Although the icy waters surrounding Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance are cold enough to ward off sea worms and other wood-eating creatures, the sunken ship will eventually “disintegrate” if left on the Antarctic seabed, according to Mensun Bound, the marine archaeologist who led the Endurance22 expedition to find the shipwreck.
“If we leave it there, it’s organic, it’s going to decay for a while beyond our lifetime,” Bound said at a recent event in London, as reported by the Guardian.
But raising the 144-foot three-masted wooden vessel from the seabed in hopes of preserving it also presents its own unique challenges, Bound noted. Logistics aside, any plan to bring the ship back to the surface would require deciding which museum would take possession of it, as well as how best to preserve it.
There’s also the matter of respecting the wishes of the Shackleton family. The explorer’s granddaughter, Alexandra Shackleton, said she would prefer the ship to stay where it is, underwater in its final resting place.
“I had no problems with people photographing, but a lot of problems with people searching,” she told The London Time’ Jack Blackburn after searchers identified the wreckage in March. “There may be pieces of equipment that are probably very valuable, but whatever there is will stay there.”
Marine archaeologists have discovered the century-old wreck lying 9,842ft below the surface in the Weddell Sea east of the Antarctic Peninsula. The last time anyone had laid eyes on the ship was in 1915, when Shackleton and his crew of 27 saw it sink to the bottom of the ocean after being trapped in sea ice. The crew members were attempting to reach the South Pole by traveling over land across the continent as part of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Despite warnings from whalers of unusually bad ice conditions in the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and his men sailed from South Georgia Island in 1914. In early 1915, the ship became trapped in the ice of sea - and it stayed that way for ten months. The crew members waited for the ice to melt by camping on ice floes, but when spring finally arrived in September, the moving ice began to destroy the wooden vessel. The ocean finally swallowed the damaged ship on November 21, 1915.
Meanwhile, Shackleton and his men had to find a way to survive. They spent five days at sea in lifeboats, eventually landing on Elephant Island to cobble together a camp. Then Shackleton and five men led a small whaler 800 miles out to sea for help on South Georgia Island. Ultimately, rescuers rescued all 28 crew members.
Historians have long studied failure Endurance expedition, but searchers did not know the precise location of the sunken ship until the Endurance22 mission discovered it.
Now, more than six months after making the discovery, experts are still trying to decide how best to proceed. Bound described the ship’s future as a “hot potato” issue.
“There are a lot of opposing views on [raising the ship]he said at the event in London. “We have a range of ideas about it, and we have to remember the Shackleton family, who most likely own the ship, they have their own pretty strong opinions.”
In a statement, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, which supported the Endurance22 mission, noted that the wreck is protected by the Antarctic Treaty.
“The Endurance22 Expedition was non-intrusive, meaning the expedition was successful in locating, surveying and filming Endurance, but did not hit the vessel itself,” the statement said. “Furthermore, there are no plans, and there have never been any plans, either by the Trust or by the Expedition Team, to touch the wreckage or recover any of its artifacts. .”
Whatever happens in the future, Bound always wants to explore the shipwreck further. He said he hopes to be able to conduct a marine biological survey one day.
“She’s the ultimate mystery of the sealed box, it’s an Aladdin’s cave,” he said. “It’s like the movie Citizen Kane with all the antiques, it’s all there in this box. The technology is there, we can take a look at some of the shortcomings.