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Endurance shipwreck has been discovered in the Antarctic 107 years after sinking

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A search spanning more than a century for one of the world's most iconic shipwrecks is over. A team of scientists announced today that it had discovered the wreckage of the Endurance, a British exploration ship that sank in the Antarctic back in 1915. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The wreck of the HMS Endurance was found in icy waters, some 10,000 feet below the surface of the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. A team organized by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust used coordinates recorded more than 100 years ago by the ship's navigator and modern undersea drones to locate the Endurance. Videos show a ship that looks almost perfectly preserved, says Dr. Michelle Taylor, a deep sea biologist at Essex University.

MICHELLE TAYLOR: Which means the shipwreck, which has fallen perfectly upright and settled on this seabed 107 years ago, looks like it could have dropped just a few weeks ago. It's ghostly and it's beautiful. And I doubt that you'll ever see a shipwreck that looks as perfect as that.

NORTHAM: For decades, the Endurance and its captain, Sir Ernest Shackleton, have been part of seafaring lore. The three-masted exploration ship set sail for the Antarctic at the onset of World War I. It encountered heavy pack ice when it neared the Weddell Sea, says Taylor.

TAYLOR: And at that point, the ice got very tight, and it started crushing the boat.

NORTHAM: It slowly sank. And the story of the Endurance turned to one of survival. Shackleton and his crew camped on ice floes for several months. Then he and a few of the crew sailed 800 miles in lifeboats through bitter temperatures in rough seas till they found land and eventually returned to rescue the others, says Taylor.

TAYLOR: And that entire journey, nobody died. The leadership that Ernest Shackleton is known for, I think, is evident in the fact that he got them there safe.

NORTHAM: Taylor says the Endurance is a historic monument, so there are no plans to try and raise it. Jackie Northam, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.