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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.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.