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F.HURLEY/SPRI

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The Endurance’s ill-fated voyage marked the end of the “heroic age” of Antarctic exploration

The attempt this week to find Sir Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship, the Endurance, has ended – without success.

A UK-led expedition to the Weddell Sea sent a robotic sub to the ocean floor to look for the sunken polar yacht, but was itself lost in the process.

The team has now withdrawn from the area because of deteriorating weather and ice conditions.

Shackleton and his crew were forced to give up the Endurance in 1915 when it was crushed by sea-ice and sank.

Their escape across the frozen floes on foot and in lifeboats is an astonishing story of fortitude and survival.

The possibility of finding the remains of the Endurance has captivated maritime historians and archaeologists for decades.

The story of Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition has become the stuff of legend, and is even used at business schools in examples of different approaches to staff management.

The Irish-born explorer had wanted to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. He knew it would be tough, which prompted the now famous crew recruitment advert:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

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WEDDELL SEA EXPEDITION 2019

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The icebreaker SA Agulhas II has been the base for the survey

The expedition never got to begin its traverse because the Endurance was captured by the Weddell’s thick floes in early 2015.

The 44m-long steam yacht drifted for nine months before the pressure of the ice holed the hull and floodwater took it under.

Shackleton and his 27-man crew made their escape northwards, dragging their lifeboats across the pack ice in those places where they couldn’t sail on the sea surface.

They managed first to get to Elephant Island, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, from where Shackleton then set off with four others to try to reach South Georgia to get help.

He succeeded, despite having to navigate across 1,000km of the Southern Ocean in a tiny boat.

Even when Shackleton arrived at the British Overseas Territory, he had to climb a set of mountains because the whaling stations that would come to his aid were on the far side of the island.

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