Ryan Connelly Holmes
Ryan Connelly Holmes
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Off the coast of Antarctica, deep underwater, researchers have discovered the British ship called “Endurance," the vessel that launched one of the most remarkable stories of survival and determination. William Brangham reports.
Finally, a bit of brighter news, this time from the deep sea.
Off the coast of Antarctica, deep underwater, researchers have discovered the British ship called Endurance, the vessel that launched one of the most remarkable stories of survival and determination.
William Brangham has our report.
She hasn't been seen in over 100 years. This is the Endurance, resting nearly 10,000 feet down in the dark, freezing waters at the bottom of Antarctica's Weddell Sea, just a few sea anemones and other creatures bearing witness to perhaps the final chapter in one of the world's great stories of heroism and survival.
This was Endurance back in January of 1915, a sturdy, three-masted ship that had carried British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 to the coast of Antarctica. Shackleton's plan was to land and then cross the entire continent, which would have been a first.
But the Endurance got stuck off the coast, trapped by the massive halo of sea ice that grows around Antarctica every year. The ice seized the ship, and, despite the crews best efforts, never let her go. Shackleton and his men were stranded, forced to live on the drifting ice with their ship for nearly 10 months, their heroic expedition plans ruined.
After carrying them many miles along the coast, that churning ice crushed the Endurance, and she sank to the bottom of the sea. What makes this story so legendary is the extraordinary journey that Shackleton and his men then had to do over unmapped mountains, and across hundreds of miles of open ocean in small lifeboats to get out.
Julian Dowdeswell, Director, Scott Polar Research Institute:
This is regarded as one of the epic small boat voyages ever undertaken, across some of the steepest, harshest seas in the world.
In this 2019 documentary, the director of the Scott Polar Research Institute explained how precarious their journey was to finally reach a distant whaling station.
They'd done this epic boat journey, and survived that, and then they have to do an epic mountain crossing as well, because the whaling station was on the other side, all the time knowing that, if they failed, no news would ever come out, and the whole party of 28 would probably die.
But they all made it.
Polar historian Katie Murray says this is partly why Shackleton's leadership skills are taught in business schools and military academies to this day.
Katie Murray, Polar Historian:
There are so many places where that could very easily have gone wrong, and it seems absolutely miraculous that not only did this feat that seemed impossible actually succeed, but it succeeded in bringing all the men of the expedition home safely.
More than a century later, an exploration crew, organized by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, went back to the icy Weddell Sea, where Shackleton's ship first went down.
Using the last known coordinates recorded by the Endurance's crew, they deployed underwater drones to search the seabed. After about two weeks of searching in very difficult conditions, they found the wreck, the word Endurance, as fitting a name as ever, still clearly visibly on her stern.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
Wow, and just the kind of news we like to see and need to see right now.
Thank you, William.
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William Brangham is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C. He joined the flagship PBS program in 2015, after spending two years with PBS NewsHour Weekend in New York City.
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