Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the ‘Endurance’, in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica
Set for 2019, the scientific mission to investigate the Larsen C Ice Shelf will also search for the wreck almost two miles beneath the waves.
The group, which includes researchers from universities in South Africa and New Zealand, will be the first to use autonomous underwater vehicles to scan the seabed for the ship’s remains.
Thick pack ice and extreme weather are among challenges faced by those who venture to the isolated and wild region, much as Shackleton faced more than a century ago.
SPRI’s director, Professor Julian Dowdeswell, the chief scientist of the Weddell Sea Expedition 2019, said that its Agulhas II expedition ship would be put to the test by the conditions.
He said: “Whatever ship you have, it’s possible it won’t get there. It could be a better or worse sea ice year, so everybody is going into this with their eyes open.”
Shackleton’s attempt to cross Antarctica began in 1914.
After the vessel became trapped in ice for 10 months and then sank, the explorer and his crew survived for six months before reaching uninhabited Elephant Island.
Shackleton and five other men then set off to seek help at a whaling station on the island of South Georgia, with their perilous journey regarded as one of the most heroic feats of navigation.
After three unsuccessful attempts, Shackleton finally rescued his men in August 1916.
The drifting bivouac of the Expedition on the pack ice after the ‘Endurance’ sank
The ‘Endurance’ was lifted to the crest of a great pressure wave which passed under her stern
Alexandra Shackleton, the explorer’s granddaughter, supports Prof Dowdeswell’s expedition, but as her family owns the wreck their permission will be needed if any items are to be recovered.
She said: “I would love to see her image. But I’m not sure how I would feel about having her touched.”
As for the team’s chances of actually finding Endurance, she said it is a “very big if”.
“People plan to do things in the Antarctic and the Antarctic decides otherwise, as my grandfather found,” she said.