Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust
by Thinus Ferreira
The deep-sea discovery with South Africa’s help of the long-lost ship Endurance announced last week will be an upcoming TV documentary special on National Geographic (DStv 181 / StarSat 220) and will chronicle the quest – with the assistance of the polar research vessel SA Agulhas II – to find the historic wreck.
National Geographic’s Endurance documentary with Natalie Hewit as director which will be broadcast towards September this year, is produced by History Hit, the All3Media company Little Dot Studios, and Consequential.
The TV special is described as “an epic documentary event
detailing the successful search and discovery of one of the great lost
shipwrecks of history – Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance”.
Monroe, National Geographic content president, says “Through bold exploration and storytelling,
National Geographic has taken generations of loyal fans from the deepest depths
of the ocean to the peak of Mount Everest, enabling them to see and engage with
the world in entirely new ways”.
“The search for Sir
Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship, Endurance, could not be a more perfect
story to continue this proud legacy and join the storied Explorer franchise,
which for almost four decades has been investigating and reporting on some of
the world’s greatest mysteries.”
“It is our hope – along with our incredible
partners on this project – that the blockbuster story behind Shackleton’s Endurance,
featuring exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to the high-stakes adventure,
will inspire the next generation of explorers and adventurers.”
Organised by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, the expedition to locate the shipwreck, which has for
over a century remained inaccessible and undiscovered, set off from Cape Town
on 5 February on a voyage to the Weddell Sea, off the coast of Antarctica where the Endurance sank in 1915.
The expedition was led by polar geographer Dr John Shears with marine archaeologist Mensun Bound as director of exploration.
With them, on board the South African icebreaker SA Agulhas II, was a crew of
scientists and archaeologists alongside a team of highly experienced extreme
environment filmmakers, led by Dan Snow for History Hit, who have documented
the events in real-time leading up to the historic discovery.
Debra OConnell, president of networks, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, says “We salute the team at the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, Dr John Shears, Mensun Bound, and the crew of scientists and archaeologists aboard the
South African icebreaker Agulhas II for this incredible discovery and for
opening a new chapter in one of the most fabled stories in exploration
“We are excited about the ways in which we will illuminate and celebrate the
achievement of this remarkable team.”
From Cape Town to the Weddell Sea
This icy adventure has been the most ambitious broadcasting project ever undertaken from the ice of the Weddell Sea, says National Geographic.
History Hit, Little Dot Studios and Consequential have produced a range of content covering the setting up of the expedition, the voyage and search, and now the discovery itself, as well as the history, science, and other themes that connect to the wider mission.
National Geographic has the exclusive long-form documentary chronicling this incredible expedition and their triumph set to air later this year.
It took 10 days for the crew to reach the search area after navigating tricky
terrain and icy waters.
After overcoming technical challenges and conducting
multiple survey sweeps, the wreck was found 100 years after Shackleton’s death,
at a depth of 3008 meters in the Weddell Sea.
The wreck was found within the
search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town
and approximately 6.4 km south of the position originally recorded by
Captain Worsley, using submersibles called Saab Sabretooths, equipped with 4k
cameras and lighting arrays.
The wreck appears to be well preserved due to the
lack of wood-eating microbes in the Weddell Sea.
The team is still on location,
studying the wreck and documenting their findings. They are set to begin their
return voyage back to Cape Town later in March.
The wreck will remain untouched and
without any artifacts removed, where it has lain for more than a century – but the results of the discovery will provide significant insights into Ernest
Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition and offer an incredible
opportunity to bring the stories of Shackleton to new generations.
“This has been the most exciting and challenging experience of my career so far,” says Dan Snow, co-founder and creative director of History Hit.
“The team has found not only the world’s most famous shipwreck but also its most inaccessible.”
“After going through storms, blizzards and thick sea ice, we have got some astonishing images of Endurance and a laser scan accurate to within centimetres. People thought the story of Endurance was over when it sank in November 1915, but it wasn’t. This is the start of a new chapter.”
Endurance: What happened a century ago
left South Georgia for Antarctica on 5 December 1914, carrying Shackleton and 27
other men with the goal of reaching the South Pole and ultimately crossing the
continent via an overland trek.
However, when nearing Antarctica, the ship
became trapped in pack ice, and the crew was forced to spend the winter in the
After being stuck in the ice for some 10 months, Endurance
finally succumbed to the pressure of the pack ice and sank.
ship’s sinking, the crew was forced to make their way by sea to uninhabited
Elephant Island before Shackleton and five men set off in a lifeboat on an epic
journey to seek help from a whaling station in South Georgia, more than 1 288 km away.
After several attempts, Shackleton eventually made it back to
Elephant Island to rescue his crew and, miraculously, all of the men under his
command in the Weddell Sea survived two years in the wilds of Antarctica,
making it one of history’s great stories of human survival.
died of a heart attack on 5 January 1922, aged 47.
Geographic Society has a long history with Ernest Shackleton, who in 1910
received the Society’s Hubbard Medal – its highest honour – for his Antarctic exploration.