Endurance & History

More than a century ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition ship, ‘Endurance’, was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea and sank 3000 metres below the surface.

On that day, 21st November 1915, Captain Frank Worsley wrote the co-ordinates of the location in which the ship sank in his diary: 68°39’ 30”S, 52°26’30”W. One of the objectives of this expedition is to use that information to help locate the lost vessel.

The original Endurance Expedition, also known as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, had set out from the UK in August 1914 hoping to achieve the first land crossing of the White Continent from the Weddell Sea via the South Pole to the Ross Sea.

Unfortunately, Endurance became stuck in the dense pack ice in early 1915 and the crew had no choice but to abandon ship and set up a makeshift camp on the ice, as the sea ice overwhelmed the ship.

The band of 28 crew would have had to draw upon every ounce of strength, tenacity and courage that they possessed in order to survive the failed expedition, which is now remembered in history as one of the most epic feats of endurance in the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

They trekked to the edge of the sea ice, then sailed in the salvaged ship’s life boats to Elephant Island where there were seals and penguins to eat, and a sheltered bay in which to camp under the upturned lifeboats.

However, knowing that it was unlikely that anyone would come to Elephant Island to rescue them because it was so remote, Shackleton and Worsley led a small party in one of the open boats to South Georgia, where there was a whaling station. Worsley navigated with just a sextant over the wild seas of the Southern Ocean. Landing on the south side of the island, Sir Ernest then had to traverse the hitherto uncharted and uncrossed mountains and glaciers to reach the Norwegian whalers. Rescue missions to reach the stranded expedition members at Elephant island were thwarted by the thick sea ice. Finally, on 30 August 1916, the fourth attempt was a success, and the expedition party on Elephant Island was taken to safety in Punta Arenas by the Chilean tug ‘Yelcho’.

  • History

    The Weddell Sea was first discovered in 1823 by British sailor and seal hunter James Weddell who, at the time, was commanding the brig ‘Jane’.

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  • Endurance & History

    More than a century ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition ship, ‘Endurance’, was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea and sank 3000 metres below the surface.

    View More
  • Contingencies

    The Weddell Sea Expedition faces considerable challenges operating in one of the most remote and harshest marine environments on the planet.

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