On the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s death, the expedition to locate ‘Endurance’ is making final preparations prior to setting sail
The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (“the Trust”) is pleased to confirm that the Endurance22 Expedition, which is aiming to locate, survey and film the wreck of Endurance, the lost ship of renowned polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, is undertaking final preparations ahead of its scheduled departure for Antarctica’s Weddell Sea from Cape Town, South Africa, on 5th February 2022.
An important aim of the Expedition is to bring the story of Shackleton, his ship and the members of his team to new and younger audiences. The challenges of exploration and of carrying out scientific research, fundamental to our understanding of climate change, form part of that story. The Trust is pleased to be working in partnership with History Hit, the video and content platform co-founded by historian Dan Snow, part of the award-winning digital content agency and media network Little Dot Studios. On board the SA Agulhas II, the South African icebreaking polar supply and research ship being used for the Expedition, will be a team of highly experienced extreme environment film makers, who will document the events in real time and publish material on several digital channels and social media platforms.
The Expedition has also engaged with the US-based education organisation, Reach the World, which connects young people in their classrooms directly with explorers, and who will be represented on board the Agulhas II.
The Expedition is delighted to be working with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) to engage and enthuse pupils by producing free teaching and learning resources for classroom use. By using the resources, pupils will be able to study changes in polar exploration and the different motivations for why people visit Antarctica, as well as this continent’s unique frozen environment.
The expedition team will include leading polar scientists who will be conducting a range of studies of the ice and climate change related matters, advancing our knowledge of the Antarctic environment and global warming. These include measuring and recording the sea-ice conditions, in order to develop a system that in time will provide continuous and automatic data of sea-ice conditions in the Antarctic, where currently very limited information exists.
Successful sea trials, training and testing
Preparations for the expedition have been progressing well, including successful sea trials. The trials involved deep water deployment and testing of the SAAB Sabertooth hybrid underwater search vehicles, which will be used to locate, survey and film the wreck. These state-of-the-art vehicles combine the attributes of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), being able to follow a pre-programmed course, and remote operating vehicles (ROVs), sending digital signals through a fibre optic cable to the surface in real time.
The teams that will establish and operate ice camps, allowing drilling through the sea ice and the deployment of the Sabertooths at a distance from Agulhas II, have also undertaken training and testing and developed procedures and experience that will be invaluable when they are called on to function on the ice floes of the Weddell Sea.
Donald Lamont, Chairman of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, said:
“It is a unique privilege for the Trust to be enabled to pull together the elements that make up this expedition. Shackleton faced the challenges of the ice and war. Ice remains our main challenge but COVID has been a threat throughout our planning and preparation. The master, Ice Pilot and crew of the South African vessel, Agulhas II, are experienced and in 2019 showed their ability to get to the wreck site. We are able to deploy the latest technology and we have a skilled team of marine archaeologists, scientists, engineers and technicians who can apply their knowledge to locating and surveying the wreck. The scientists will learn and explain to us more about the unique environment of the Weddell Sea. And our team of educators and film- and programme-makers will broadcast to a young and global audience stories of heroism, challenge and resolve that should be an inspiration to us all.”
Polar explorer and Expedition Leader, Dr John Shears, said:
“We are delighted to confirm that everything is on track for the Expedition’s scheduled departure from Cape Town on 5th February. The entire team has worked tirelessly since July. The sea trials provided a great opportunity for the thorough testing of the search technology and reaffirmed its capability and gave the engineers and technicians the chance to train and gain invaluable experience in benign conditions, before testing their ability to launch through the ice. Whilst there remains no guarantee of success, we are now fully prepared and ready for this amazing mission of exploration.”
Director of Exploration, Mensun Bound, said:
“100 years to the day since the death of Shackleton, a figure who epitomised the golden age of Antarctic exploration, it is unbelievable to announce that we will soon be embarking on a modern-day expedition to locate the wreck of Endurance. We will do everything we can to survey and capture footage of Endurance and to bring the epic tale of her final voyage, and of the leadership, courage and fortitude of her crew, to people around the world.”
Dan Snow, co-Founder and Creative Director of History Hit, said:
“The hunt for Shackleton’s wreck will be the biggest story in the world of history in 2022. As the partner broadcaster we will be able to reach tens of millions of history fans all over the world, in real time. We are able to deploy some of the world’s biggest history podcasts, YouTube channels, Facebook pages and TikTok accounts to reach a massive number of history lovers. We are going to tell the story of Shackleton and this expedition to find his lost ship like never before. Live streaming and podcasting from ice camps, recording a vast amount of content that will live online and be accessible for generations to come. It’s a dream come true.”