Antarctica. HMS Endurance finds sunken Little Red Ship, MV Explorer

Monday, 28 January 2008

The Royal Navy Ice patrol ship HMS ENDURANCE, which amongst other tasks is carrying survey work in the Antarctic on behalf of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) to improve Safety of Life at Sea products and services, has located the wreck of a cruise liner which sank last year.

Merchant Vessel EXPLORER hit ice and sank just south of the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula in November with all 86 passengers and 66 crew safely rescued. Whilst conducting hydrographic survey work of the area ENDURANCE pinpointed the position of the wreck.

At the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office HMS ENDURANCE undertook a search for the wreck of EXPLORER to ascertain its position, assess the likely condition of the vessel on the seabed and observe any ongoing fuel seepage or other evidence of pollution.

The survey work contributes markedly to the Safety of Life At Sea in the Antarctic region, which is taking on more significance with the annually increasing number of passengers in cruise liners visiting this breathtaking wilderness.

After an initial unsuccessful search earlier this month, ENDURANCE re-visited the area and carried out a systematic search of an area ten kilometres by five using her hull mounted multibeam echosounder. The seabed in the search area was flat and featureless, but a contact was detected at a range of 4373m from the reported sinking position of the vessel. When compared to the reported sinking position of M/V EXPLORER this was broadly consistent with the direction of the prevailing current.

The wreck’s position is at the north-west end of the Bransfield Strait, and was located at a depth of approximately 1130 metres. The actual location is at 620 24.2929’ south 570 11.7748’ west. It is judged that the depth of the wreck showed that it presented no hazard to shipping.

Apart from the oil slick, no debris was seen in the water and no debris was observed on any of the adjacent land in the vicinity of the wreck also visited by personnel from HMS ENDURANCE.

Both the FCO and Ministry of Defence consider that this work highlights the capability and fidelity of the work of ENDURANCE and the Royal Navy as a whole in the Antarctic Region.

Commanding Officer of HMS ENDURANCE, Captain Bob Tarrant, said: “I am very proud of my survey team who are operating our world class system at the edges of its performance. The Royal Navy continues to support UK responsibility to the Antarctic Treaty by surveying and charting the difficult waters of Antarctica to improve safety for all mariners.”

ENDURANCE is on an 18 month deployment, which will include maximising the time she spends there in two separate Antarctic summers during this period to simultaneously support our national Antarctic Treaty obligations, gather survey data for UKHO, and support the scientific research of the British Antarctic Survey.

ENDURANCE is fitted with both modern hull mounted survey equipment and with well equipped survey motor boats for work in support of, and away from, the ship. Her 2 Lynx helicopters also provide data from aerial photography. All the collated data is fed back and processed by experts at UKHO in Taunton and drawn into charts used by mariners visiting and working in this extreme environment.

See Pictures of the Little Red Ship

See HMS Endurance images:


Last Updated ( Monday, 28 January 2008 )