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Way Downstream …(Feb. 21-27, 2019)

End of an Antarctic Quest

       It’s been more than 100 years since Ernest Shackleton’s ice-crushed ship Endurance sank in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, sending survivors on a famous trek for survival across ice floes and near-frozen seas.
       It was the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, and Shackleton was known as a hero for miraculously protecting his 27-member crew from death in a small vessel dodging fast-moving chunks of ice. He gave his mittens to the ship’s photographer, as the story goes, and got bad frostbite.
       Maritime archaeologists may have been trying to recapture some of Shackleton’s mojo when they set out in the polar research ship Agulhas II to find Endurance, thought to be resting on the ocean floor nearly two miles beneath ice. It wasn’t meant to be.
  Last week, the explorers cited impenetrable sea ice and bad weather in the decision to abandon the quest. They’d already lost two unmanned underwater vehicles sent down to search.
       “Like Shackleton before us, who described the graveyard of Endurance as the worst portion of the worst sea in the world, our well-laid plans were overcome by the rapidly moving ice and what Shackleton called the evil conditions of the Weddell Sea,” said Mensun Bound, director of the exploration.