09 Sep 2022
09 Sep 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HGSS.

Understanding the drift of Shackleton’s Endurance during its last days before it sank in November 1915 using meteorological reanalysis data

Marc de Vos1, Lasse Rabenstein2, Panagiotis Kountouris2, John Shears3, Mira Suhrhoff2, and Christian Katlein4 Marc de Vos et al.
  • 1Marine Research Unit, South African Weather Service, Cape Town, 7525, South Africa
  • 2Drift and Noise Polar Services, Bremen, 28195, Germany
  • 3Shears Polar Ltd, Cambridge, PE28 3LR, United Kingdom
  • 4Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar und Meeresforschung, Bremerhaven, 27570, Germany

Abstract. On 5 December 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set sail from South Georgia aboard the wooden barquentine vessel Endurance, thus beginning the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. However, Shackleton and his crew never reached land because the vessel became beset in the sea ice of the Weddell Sea in January 1915. Endurance then drifted in the pack for eleven months, was crushed by the ice and sank on 21 November 1915. Over many years, various predictions were made about the exact location of the wreck. These were based largely on navigational fixes taken by Captain Frank Worsley, the navigator of the Endurance, three days prior to, and one day after the sinking of Endurance. On 5 March 2022, the Endurance 22 expedition successfully located the wreck some 7.8 km southeast of Worsley’s estimated sinking position. In this paper, we describe the use of meteorological reanalysis data to reconstruct the likely ice drift trajectory of Endurance for the period between Worsley’s final two fixes, at some point along which she sank. This approach yields a mean 24-hour position error of 4 to 10 km, and a predicted location some 2 to 5.3 km from the position at which the wreck finally was found. In spite of numerous sources of uncertainty, these results show the potential for such methods in marine archaeology.

Marc de Vos et al.

Status: open (until 30 Oct 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on hgss-2022-9', Gwyn Griffiths, 12 Sep 2022 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on hgss-2022-9', Anonymous Referee #1, 02 Oct 2022 reply

Marc de Vos et al.

Marc de Vos et al.


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Short summary
Poor visibility on the three days prior to the sinking of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s vessel, Endurance, during November 1915, hampered navigator Frank Worsley’s attempts to record its position. Thus, whilst the wreck was located in the Weddell Sea in March 2022, the drift path of Endurance during its final three days at the surface remained unknown. We used data from a modern meteorological model to reconstruct this unknown portion of Endurance’s journey.