Endurance (1912 ship)

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Endurance trapped in pack ice during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Photograph by Frank Hurley.
Career (UK) 60px
Builder: Framnæs shipyards, Sandefjord, Norway
Launched: December 17, 1912
Christened: Polaris
Fate: Crushed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea in 1915
General characteristics
Class and type: Three-masted Barquentine
Hull: Reinforced Wood
Tonnage: 350 tons
Length: 144 ft (44 m)
Beam: 25 ft (7.6 m)
Draught: — ft (— m)
Propulsion: 350 hp Coal fired steam and sail
Speed: 10.2 knots
Crew: 28

The Endurance was the three-masted barquentine in which Sir Ernest Shackleton sailed for the Antarctic on the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. She was launched in 1912 from Sandefjord in Norway and was crushed by ice, causing her to sink, three years later in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica.

Design and construction

Designed by Ole Aanderud Larsen, the Endurance was built at the Framnæs shipyard in Sandefjord, Norway and launched on December 29, 1913. She was built under the supervision of master wood shipbuilder Christian Jacobsen, who was renowned for insisting that his employees be experienced seafarers as well as skilled shipwrights.

Initially christened the Polaris (eponymous with Polaris, the North Star), Endurance was launched on December 29, 1913, 144 feet (43.9 m) long, with a 25 foot (7.6 m) member and weight of 350 tons (356 metric tons).

Shackleton looking overboard at the Endurance being crushed by the ice
File:Endurance Final Sinking.jpg
Endurance final sinking November 1915


Endurance was built for Adrien de Gerlache and Lars Christensen, who intended to use her to take tourists on polar cruises to hunt polar bears. Financial problems led to de Gerlache pulling out of the venture; Christensen sold the boat to Ernest Shackleton for GB£11,600 (approx US$67,000), less than cost. He is reported to have been happy to take the loss to further the plans of an explorer of Shackleton's stature.[1] Shackleton re-christened the ship Endurance after his family motto, "Fortitudine vincimus" (By endurance we conquer).

Final voyage

Endurance left Plymouth, England on August 6, 1914, when it set course for Buenos Aires, Argentina, under the command of Captain Frank Worsley. Shackleton joined the ship later in Buenos Aires, with other crew members. The ocean crossing was Endurance's first major cruising since her completion and amounted to a shakedown cruise. The difficult trip across the Atlantic took more than two months. Built for the ice, her hull was considered by many of its crew too rounded for the open ocean.

On October 26, 1914 Endurance sailed from Buenos Aires to her last port of call, the Grytviken whaling station on the island of South Georgia off the southern tip of South America, where she arrived on November 5. She departed from Grytviken for her final voyage on December 5 towards the southern regions of the Weddell Sea.

Two days after leaving from South Georgia, Endurance encountered polar pack ice and progress slowed down. For weeks Endurance twisted and squirmed her way through the pack, averaging less than 30 miles per day. By January 15, 1915, Endurance was within 200 miles of its destination, Vahsel Bay. The following day, heavy pack ice was sighted in the morning and in the afternoon a blowing gale developed. Progress could not be made under these conditions, and Endurance took shelter under the lee of a large grounded berg. For the next two days, Endurance dodged back and forth under the sheltering protection of the berg.

On January 18, the gale began to moderate and Endurance, one day's sail from her destination, set the topsail with the engine at slow. The ice pack had blown away, and progress was made slowly until Endurance encountered the pack once more. Shackleton decided to move forward and work through the pack, and the Endurance entered the ice pack at 5:00 P.M.

The crew soon noted that this ice was different. The ship was soon beset by thick but soft ice floes, a soupy sea of mushy, brash ice. The gale regained intensity and blew for another six days from a northerly direction towards land. By January 24, the wind had completely compressed the ice in the whole Weddell Sea against the land - and around Endurance. All that could be done was to wait for a southerly gale that would decompress and open the ice in the other direction. But there were no Southern gales in the Weddell Sea, only moderate winds. Time passed, yet the ice remained unchanged.

Trapped in the ice, Endurance drifted in the Weddell Sea until her hull succumbed to the ice pack's relentless pressure on October 27, 1915. She finally sank bow first on November 21, 1915, the last ship of her kind. Remarkably, all aboard survived two years marooned in the Antarctic before sending a lifeboat to Elephant Island for help. All crew were rescued with no fatalities, a now legendary feat of survival.


The crew of the Endurance in its final voyage was made up of the 28 men listed below:

Blackborow was originally refused a post aboard the vessel due to his young age and inexperience and decided to stow away, helped to sneak aboard by William Bakewell, a friend of his, Tim McCarthy and Walter How. By the time he was found, the expedition was far enough out that Shackleton had no choice but to make him a steward. Blackborow eventually proved his worth, earning the Bronze Polar Medal, and the honour of becoming the first human being ever to set foot on Elephant Island. His name is also the matter of some debate -it is sometimes spelled Percy, or Blackborow, or in other ways such as Blackborrow or Perce.

HMS Endurance

Two Antarctic patrol ships of the Royal Navy have been named Endurance in honour of Shackleton's ship. The first HMS Endurance (originally named Anita Dan) was launched in May 1956 and awarded pennant number A171 sometime later. She acted as an ice patrol and hydrographic survey ship until 1986. The current HMS Endurance is a class 1A1 icebreaker; originally the Norwegian built MV Polar Circle and bought in 1992.

The wreck

In 1998 wreckage found at Stinker Point on the south western side of Elephant Island was incorrectly identified as flotsam from the ship: it in fact belonged to the 1877 wreck of the Connecticut sealing ship Charles Shearer.[1] In 2001 wreck hunter David Mearns, unsuccessfully planned an expedition to find the wreck of the Endurance.[2] By 2003 two rival groups were making plans for an expedition to find the wreck,[3][4] however no expedition was actually mounted. In 2010 Mearns announced a new plan to search for the wreck, subject to finding sponsorship for the $US10 million estimated cost.[5][6]

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Endurance Expedition

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