A century ago, a team of explorers stopped in the Weddell Sea, at the southernmost point of the Atlantic, just before reaching the uncharted Continent after nearly losing their lives and suffering.
After a century of dedicated efforts to find the remains of unknown shipwrecks, hope finally dawned in 2022.
In February, the icebreaker S. A. Agulhas II, arranged by the Falkland Maritime Heritage Trust, set sail from Cape Town, South Africa. Endurance 22, an expedition on board, found Endurance in the Waters of Weddell, near the South Pole, 107 years after it disappeared.
Why are we so obsessed with finding this ship? At a time when technological resources were scarce, what drove the men on board to brave the unexplored Antarctic continent?
“Hero’s Dream” of 5,000 People
Ernest Shackleton, an Irish-born explorer, took part in two Antarctic expeditions in the early 20th century. Although his brave attempt brought him fame and a knighthood, his dream remained unrealized. Instead, Norwegian Roald Amundsen beat him to the South Pole.
So Shackleton, who dreamed of being a hero on the expedition, posted an advertisement in 1914: “Strong candidates were invited to join the journey across the Antarctic continent. They were required to tolerate the potential dangers, low wages, bitter cold, months of extreme night, and no guarantee of safe return. But if the expedition succeeds, there will be glory and recognition.
You can never underestimate how tempting it is for a man to be a hero. The advert attracted about 5, 000 people, from soldiers to Cambridge-educated scientists. Eventually, 27 crew members were selected.
Shackleton named the ship Perseverance, a reference to his family motto: “Conquer all through perseverance.” He was determined not to repeat the mistake that had cost him the first chance to conquer the South Pole.
The advert attracted about 5, 000 people, from soldiers to Cambridge-educated scientists.
Drawing on the experience of the Norwegians, Shackleton has packed 69 Canadian sled dogs and prepared food for the 1,500-mile journey across the Continent.
According to the plan, they would approach Antarctica via the Weddell Sea, a glacier-strewn inlet off South Georgia, and then cross the continent to the Ross Sea.
In August 1914, after seven months of intense preparation, Shackleton and his crew planned to set sail. At this time, however, World War I broke out in Europe. Shackleton proposed to his superiors that his men could stay and contribute to the war effort.
But the Admiralty rebuffed his offer in one simple word: proceed. Thus, this unknown Antarctic journey began.
Perseverance made its way south, reaching the island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic ocean in November of that year.
It was the last port of call for the expedition before heading to the Weddell Sea, and it was also a whaling colony, controlled by the whaling company.
Shackleton and his team waited here for a whole month, hoping for a slight respite from the cold southern hemisphere spring weather.
The crew seized their last chance to send a letter home, and pilot Hubert Hudson wrote this to his father: “Dear father, I wrote to you last before we set sail. I have had a good time with the crew so far, and I believe I shall have a good time in the future. I hope to be home in nineteen months, and then go to the front. What a wonderful time we live in.”
By December, however, the weather had not improved significantly, but Shackleton knew he could not delay any longer if he was to make the most of the southern hemisphere’s summer. Behind him, Europe was at war; He had missed his dream twice. Now in his late thirties and with all his resources invested in it, this is his last chance.
On December 5, 1914, the Endurance left South Georgia and continued south. On the third day, they met their enemy: pack ice.
There are only narrow stretches of water in the vast expanse of floating ice. Navigating the 1,000-mile maze of waterways toward the South Pole is a huge challenge.
Six weeks later, Perseverance will be within 100 miles of the Antarctic continent.
Now, however, perseverance enters an area of ocean filled with large pieces of broken ice and struggles. Trapped in layers of sea ice, they all took picks and shovels and started shoveling the ice. Two days later, however, they discovered that the remaining ice could not be mined by hand, and the atmosphere of the fleet began to freeze like ice floes.
The question on everyone’s mind was, “Will I make it back alive?”
On March 9, 2022, the expedition crew retrieved an underwater drone
That means they’ll be stuck here for months before spring. There was no radio, food and water were scarce, and no one in the world knew where they were. They were only a day’s voyage from their destination, and then they were defeated, as if fate had a way of playing tricks on people.
Yet one of Shackleton’s greatest traits is optimism. As a leader, he remained optimistic all the time, and passed this attitude to the team, everyone united as one, morale was encouraged, and began to prepare for the winter. He also let them know that he cared more about their safety than the goal of the expedition.
The dogs quickly became indispensable companions during the long, cold days on the ice, and the arrival of four puppies warmed the hearts of the team.
Weekly phonograph concerts, hair-cutting competitions… We live like prisoners, but also like in prison, hoping that one day we can return to the world.
On October 27, 1915, ten months after the Endurance got stuck in ice, Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship. Shackleton paced himself on the ice outside the ship at night. Nothing destroys a man more than to see his dreams shattered.
At 5 p.m. on November 21, the Endurance went down completely. The question on everyone’s mind was, “Will I make it back alive?”
In shackleton’s optimistic nature, he did not despair. If one goal fails, he will find a new one. In his diary, Shackleton wrote: “If I do not cross the Antarctic continent, THEN I will bring back all my men alive.” It would be a real defeat for Shackleton if people died.
The ice has carried them 1,300 miles since they were trapped, and continued drift could take them to land, but it could also kill them at sea.
A month after abandoning ship, Shackleton lay down for two weeks with a chill on his sciatic bones. After recovering, he made a decision: to embark on a second trip to land.
The towrail, wheel and stern deck of the Endurance wreck, March 9, 2022
The crew trudged on, pulling a raft of more than a ton of supplies, through ridges of ice that blocked their way. Slowly, the ice around them began to break up. The ice became so thin that the team could feel the sea rising. Finally shackleton thought they should get on the boat and head for an island.
The nearest to them are Clarence Island (located at the easternmost tip of Antarctica’s South Shetland Islands) and Elephant Island (off the coast of Antarctica), about 160 km to the north. The other location, Deponson Island, is more than 240 kilometers away, but the island could provide supplies for the crew in distress. Shackleton chose the latter.
Three small lifeboats carried 28 people, and no one knew how long it would take to land. Days were miserable, unable to find stable ice floes, and they spent the night helpless in the dark sea, many suffering from dysentery and even crying. Shackleton realized that he must now land at all costs.
So they changed course and headed for Elephant Island.
Finally, after drifting on the ice floes for more than five months, they arrived at Elephant Island beach. It has been one year and four months since they set foot on land.
Some were emaciated by cold and hunger; Some suffer temporary disorders, shaking like paralysis; Some were staggering on the beach as if drunk; Some buried their faces in rocks; Some even go into semi-madness, with one man holding an axe until he has killed about 10 seals.
However, despite reaching land, this remote island has no resources and is far from every conceivable shipping route.
Shackleton decided to send some of the men to South Georgia for help. Finally, Shackleton took four of his strongest and most experienced sailors and set out. His right-hand man, Frank Wilder, was left to lead the demoralized “old and sick” on Elephant Island.
On the evening of May 10, 1916, after 17 difficult days at sea, Shackleton and his men reached the entrance to King Haakon Bay on South Georgia island. But again, the whaling was on the other side of the island. Shackleton and two crew members trekked another 36 hours over glacial cliffs to reach the whaling station.
Years later, Shackleton attributed their successful crossing of South Georgia to the power of faith. “I often have the feeling that there are four of us walking together, not three. I said nothing about it to my companions. But then Worsley told me, Boss, I had a wonderful feeling that there was another man with us all the way. ‘
Three days after arriving at the whaling station, shackleton and his three men borrowed a boat and set sail for Elephant Island, where they made four rescue attempts to pick up the men who had been left behind and two companions from King Haakon Bay.
Fortunately, no one was killed on this difficult and long journey.
This time shackleton achieved his goal. Although the Endurance sank into the sea forever in history, shackleton and the crew’s “perseverance” spirit has been inspiring explorers and scientists with dreams.
The discovery of the Endurance, 107 years after shackleton’s death, marks the end of his journey to the South Pole.