The wreck was discovered in remarkable condition earlier this month – more than a century after it sank (Picture: PA)
The expedition leader who helped discover Sir Ernest Shackelton’s lost ship fears the wreck may now be plundered by rogue organisations.
Mensun Bound is concerned that states like Russia or treasure hunting groups could attempt to access The Endurance after his team revealed its rough location with their remarkable find.
He worries priceless historical artefacts on board could face a similar fate to those on the Titanic, which ended up in ‘Las Vegas hotels and places’ thanks to the ‘help yourself situation’ following its re-emergence in 1985.
Mr Bound explained that many of the personal effects of Endurance’s crew are perfectly preserved beneath the freezing Weddell Sea.
The intervention of the expedition’s director of exploration comes after he and his team made international headlines earlier this month, when stunning pictures of Shackleton’s long-lost vessel were beamed around the world.
Their triumph came more than a century after Endurance was crushed by ice and lost on an ill-fated expedition.
Speaking exclusively to Metro.co.uk, Mr Bound explained: ‘We do worry about rogue organisations and rogue countries, just going in there and helping themselves.
Mensun Bound (centre left), the director of exploration, fears treasure hunters and rogue states could go down to The Endurance (Picture: PA)
The ship was crushed by sea ice in 1915 (Picture: PA)
Mr Bound (centre, left) when the expedition visited Shackleton’s graves in South Georgia (Picture: Esther Horvath)
‘It is a huge worry.
‘(Rogue organisations) are out there, they do exist.’
But he is unsure of what can be done to help guard the 1915 wreck for future generations.
‘How do you protect something in the middle of the Weddell Sea under the ice?’, Mr Bound asked.
‘There’s not much to be done (to stop it).’
Mr Bound (left) fears it will be difficult to protect The Endurance now the ship’s rough location is known (Picture: PA)
The South African polar research and logistics vessel S.A. Agulhas II (Picture: PA)
The team are delighted with the state of preservation of the ship and the images they can access (Picture: PA)
Historian and documentary maker Dan Snow suggested to Metro.co.uk that keeping the ship in its current position would be more cost-effective than moving it.
He said laser scans being used to create 3D viewing would bring people ‘closer to the detail’ and make it like ‘no other shipwreck you’ve ever seen.’
The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust’s team found the vessel at a depth of 3,008 metres around three weeks ago, roughly four miles south of the position originally recorded by the ship’s Captain Frank Worsley.
The vessel appears intact, with its name clearly visible across the stern, delighting Mr Bound’s team, who had set off on the S.A. Agulhas II from Cape Town, South Africa, to attempt one of the most challenging searches in maritime history.
Endurance was first launched in 1912 from Norway, as Shackleton and his crew attempted to complete the first land crossing of Antarctica.
The wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s beneath the Weddell Sea (Picture: PA)
The Endurance’s crew survived and their story became legendary (Picture: PA)
The ship is in such good condition that its name is still visible more than a century after it sank (Picture: PA)
The 28 men on board were forced to abandon ship when she eventually became trapped in pack ice.
Yet they all survived despite Endurance sinking, thanks to a stunning rescue mission amid World War One that has become legendary.
Mr Bound, an expert in his field who has been on countless similar missions, was amazed by how well preserved the vessel is during survey and filming work, which the trust said had left the boat untouched and undisturbed.
‘(Shackleton’s crew) had to leave the ship in a hurry as the ship was filling with water and all the stuff that was left in their cabins is still there’, he explained.
‘There is a huge amount of the personal effects of the people on board and it is just sitting there in the bunk rooms where they left them – books, suitcases full of stuff, drawers full of things.
Survival against the odds
When The Endurance finally succumbed to the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and his crew of 28 men had no choice but to try to get themselves to safety.
For five months they drifted on pack ice, slowly using up their dwindling supplies.
In April 1916, they set off in three lifeboats for Elephant Island.
Miraculously they made it and once there were able to survive by eating seals and penguins.
From Elephant Island, Shackleton and five of his men, sailed 800 nautical miles to South Georgia where they hoped to raise the alarm at a whaling station.
The journey took 16-days and involved crossing a dangerous stretch of ocean.
The boat reached South Georgia but landed on the south side of the island and Shackleton had to trek over unchartered land to reach the station.
Amazingly he made it and a rescue mission to reach the crew members left behind on Elephant Island was launched.
After initially being held back by thick sea ice, 22 men were successfully rescued on August 30, 1916 and taken to Chile.
‘The stuff I’m looking at now is just mind blowing, you can look at all the nails in the deck and stuff like that, it really is amazing, I’ve never known a ship wreck (like it).’
‘There’s no precious metals on her or anything like that but the story is so well known… (and) everybody was following our progress.’
He continued: ‘We didn’t cloak ourselves at all… the location is kind of known already, which means it would be quite easy to find.
‘Anybody with a few Russian submarines or something could go down there.’
It is unclear what nation states might be able to gain from accessing the ship but historians and archaeologists will hope that the ship can be preserved for future generations.
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Turning to the Titanic – perhaps one of the few shipwrecks more famous than Endurance, Mr Bound said a ‘help yourself sort of situation’ had developed after it was found nearly 40 years ago, meaning that bits of the ship had ended up in ‘Las Vegas hotels and places’.
‘You don’t want to see that happen to The Endurance’, he added.
But Mr Bound hopes that in the future – perhaps after he dies, a ‘right-thinking organisation’ might access the wreck for archaeological purposes to help maintain or even restore the ship and make it into an educational site.
Those on board spoke to tens of thousands of children in schools worldwide as part of the outreach programme.
Paying tribute to historian and documentary maker Dan Snow, who was also on board, Mr Bound explained: ‘Our purposes were entirely scientific, archaeological, historical and educational.
‘We spent a lot of our time going to classrooms all around the world talking to students from the ship, trying to inspire them, to lift their sights a little higher and think about science and other ways of leading their lives.
Historian Dan Snow was involved in the expedition (Picture: PA)
‘Education was a huge part of this – we took on Dan Snow and History Hit because we knew they could get the story out in a that way we couldn’t.’
Mr Snow told Metro.co.uk he was delighted by how ‘beautifully preserved’ the ship was.
‘The technology now exists to get people closer to the detail than if we spent hundred of millions of pounds lifting and conserving it’, he explained.
‘The 3D laser scanning is mind blowing and will allow millimetre accurate models to be produced which people can explore with headsets.
‘The tens of thousands of ultra high resolution imagery will give that a photo-real quality that will make it like no other shipwreck you’ve ever seen.’
And Mr Snow predicted that the discovery ‘will have a huge impact on how we engage with subsea heritage’ in future.
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