Designed by Ole Aanderud Larsen, Endurance was built at the Framnæs shipyard in Sandefjord, Norway and fully completed on December 17, 1912.
She left Plymouth on August 8th 1914 before stopping at Buenos Aires and South Georgia on route to Antarctica, she never reached her destination of Vahsel Bay in the Weddell Sea.
She was 144 ft long, had a 25ft beam and measured 248 tons with sails and a coal fired steam engine, her hull and exterior was made out of Oak and Norwegian Fir.
She carried three lifeboats, named James Caird, Dudley Docker and Stancomb-Wills, they were named after the principal sponsors of the expedition. The James Caird was the only survivor and is held at Dulwich College, London.
In December 1914 the Endurance encountered pack ice in the Weddell Sea more Northerly and denser than expected which made slow progress and a slice of ominous bad luck.
INTO THE ICE
Into January 1915 the Endurance was repeatedly stuck in the pack ice and progress frustratingly slow, at times Shackleton ordered the men onto the ice with picks and chisels to try and free the ship.
In February 1915 despite all efforts the Endurance became completely stuck in the pack ice and with Winter approaching it meant spending around 9 months stuck in the ice before they could sail again.
With the pack ice contracting Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship on 27 October 1915, shortly after the ship became crushed in the ice and slowly began to sink.
There have been plans for an expedition to find the wreck but never actually launched, A 2013 study by Dr Adrian Glover of the Natural History Museum, London suggests the Antarctic Circumpolar Current could preserve the wreck on the seabed by keeping wood-boring "ship worms" away, so there is hope.
The Endurance was built in Sandjeford, Norway on the 17th December 1912, overseen by the experienced master shipbuilder Christian Jacobsen at the Framnaes shipyard. It was built for maximum strength against the icy waters of Antarctica and every detail down to each fitting was meticulously planned and carried out in the construction, initially christened ‘Polaris’ after the North Star. When built she was one of the strongest wooden ships ever built, a true legend of the icy seas, crafted for heroic expeditions into the unkown.
Awful calamity that has overtaken the ship that has been our home for over 12 months... We are homeless and adrift on the sea ice.Frank Hurley
An incredibly strong ship, she was 44m long with a beam of 7.6m measuring 348 tons gross, built of planks of oak and Norwegian fir up to 76cm thick and sheathed in greenheart. Her bow had been made from single oak tree timbers selected for their shape following the curves of the ship, with her keel consisted of four solid pieces of oak all adding up to a thickness of 2.2m. With three masts, her forward mast was square-rigged with the two others carrying fore and aft sails, accompanied by a 350 horsepower coal-fired steam engine which could reach speeds of over 10 knots.
Originally the ship was built for Lars Christensen and Adrien de Gerlache and their tourist company offering polar cruises, however financial problems meant that the project was cancelled. So, when Ernest Shackleton offered them the sum of £11,600 they accepted and were said to be happy to take a loss to help an explorer of Shackleton’s stature. Shackleton soon rechristened her ‘Endurance’ after the Shackleton family motto which was “Fortitudine vincimus” (By endurance we conquer). Lloyds of London had insured her for £15,000 which was the first time in history a ship had been insured into the waters of the Antarctic such was their confidence in the voyage and quality of the ship.
Endurance sailed from Plymouth harbour on 8th August 1914, setting course for Buenos Aires, Argentina to pick up the rest of the crew including Shackleton and further supplies for their voyage. Shackleton had stayed in England to continue to raise funds and other business matters, then travelling on a faster mail ship to Buenos Aires. On 26th October they left for their last port of call in Grytviken, South Georgia, a remote whaling station within striking distance of Antarctica.
Leaving South Georgia on 5th December 1914 they headed for the Weddell Sea and Vahsel Bay on the edge of Antarctica and where the land party would disembark and begin their long march across the contintent. After a few days the ship hit pack ice and this slowed progress dramatically with the ice thickening which was worrying still so far from their destination. This was freak conditions for the time of year and although slow progress was being made the crew had become anxious of these problems so early into the expedition.
By mid January they managed to progress slowly through the ice floes, at times the crew took to the ice with picks, chisels and hammers to try and free a path ahead of the ship and break up the ice forming around the ship itself. Eventually despite best efforts by the end of January, Endurance was completely stuck in the ice and drifted in huge ice floes in the Weddell Sea. Shackleton and the crew were resigned to the fact they would be spending the Antarctic winter stuck in the ice with no hope of escape for at least nine months.
Disaster struck in October 1915 when the ice contracted and the ship was crushed with water now flooding in to the lower areas of the ship. Despite futile efforts to pump the water out and repair the damage, Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship on 27th October with the entire crew now beset on the ice. The Endurance finally sank on 21st November 1915 with Shackleton declaring to the crew “She’s gone boys”. In his diary he wrote “At 5pm she went down by the head: the stern the cause of all the trouble was the last to go under water. I cannot write about it.”
So there she still lies at the bottom of the freezing Antarctic sea, lost to the world. There have been several suggestions of finding the shipwreck but no expedition has ever started, with the centenary now upon us the interest will be greater than ever. A 2013 study by Dr Adrian Glover of the Natural History Museum, London suggests the Antarctic Circumpolar Current could preserve the wreck on the seabed by keeping wood-boring "ship worms" away.