Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Terra Nova

Just as searchers zero in on the location of the sunken remains of Amelia Earhart's plane, there is news that explorer Robert F. Scott's ship S.S. Terra Nova (images above) has been found. The discovery was accidental, but is no less astounding - not least of which because this is the year in which we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of his historic Antarctic expedition! Scott and his party made it to the South Pole, but were not the 1st to reach the remote destination and lost their lives in the process.* Their vessel, built in 1884 as a whaling ship, remained in service. The original owners repurchased it and used for seal hunting, after which it was used to supply U.S. bases in World War II. In 1943, the Terra Nova was damaged by ice while making a supply delivery to Arctic base stations. The crew was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and the ship sank off the coast of Greenland.

Recently, a research team working for the Schmidt Ocean Institute team was testing echo-sounding equipment to map the seabed. The sonar images (see one here) showed an unidentified feature, so they sent down a camera and towed it across the target area. The images it brought up showed the remains of a wooden wreck, the features of which - including its 187' (57m) length - closely matched historical photos of the Terra Nova and led to the identification. "The camera footage also identified the funnel of the vessel, next to the wreck," reported SOI researcher Leighton Rolley. Because the ship is severely damaged and lies at a depth of more than 1,000' (305m), the cost of a salvage operation would likely be prohibitive, so the famous ship will continue to lie where it sank, just as Scott and his men remain where they fell.

*I tell the story in my book Modern Mummies because the bodies of the men, who had frozen to death in March, were discovered in November, entombed in their tent where they remain on the Ross Ice Shelf, marked by a cairn and a cross.
Cold in this corner of the cabinet!

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