Bids to establish fate of explorers are a tribute to the men who died

News Letter editorial on Thursday March 10 2022:

By Editorial
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 4:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th March 2022, 5:03 pm
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance sank in the remote Weddell Sea, 107 years ago.

Now, a century after Sir Ernest’s death, it has been found, as we report on page 18.

Wonderful, but also haunting, images of the discovery were released yesterday in which the words Endurance are clearly visible on the wreck. The boat is preserved to an astonishing degree, so that it almost seems as if we have travelled back in time to an era of such perilous exhibitions.

The find is an echo of the discovery of the body of the Everest climber George Mallory who was last seen near the top of the world’s highest mountain in 1924 with Andrew Irvine, and whose frozen body was found preserved as recently as 1999.

It is unclear whether the pair reached the peak on that exhibition or died before reaching it.

The discovery of Endurance is also a reminder of the finding in 2014 of HMS Erebrus, more than 160 years after a failed bid to find the Northwest passage (an expedition in which captain Francis Crozier from Ulster was lost).

Now most of the challenges on earth that appealed to the human sense of adventure have long since been achieved so that there are few places on the globe that have not been both reached by man and mapped. In a strange way this might seem to make the world seem a slightly less intriguing place, because there are fewer mysteries to resolve or novel things to see. Yet there is no need for such a jaded view — the fact that all three aforementioned discoveries took so extraordinarily long is a reminder of the vast scale of our planet and how hard it is to pinpoint missing people or relics in remote locations. That this remains the case in 2022 illustrates the limits of technology and the inexhaustible supply of physical wonders or extreme human endeavours in the world.

It is in the spirit of the men who sacrificed their lives charting the land masses and the seas, and in tribute to them, that these modern quests to resolve the fate of such historic voyages should be seen and celebrated.