Shackleton's Lost Ship Endurance Found In Antarctic 100 Years After His Death


Stephen Luntz

Stephen has a science degree with a major in physics, an arts degree with majors in English Literature and History and Philosophy of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication.

Freelance Writer


The waters at the bottom of the Weddell Sea are so cold there is little life to damage the timbers of the Endurance, leaving it in excellent condition, if you ignore the holes ripped by the ice. Image Credit: © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic

The wreck of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance, the ship whose capture in pack ice started one of humanity's most remarkable tales of survival, has been found in remarkably good condition, considering what it has been through.

Now, the Endurance 2022 expedition to find the lost ship, which has been documenting its progress online, has located the ship, capturing it in incredibly detailed photos and footage, 100 years after Shackleton died.


In 1914 a scientific expedition to cross the Antarctic was launched aboard the Endurance, a ship built for cold weather as a vessel for Arctic tourist voyages. Unfortunately the timing was terrible – in a bad season for pack ice the ship was caught 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Antarctic coast in 1915 and was slowly crushed and sunk. The crew dragged lifeboats onto the ice. After failed attempts to pull the lifeboats to open water, the 27-man crew waited for the ice to break up before sailing and rowing to uninhabited Elephant Island.

Shackleton and five others took the best of the lifeboats 1,300 kilometers to South Georgia where help was obtained to rescue the others. Every member of the expedition made it back alive, a rare bit of good news considering World War I was in full swing when they returned. Indeed the war had interfered with the sending of a rescue mission.

The ship was found in incredible condition. Image Credit: © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic

The story of the epic tale of survival has created interest in the Endurance which has lasted much longer than the ship itself, inspiring efforts to find the wreck. These have now proven successful, with an announcement by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust the ship has been found 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet) down in the Weddell Sea.

Finding the Endurance was so difficult not only because of the depth of water but because the ice that crushed it was moving and carried the ship a long distance from where it was caught until it was abandoned. Calculating how much further the ice carried the ship before it sank was a challenge, as was dodging modern sea ice, which forced the abandonment of a previous attempt to find the wreck. John Shears, leader of the Endurance 22 expedition called it, “The world's most challenging shipwreck search” in a statement


In the end, however, the wreck was found just 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the site where salvage became impossible.

The depths of the Southern Ocean have been kinder to the great ship than the ice that crushed it. ”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,” said Mensun Bound, Director of Exploration on the Endurance 22 expedition. “You can even see “Endurance” arced across the stern.”

The lack of wood-eating microbes in the Antarctic has allowed the wood to stay in excellent condition. Image Credit: © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic

In an effort to educate people about one of humanity's great tales of survival, and inspire interest in exploration, the expedition broadcast live from the South African polar research vessel S.A.Agulhas II and the Sabertooth underwater search vehicles.

“In addition, we have undertaken important scientific research in a part of the world that directly affects the global climate and environment,” Shears added. 


Under the Antarctic Treaty, the site is a heritage monument and cannot be disturbed, in case the depth of water is not a sufficient deterrent. 


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