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Lost since 1915, Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance is found off Antarctica

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The descendant of an Antarctic explorer can now marvel at images of his ancestor's ship. Ernest Shackleton led three expeditions to the bottom of the Earth. One of them ended when his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in the ice and eventually sank.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

This week, we've seen video of the shipwreck, which was discovered in 10,000 feet of water. And the people watching include Charles Shackleton.

CHARLES SHACKLETON: And the goal was to do a complete crossing of the Antarctic.

FADEL: His famous ancestor was born in Ireland, back when it was fully part of the British Empire.

SHACKLETON: He was an entrepreneur, fundamentally. He tried politics. He tried starting a cigarette company - all kinds of different things. He was an incredibly charming guy, but he loved people most of all.

INSKEEP: He used his charisma to organize Antarctic expeditions. It was an age of exploration. And his mission, starting in 1914, was to cross the continent. When the ship instead became trapped in ice, it's said that he kept his crew motivated by his sheer force of personality.

FADEL: Shackleton and his crew drifted on an ice floe, hoping it would blow them to safety. When that didn't work, they set off in the ship's lifeboats. And unlike the crews of other ill-fated polar expeditions, they survived. Now, images show their century-old wooden ship in surprisingly good shape on the ocean floor.

SHACKLETON: For me, it's like, whoa. This makes it very, very real. Everything is so well-preserved. I didn't think they'd find it. And I was following pretty closely, day to day, from the Endurance22 expedition.

FADEL: Undersea robots found the ship so well-preserved that its name is legible across the stern, just below the helm.

INSKEEP: The Endurance will remain where it came to rest. It is protected as an artifact under an international treaty. Undersea explorers in some future time may find it there again, where it's a symbol of the human ambition to see new things and also of the power of nature.

(SOUNDBITE OF JON HOPKINS' "LOST IN THOUGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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