “the world’s most challenging shipwreck search,” to use the words of Endurance 22 expedition leader John Shears.

However, its recent discovery revealed its final resting place at a depth of 3 kilometers (10,000 feet) in the Weddell Sea.

endurance sea creatures
There'll be no fraught situations, just friendly crustaceans under the seeaaa... Image credit: © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic

The disaster landed the ill-fated ship in the clutches of some of Antarctica’s more alien animals, where limited light and freezing temperatures give rise to a colorful cast of hardy species.

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Antarctic sea anemones (Hormathia or similar, says Griffiths) can be seen suckered onto the ship’s near-pristine boards, with one even appearing to have taken the wheel.

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Ghostly orbs join them in decorating the ship’s exterior, a vantage point from which they carry out a rather delightful ecological service.

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A host of long-and-legged things are also strewn across Endurance, including sea stars, sponges, and what look like stalked ascidians. Some of its hosts are even a hat tip to the Triassic.

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We also get a glimpse of what a Spongebob remake of Titanic might look like.

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Incredibly, a crab can even be spotted in one of the images, which Griffiths and colleague Dr Katrin Linse suspect is a yeti crab – creatures previously not known to inhabit the Weddell Sea. A fascinating find, but one that might point to climate-change-led migration, as posited in a paper from Griffiths and Linse.

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Endurance was abandoned after it sank, leaving the crew shipless but, crucially, not hopeless, as a team was eventually able to journey to South Georgia, round up a rescue team, and return to the stranded sailors without loss of life.

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From here, the ship carried on its journey solo, but was joined in its new submersible way of life by some of the ocean’s greatest opportunists. While it’s most likely the scores of sea creatures came across their decadent home by chance, you never know. Perhaps they wanted in on the adventure:

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