Marine Archaeology

Marine Archaeology

Falklands-born Mensun Bound, a Trustee of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, was Director of Exploration on the Expedition. With long experience in marine archaeology, he was responsible for the discovery in 2019 of the wreck of SMS Scharnhorst, sunk in the Battle of the Falklands in 1914, a project also organised and funded by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. 

Based on information provided by the Weddell Sea Expedition in 2019, the wreck of Endurance was declared a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty System. The Endurance22 Expedition’s activities involved no intrusion into the wreck and the Sabertooth AUVs are not fitted with any devices capable of actions such as digging, boring, scooping etc.

Having conducted extensive research in relevant archives and engaged other experts in analysis of where Endurance may have come to rest, Mensun Bound established the following objectives for Endurance22.

The archaeological objectives for Endurance22:

  1. To conduct archive research within UK, Norway and the Falkland Islands in order to learn as much as possible regarding the construction, accoutrement and content of the vessel, the society on board, the circumstances surrounding its loss and the reliability of the sinking position that was left by the ship’s captain.
  2. To reach the search area within the perennial pack-ice of the Weddell Sea.
  3. To locate the wreck at 3000m using Saab-built Sabertooth AUV submersibles.
  4. To record the Endurance wreck remains which are expected to be in a reasonable state of preservation because of the cold and the absence of wood-consuming marine parasites.
  5. To conduct an archaeological survey of the wreck and its debris field during which there will be no sampling or touching of the remains nor, indeed, of the geophysical features and benthic communities within and around the site.
  6. To inform and, hopefully, inspire young people through a programme of educational outreach (covering history, archaeology and science) that will be conducted from the ice breaker Agulhas II while at sea and over the site. See our Education page.
  7. To disseminate the archaeological findings at both a popular and professional level through factual publication and documentary broadcast.
  8. To construct a 3-D model of the wreck for both temporary exhibitions and permanent museum display.
  9. To provide base-line data for the protection and monitoring of the site into the future.

Technology

The search for Endurance was conducted using two State-of-the-art SAAB Sabertooth subsea vehicles (AUVs) fitted with visual and sonar survey technology.

If the Agulhas II ship couldn’t get close to the wreck site, the Expedition planned to create one or possibly two ice camps, where holes would be drilled through the sea ice using a giant auger ice drill over three feet (about one meter) in diameter. This would be wide enough for the Sabertooth AUV to be lowered through to try and locate, survey and film the wreck of Endurance. Luckily, conditions in sea ice allowed the expedition ship to get close enough to the Endurance wreck site, where the AUVs were launched directly from the vessel.

The SAAB Sabertooth AUV deployed from the ship to search for Endurance

Having successfully found the Endurance, she was surveyed by the AUV’s laser scanner to produce a 3D model and full photogrammetric coverage of the wreck and its debris field. The resulting graphical data will be precisely scaled allowing the wreck, together with its equipment, fittings and contents, to be recorded to a level of accuracy comparable to that of an archaeological survey on land.

The live feed from the AUV showing the found wreck of Endurance on the ship’s monitors

The historical research and survey data collected by the Expedition will be used as vital baseline information for the future monitoring and protection of the wreck of the Endurance.

Endurance shipwreck - The stern of the Endurance with the name and emblematic polestar - Endurance22
Taffrail and ship’s wheel, aft well deck. Image © Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust / National Geographic
Sub-sea team of Endurance22 expedition and crew of S.A. Agulhas II launch the AUV in search for Sir Ernest Shackleton lost ship, the Endurance

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)

The Endurance22 search team used advanced underwater technology to locate the wreckage of the Endurance …

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Mensun Bound with ocean chart

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