The sinking of the Endurance threatened by global warming, according to a marine archaeologist | Antarctic

As a marine archaeologist, Mensun Bound led the 2022 Antarctic Expedition that discovered the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance, more than a century after the legendary vessel became trapped in the ice and sank.

Now he warns his protection cannot be guaranteed due to the combined threats of global warming and underwater robotic technology that could allow flights at the historic site.

He fears that ocean acidification and melting ice will weigh on the Endurance, with underwater robotic systems becoming so advanced that he may envision them being remotely programmed to travel “invisibly” under the ice of the Weddell Sea, where the Endurance lies at depth. .

Mensun Bound: “We can no longer depend on this hard shell of perennial sea ice to protect the Endurance.” Photography: handout

Shackleton’s ship was discovered in March, making polar history by solving one of the great maritime mysteries. It is in such an amazing state of preservation that details such as its bell and rudder are clearly visible.

But Bound fears for their survival: “What if an observation-class submersible had a manipulator arm hidden under its hood? Could they resist snatching the bell?

His warnings come in an interview in the latest issue of Wreckwatch magazine, which this month focuses on ice wrecks.

Bound, director of exploration for the Endurance22 project for the Falklands Maritime Heritage fund, also led the 2019 search, which was called off after an underwater vehicle became stuck under the ice.

In Wreckwatch, he compares the environmental conditions of the two expeditions, shocked by a dramatic deterioration: “There was very little old, thick, gnarled, multi-year ice and there was hardly any musculature or pressure experienced in 2019. It was mostly thin first year ice at the time, and we were never in serious danger of being icebound. Was it a 2022 aberration or part of a trend?… If the trend continues, we won’t be able to depend on this hard shell of perennial sea ice for much longer to protect Endurance.

Sign up for First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

He adds: “There have always been environmental changes of one kind or another, but that have happened over many thousands of years. What we are seeing now happened in my lifetime which, in the scheme of things, is nothing more than a slap in the face of a penguin. Although it looks serene and beautiful, Antarctica is a continent in pain; it is a continent ready for disaster.

Bound describes the 2022 expedition as an “undisturbed survey”. “We didn’t take anything, we didn’t touch anything… We were keenly aware that what we had found was totemic, a ‘monument’ that went into the very blood of our nation.”

Asked about the wrecks that are often looted once discovered, he adds: “Illegal incursions by rogue organizations worry me a great deal. I went through what is often described as the golden age of maritime archaeology… The recent past doesn’t always seem so golden… a long fight against vandals, a race against time to salvage what I could before another wreck is plundered. ”

Sean Kingsley, marine archaeologist and editor of Wreckwatch, said: “Mensun’s take on global warming is very powerful and timely. If we can’t protect a national gem 3,000 meters deep on the dark side of the earth, what can we preserve? Should we leave big sites like this where they are, to crumble and be looted? Or be brave enough to collect some parts? After all, ice wreck after ice wreck will be revealed as global warming takes hold.

Endurance and ice wrecks are featured in Shackleton’s Legacy, an exhibit at the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in Charlestown, Cornwall.

Comments are closed.