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An Antarctic expedition will try to find Ernest Shackleton's ship

The Kildare-born explorer’s ship sank under the ice in 1915.

Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance became trapped in ice.
Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance became trapped in ice.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

AN INTERNATIONAL EFFORT to try and locate the lost ship of Irish Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton will take place next year.

Kildare-born Shackleton left with his crew, made up of men from Britain and Ireland, in 1914, in an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent.

Their ship, the Endurance, sank in November 1915, and no trace has been seen since. At least three previous attempts to find the ship have failed.

The vessel became stuck and was slowly crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea, with its crew forced to flee and make a perilous journey in lifeboats before setting up a camp on Elephant Island, on the very edge of the continent.

Shackleton decided to re-fit one of their surviving lifeboats so some of the crew, led by the Kildare explorer, could make a perilous journey through the Southern Ocean to raise the alarm and organise a rescue party.

The Age of Exploration - The Polar Regions - The Shackleton Expedition - 1916 Shackleton's crew cheer on Elephant Island. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

British scientists will lead the 45-day expedition. They expect to reach the Antarctic at the beginning of next year.

The team will be led by Professor Julian Dowdeswell, who serves as director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and as professor of physical geography at the University of Cambridge.

The team’s main objective will be to visit and study the Larsen C Ice Shelf, which last year created one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded in Antarctica.

The Endurance was lost so close to this location that the team have decided to try and find it. “It would be a shame not to,” Dowdeswell told the BBC.

Scientists from London’s Natural History Museum said in 2013 that they believe the ship may have been protected from wood-boring worms due to the sea’s currents.

original The crew of the Endurance pull lifeboats across the ice. Source: Royal Geographical Society

The scientists heading to the Antarctic next year aim to send autonomous underwater vehicles to do an ice survey and to map the seafloor to try and find signs of the ship.

Despite the loss of the ship, all 28 crew members survived the voyage. Shackleton’s  writings revealed the freezing conditions his rescue party endured as they set out to cross the ocean from the Antarctic.

In his book South, Shackleton wrote:

Cramped in our narrow quarters and continually wet by the spray, we suffered severely from cold throughout the journey. We fought the seas and the winds and at the same time had a daily struggle to keep ourselves alive.

Shackleton was already a seasoned polar explorer before the voyage, and he was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home. The Endurance expedition is considered the last major expedition of what is referred to as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

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