Home News Wreck of Shackleton’s last ship found off Canadian coast

Wreck of Shackleton’s last ship found off Canadian coast


The ship, Endurance, accompanied Ernest Shackleton on his failed attempt to cross Antarctica in 1915. It created one of the greatest survival stories in the history of exploration and now holds a place in polar history.

Wreckage found The 2022 discovery on the Weddell Sea floor has put Shackleton back in the spotlight and reignited interest in the search for a lesser-known ship, the Discovery, which Shackleton died of a heart attack on its way back to Antarctica in 1922. The Discovery continued to sail for 40 years until it sank in 1962 during a seal hunting cruise off Canada’s Atlantic coast.

On June 9, as his ship drifted off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, expedition leader John Geiger saw an unusual shape appear on the ship’s sonar screen. Almost immediately, he realized that he had made the final discovery of the lifetime of one of history’s most revered explorers.

“This is Shackleton’s last major event,” the explorer’s granddaughter, Alexandra Shackleton, said of Discovery’s findings in an interview. “There will never be anything more significant than this.”

The expedition to find the Discovery was led by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, an educational charity of which Mr. Geiger is chief executive. It cost $500,000 Canadian dollars, or about $365,000, according to a spokesman for the society. Martin Brooks, a Shackleton expert and chief executive of the outdoor clothing company Shackleton, said the Discovery was the last lost artifact from the “heroic age of Arctic exploration.” Shackleton Inc. offers trips that follow the explorer’s journey.

But for the 23 crew members who took part in the expedition, finding the Discovery was not easy. After leaving St. John’s Harbor on June 5, the crew overcame dangerous conditions such as thick fog and equipment failure. They used a sonar system to scan the seafloor for 17 hours before finding the ship.

“I looked to Shackleton for guidance,” Geiger said. “One of his defining characteristics was patience. Patient and determined.”

Shackleton is best remembered for his efforts to save the crew of the HMS Endurance after it was crushed by pack ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915, trapping them on the Arctic ice sheet.

“What followed was a year-long ordeal of almost unbelievable proportions, during which Shackleton demonstrated extraordinary skills that earned him a reputation as one of the greatest leaders of all time,” Nathaniel Philbrick wrote in the foreword to Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing.

Months after the Endurance sank in the ice, Shackleton and his 27-man crew were stranded on an ice floe, their dream of becoming the first people to cross Antarctica on foot shattered. Shackleton led some of his crew in a small boat to South Georgia Island, where he organized a successful rescue of the remaining crew members.

Two years had passed since the Endurance had sailed from England. Despite the crew’s exhaustion and dehydration, Shackleton Write to his wife“No life was lost but we went through hell,” Emily said.

Geiger’s patience eventually paid off. At about 7 p.m. on June 9, Geiger was watching the sonar monitor in the ship’s research laboratory when he saw a strange shape.

“You could tell right away it was the Quest,” he said in an interview. “The ship was intact. It was on its keel, the mast was down, and you could see it on the ocean floor.”

Mr. Geiger immediately called the entire crew to the ship’s laboratory, including David Mearns, a veteran wreck hunter who had helped plan the trip.

“They were jumping up and down, patting each other on the back,” Maines said in an interview, recalling the moment they spotted the ship. “They were just in a state of ecstasy.”

After the crew refocused their efforts, they spent five hours dragging the ship’s sonar back and forth over the wreckage, collecting more photos from more angles that showed the wreck was on the bottom of Labrador. Finally, the ship’s experts could announce with certainty that they had found the Discovery.

Mr Means said they were already planning to return to the Labrador Sea later this year to capture more images and video footage of the wreck.

Shackleton died in his cabin on January 5, 1922, while planning to use the Discovery to explore part of the Arctic, just as he had done with the Endurance. The Discovery was anchored near South Georgia Island, where Shackleton planned to rescue the Endurance crew. Over the next four decades, it was used for rescue operations and expeditions, as well as seal hunting trips. According to Canadian GeographicThe Royal Canadian Geographical Society states that on May 5, 1962, during a voyage, it suffered a similar fate to the Endurance; it was damaged by ice and sank off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The crew of the Discovery survived.

More than a century after Shackleton’s death aboard the Discovery, his journey is still celebrated through bestselling books, Harvard Business School “Resilient Leadership” course and Upcoming biopics Starring Tom Hardy.

Mr. Geiger was allowed to take a few bottles of champagne with him in case they found the Discovery, where alcohol is usually banned. He kept the champagne from the crew, lest it bring bad luck to the trip.

Fortunately, Mr. Geiger didn’t have to keep the secret for long.

“I must admit,” he said, “that was the sweetest glass of champagne I have ever had.”

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