by Katherine Zavoda ’25
Published Apr. 8th, 2022
Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, born on February 15, 1874, in Ireland, has traveled to the Antarctic four times and has attempted to reach the South Pole twice throughout his entire life.
In 1901, he joined the mercantile marine service, where he became a lieutenant of the Royal Naval Reserve. In 1908, after his second Antarctic expedition, Shackleton was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. During the Second World War, he served in the British army.
He died on January 5, 1922, in South Georgia, during his fourth Antarctic expedition.
He is known for his effective style of leadership, being cautious of danger and minimizing risks, putting the welfare of his crew first, and not being afraid of abandoning plans that wouldn’t work and improvising new ones.
On his most famous expedition in December 1914, on the ship Endurance, with 27 men on his crew under his leadership, he planned to cross Antarctica and get to the South Pole. A few days later, his ship became trapped in ice and continued to drift on the ice for 10 months. When September arrived, the pressure of the ice began to crush the boat, and by October, the ship began to flood and sank on November 21, 1915. The crew abandoned ship in lifeboats and set up camp on ice floes. They continued on for five months before reaching Elephant Island in 1916. From there, Shackleton and five other men from his crew sailed to South Georgia to seek aid, returning to retrieve all of his crew. Throughout this two year ordeal, not one of the men on his crew died or was lost.
Recently, a team of researchers carried out the Endurance22 Expedition after being funded $10 million by an anonymous source. They set out on the mission from Cape Town, South Africa, in a polar research vessel and icebreaker capable of breaking through 1-meter ice, S.A. Agulhas II, and deployed underwater drones near the area of where the ship sank. This century-old mystery was soon solved after the ship had been discovered
The team of researchers found the ship in amazing conditions, considering the circumstances. Maritime historian Steven Schwankert, although not being involved in the expedition, says that this discovery is a “titanic find” in “one of the world’s most challenging environments.” The bottom of the Weddell Sea is an inhospitable environment, with dark waters, frigid temperatures, and sea ice, which has kept it hidden and in good condition. Mensun Bound, a marine archaeologist and the expedition director, says that, “without any exaggeration this is the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen—by far.”
It truly is amazing to see this ship has been preserved for over 100 years. The name Endurance fits this ship, as it has endured the damages done to it by ice, and has endured the test of time and stayed in an amazing condition for more than a century. This discovery is a huge achievement for the crew, and there’s no telling what other mysteries will be solved and what else will be found in the ocean.