July 24, 2024

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Wrecks of polar explorer Shackleton’s quest were discovered

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You haveWrecks of polar explorer Shackleton’s ship were discovered

A scientific search party rejoices: the team has found the ship Quest off the coast of Labrador, on which polar explorer Ernest Shackleton died.

Felix Draper
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  • Researchers have discovered the last ship of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922).

  • Quest Labrador is located 27 kilometers from the coast.

  • Only two years earlier, Shackleton’s ship Endurance, crushed by pack ice in 1915 and sunk, had been discovered.

John Geiger of the Royal Canadian Geological Society, who led the search, told the Guardian, “The discovery of the find is one of the final chapters in the extraordinary story of Sir Ernest Shackleton.” Geiger said the discovery of the Quest — a schooner-rigged steamship that sank during a seal hunt in 1962 — represented “the final link to the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.”

The ship, where Ernest Shackleton died of a heart attack in 1922 at the age of just 47, was discovered 15 nautical miles (27 kilometers) off the coast of Newfoundland at a depth of 390 meters by the research vessel Leeway Odyssey. The search was 12,000 kilometers from South Georgia Island, where Shackleton died. He was on his way to Antarctica, where he had attempted a failed land crossing seven years earlier (see box).

Adventure rescue operation

Shackleton went with his crew in lifeboats to the isolated and uninhabited Elephant Island. With the chances of rescue slim, Irishman Shackleton took his five men in an open boat on an 800-mile odyssey across treacherous seas to reach Gritwicken whaling station in South Georgia. Four months later, Shackleton managed to rescue the rest of his crew from Elephant Island. All 27 members of Shackleton’s crew survived the ordeal, making their leader a hero of the age of Antarctic exploration.

Built as a sealing ship in Norway in 1917, the Quest was only marginally suitable as a cruise ship in icy waters – it was underpowered at 125 hp, uncomfortable for the crew and too small and vulnerable with its slightly reinforced wooden hull – but equipped with the most modern technology of the time, for example radio, On-board electronics and a navigation device called an otograph. It was also planned to bring a small seaplane with you.

After Shackleton’s death, the ship remained on the road until 1962 and, among other things, was used to search for polar explorer Amundsen, who disappeared on a flight over Antarctica in 1928. British explorer Gino Watkins used Quest to explore the air route from the United Kingdom to Winnipeg on his 1930 Arctic expedition. During World War II, Quest served as a minesweeper in the Caribbean, but toward the end of her days she was again used for sealing. In 1962, the Quest hit an iceberg and sank. All crew members were rescued.

Found five days later

After the wreck of Shackleton’s former ship Endurance, which sank in 1915 and was discovered in 2022 at a depth of 300 meters in the Antarctic waters of the Weddell Sea, the research world focused on the search. “It was originally a detective story,” said David Mearns, who was involved in a decade-long project to discover the endurance. “Personally, I thought there was a 70 percent chance we’d find her.”

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But five days after the search began, the team’s sonar equipment spotted the wreck on the seabed. “The masts have fallen, which was to be expected, but basically everything is intact,” Mearns said. The team plans to return later this year to photograph the ruins.

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