Lesson of the Day: ‘A Search Begins for the Wreck Behind an Epic Tale of Survival’

In this lesson, students will learn how a team of modern adventurers are searching the icy Antarctic seas for Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance over 100 years after it was lost. Plan adapted from The New York Times.

Lesson plan

Watch this movie first. Captain Frank Worsley signs on as Captain of the Endurance to navigate Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew to Antarctica. Learn how when the expedition ship is crushed; Worsley’s seamanship and navigational skills saves them all.

Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on 15 February 1874 in County Kildare, Ireland. His father was a doctor. The family moved to London where Shackleton was educated. Rejecting his father’s wish that he become a doctor, he joined the merchant navy when he was 16 and qualified as a master mariner in 1898. He traveled widely but was keen to explore the poles.

In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole, followed by Scott who died on the return journey. In 1914, Shackleton made his third trip to the Antarctic with the ship ‘Endurance’, planning to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. Early in 1915, ‘Endurance’ became trapped in the ice, and ten months later sank. Shackleton’s crew had already abandoned the ship to live on the floating ice. In April 1916, they set off in three small boats, eventually reaching Elephant Island. Taking five crew members, Shackleton went to find help. In a small boat, the six men spent 16 days crossing 1,300 km of ocean to reach South Georgia and then trekked across the island to a whaling station. The remaining men from the ‘Endurance’ were rescued in August 1916. Not one member of the expedition died. ‘South’, Shackleton’s account of the ‘Endurance’ expedition, was published in 1919. Source BBC.


Watch a video.

Before reading the featured article, watch the first five minutes of the video below: “28 Men Lost in Antarctica But What They Did to Survive Is Amazing” by Bright Side. Then, respond to the prompts below in writing or through discussion with a partner:

  • What are three things you learned about Shackleton and his fateful trip on the Endurance?

  • What are two new things you learned about Antarctica?

  • What is one question you have?

(CNN) — More than a century after it sank off the coast of Antarctica, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship HMS Endurance has been located, apparently intact and in good condition.
The ship, which sank in 1915, is 3,008 meters (1.9 miles or 9,842 feet) deep in the Weddell Sea, a pocket in the Southern Ocean along the northern coast of Antarctica, south of the Falkland Islands.
The discovery was a collaboration between the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and History Hit, the content platform co-founded by historian Dan Snow.
“This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation,” Mensun Bound, the mission’s director of exploration, said in a statement.
He added: “This is a milestone in polar history.”

Read the featured article, and then answer the following questions:

1. Mr. Fountain writes that when Shackleton’s ship Endurance sank in the waters of Antarctica in 1915, it resulted in “one of the greatest survival stories in the history of exploration.” In your own words, briefly tell the story of Shackleton’s fateful voyage and whether you agree that it is a truly heroic tale.

2. Why is a team of researchers heading to the Weddell Sea in 2022 to find the 144-foot-long Endurance? Why won’t getting there be easy, even for a modern crew with state-of-the-art technology, according to the article? What is particularly challenging about the Weddell Sea?

3. Why was Shackleton hailed as a hero at the time and still lionized today, in books, films and even business school courses, despite failing to achieve his goal of crossing the icy continent? What lessons about leadership do you think can be learned from his efforts?

4. Why is the expedition team aboard a South African icebreaker, the Agulhas II, confident it will be able to locate the long lost ship? How might the expedition be helpful in the fight against climate change, even if the wreck isn’t found?

5. Stefanie Arndt, a sea-ice researcher from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, who is part of the team of researchers on the new expedition said:

This is a really huge thing. And for me, it’s really special. The first book I read about Antarctica was one about Shackleton’s expedition. This was for me the kickoff into polar science.

What does the article make you think and feel? Does learning about Shackleton’s story make you more interested in the age of Antarctic exploration or polar science in general? Do you think it is worth the effort, and the $10 million dollars the expedition cost, to try to find the fabled Endurance? Would you want to be part of the expedition to find it — or other lost vessels?

7. Make a prediction: Do you think the team of modern adventurers will find the Endurance? Why or why not?


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