Over a century after it sank to the depths of the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica, the lost ship of Anglo Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton has been found.
In 1915, the Endurance was trapped by dense pack ice, forcing Shackleton and his crew to make a stunning escape.
Now, 107 years later, the wooden vessel has been located, and “it is virtually intact,” said Mensun Bound, the director of exploration at the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, which organized the expedition to find it.
“The preservation is beyond imagination,” Bound told NBC News by phone Wednesday, adding that the ship’s name could still be seen emblazoned across the stern.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. He added that he had “never, ever seen a wreck as bold and beautiful as this,” in the 30 years he has spent working on shipwrecks. “It just doesn’t get any better,” he said.
The Weddell Sea's cold temperatures would have played a key role in preserving the ship, said Dan Snow, a British historian whose content platform History Hit partnered with the expedition team to document the discovery.
“It is super cold. It’s probably just below zero,” he said. This meant there were “no wood-eating microbes and microorganisms” damaging the vessel, he added.
The ship's discovery comes 100 years after Shackleton's death, in 1922.
Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition set out to achieve the first land crossing of Antarctica. Together with his crew, the explorer embarked on his journey in late 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I.
He offered to cancel the voyage and put his ship at the disposal of the British government, but he was directed by Winston Churchill, then head of the U.K.'s Royal Navy, to proceed.
The Endurance did not reach land, as it became trapped in dense pack ice. After they were stuck in the ice for 10 months, the 28 men on board were forced to eventually abandon ship. They escaped in lifeboats and on foot.
Capt. Frank Worsley marked down the coordinates where it sank. The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust said these played a key role in the discovery of the vessel.
The ship was located at a depth of almost 10,000 feet in the Weddell Sea, and it was found within the area the team had initially set on based on Worsley's coordinates.
The team made its discovery weeks after launching the expedition in early February.
The wreck will be protected as a historic site and monument under the Antarctic Treaty, ensuring that while it is being surveyed and filmed, it will not be disturbed.
The trust had previously said an important goal of its expedition was to “bring the story of Shackleton, his ship and the members of his team to new and younger audiences.”
Now, Bound said, the ship’s discovery presents a fresh opportunity “for people to re-explore the whole Shackleton saga.”