Sir Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship could be raised from under the sea, the expedition crew who found it has said.
Endurance became stuck in ice and sank in the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica in 1915 and had been lost until it was located by a mission vessel which was launched in February, a month after the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest’s death this year.
The Endurance22 Expedition director of exploration Mensun Bound has revealed he is planning to look more closely at the wreck.
Raising the ship has also been considered, amid concerns it could eventually decay despite being preserved in the ice and cold water for so long.
Sir Ernest and his crew set out to achieve the first land crossing of Antarctica but Endurance did not reach land and became trapped in dense pack ice, forcing the 28 men on board to eventually abandon ship.
They were stuck in the ice for around 10 months, before escaping in lifeboats and on foot.
Asked at an event, put on by law firm BDB Pitmans in central London, if the ship will be raised, maritime archaeologist Mr Bound said: “There are a lot of contrasting views about that – we have a range of ideas on that one.
“And we have to remember the Shackleton family, who very likely own the ship, they have fairly strong views of their own.
“Bringing it up – we’ve got to think about conserving it and the process of that, which museum is going to take that, which could take forever and a day.
“But if we leave it there, it’s organic, it’s going to decay some time beyond our lifetime.”
In March, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust said Endurance was found at a depth of 3,008 metres and approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by the ship’s captain Frank Worsley.
Underwater search vehicles were used to locate, survey and film the wreck.
Mr Bound said Endurance is “by far the finest wooden shipwreck” he had seen.
Talking about other future plans, he went on: “She’s the ultimate sealed box mystery, it’s an Aladdin’s cave.
“It’s like the film Citizen Kane with all the antiques, everything is there in that box.
“The technology’s there, we can have a look through some of the gaps.
“(We’re) anxious in time to conduct a proper marine biological survey because she is this incredible oasis in a vast plain.”
A pair of boots and a flare gun were among the items seen on the ship.
Television historian Dan Snow said the expedition, which he was a part of, was “lucky” as they were able to navigate through the sea ice with “relative ease”.
He went on: “We had a brilliant search box that Mensun Bound worked out, looking at all the data from 1915, looking at where the ship probably sunk.
“They were still doing readings with the sun to fix their position, latitude and longitude, and they made daily weather observations, things like that.
“The plan was if we couldn’t near the box, to use helicopters to lift – which was a crazy plan – all the equipment required, build a camp on the ice, drill a massive hole in the ice and drop the drones like VHS tapes through the ice.
“Bonkers idea, because the ice is ever-shifting, it’s moving erratically.”
The team instead deployed a drone off the back of the ship to move around the area.
Endurance was found to be leaning on its right with ice coming “up and over” it which “bulldozed” parts of the deck and accommodation area, although Sir Ernest’s cabin is still intact.
The ropes and mast have fallen down but are still attached and perhaps acted like a “parachute” as the ship sank.