During the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, Sir Earnest Shackleton was the man, or at least one of them. Other explorers of his day may have gathered more renown, but Shackleton's relentless drive and reputation for being cool under pressure made him a legend.
During his career, Shackleton made four trips to the then mysterious continent. The first? Kind of meh. The second time around, he and three fellow explorers came home as a pack of bad asses, having traveled further into the Antarctic's interior than anyone else at the time and, while they were at it, scaling Mount Erebus.
The third trip, which took place in 1915, didn't go so well. His ship, The Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed, forcing Shackleton and his crew to abandon the ship. Despite his disastrous third sortie to the south pole, in 1921 Shackleton planned what would be his last trip to the frozen continent. But he never made it there: he died of a heart attack en route.
Close to 100 years later, Shackleton's misadventure on the Endurance are still capturing the imaginations of readers, explorers and scientists. So much so that, next year, an international team of scientists will do their damnedest to discover the ship's final resting place.
According to The BBC, in January and February of next year, a team of scientists will be studying the Larsen C ice shelf, near the area where the ship was noted by surviving members of the crew as having sunk. Given their proximity to where The Endurance sunk, the opportunity to search for for it was too much to resist:
"It would be a shame not to," said Prof Dowdeswell, the director of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) in Cambridge.
"In our study of Larsen, we will be operating autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). But if we can get them in range of where Endurance is thought to be, we will send them under the ice to do a survey.
"They are fitted with downward-looking multi-beam echosounders, which can map out on a grid the shape of the seafloor. You look at that for any signs of the ship and then focus in with cameras if you find something interesting."
The 45-day expedition will be operating from on board SA Agulas II. Here's hoping that the ship fares better than The Endurance did.
Image: Unknown – Item is held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland., Public Domain, Link