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| 1 minute read

Shackleton's Endurance found after 107 years

As a (one-time) oceanographer, I was thrilled to read that Shackleton's ship, the Endurance, was finally located on 5th March 2022.

Sir Ernest Shackleton

’s 1914 expedition was an attempt to make the first land crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole. However, after Endurance became trapped in pack ice, Shackleton was forced to abandon his ship and take his twenty-eight crew members across the ice to Elephant Island, where they built a makeshift camp. Shackleton himself pressed on with five other men for 800 miles before arriving in South Georgia, from where a rescue was mounted.

The discovery of Endurance was made possible through the use of a hybrid underwater search vehicle from Saab, known as a Sabertooth. This vehicle combines the features of a Remote Operating Vehicle (ROV), which is linked to a ship or other structure on the surface via a tether, and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), which can operate without a link.

This underwater robot is robust enough to dive over 10,000 feet to the Antarctic seabed without being crushed, and uses multibeam side-scan sonar to "see" large areas, sending its data back in real time via a 15-mile-long fibre optic cable, or tether. Once a feature of interest is detected, Sabertooth can be switched into inspection mode, which activates its laser scanner and high-definition camera. Left untethered, the robot can travel to sites up to 100 miles away from its launch point and deliver the collected data upon its return.Endurance lies in the Weddell Sea at a depth of 9,869 feet (3,008 metres), around 4 miles south of its last calculated position. Without marine robots such as Sabertooth, it is highly unlikely that she would ever have been located. 

Underwater exploration is not the only field in which Sabertooth vehicles operate; they are increasingly being used in the oil and gas industry, for example, undertaking a range of tasks, including undersea inspection, maintenance and repair.

Efforts to locate the wreckage of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance have been made possible with Sabertooth hybrid underwater search vehicles supplied by Saab.


robotics, oceanography, marinetech, transport