top of page

Explorer Shackleton's Last Ship Found

Wreck hunters have found the ship on which the famous polar explorer Ernest Shackleton made his final voyage.

A sonar image of Quest, the sunken vessel
A sonar image of the sunken vessel | Credit: RCGS

The vessel, called 'Quest', has been located on the seafloor off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The British-Irish adventurer is celebrated for his exploits in Antarctica at a time when very few people had visited the frozen wilderness.

The remains of the ship, a 38m-long schooner-rigged steamship, were discovered at the bottom of the Labrador Sea on Sunday by a team led by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS). Sonar equipment found it in 390m (1,280ft) of water. The wreck is sitting almost upright on a seafloor that has been scoured at some point in the past by the passing of icebergs.

Ernest Shackleton c. 1909
Ernest Shackleton.

Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack on board on 5 January 1922 while trying to reach the Antarctic. And although Quest continued in service until it sank in 1962, the earlier link with the explorer gives it great historic significance.

"His final voyage kind of ended that Heroic Age of Exploration, of polar exploration, certainly in the south," said renowned shipwreck hunter David Mearns, who directed the successful search operation. "Afterwards, it was what you would call the scientific age. In the pantheon of polar ships, Quest is definitely an icon," he told BBC News.

Quest was being used by Norwegian sealers in its last days. Its sinking was caused by thick sea-ice, which pierced the hull and sent it to the deep. The irony, of course, is this was the exact same damage inflicted on Shackleton's Endurance - the ship he used on his ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917.


bottom of page