ONE of maritime history’s most enduring mysteries has finally been solved with the discovery of the wreck of the legendary Dundee whaler, the SS Terra Nova.
The ship, which carried Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his ill-fated expedition to reach the South Pole, has finally been located off the southern coast of Greenland – 69 years after it was blown apart.
The remains of the SS Terra Nova were discovered by chance as the crew of a research ship, from a scientific institute founded by the former chief executive of Google, were testing new state-of-the-art echo-sounding technology in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Scattered across the seabed were the shattered pieces of the wooden ship – deliberately sunk by US coastguards during the Second World War after the vessel struck ice and began to leak, during a voyage from Canada to military bases on Greenland.
Coincidentally, the final resting place of the three-masted barque has been found in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Captain Scott and his four companions on their arduous return trek from the pole.
It was revealed yesterday that the site of the wreck was located by the crew of the research vessel Falkor, the flagship of the California-based Schmidt Ocean Institute, founded three years ago by Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google and one of the richest men in America.
Researchers on the vessel were conducting trials of new multibeam mapping echo sounders when they stumbled across the wreckage of the whaler which went to her watery grave in September 1943.
Brian Kelly, the education officer at Discovery Point in Dundee, was given an exclusive preview of the wreck footage last month when Leighton Rolley, a member of the Schmidt team, visited the city, which is home to the RSS Discovery used in Scott’s 1901 voyage to the Antarctic.
Mr Kelly described the discovery of the long-lost wreck as “remarkable”.
He said: “It’s an incredible discovery, especially as this year marks the centenary of Scott’s last polar expedition.
“It’s an iconic ship in the history of polar exploration and it is nice to know exactly where the ship is.
“When it sank the crew had been rescued and the US coastguard shelled the vessel so it would not pose a danger to shipping. It was a wooden ship and could have capsized and floated so it was a rather undignified end to an iconic ship.
“The impression from the footage is that the overall structure of the ship is quite badly damaged near the bow.
“The bow had broken up so the forecastle – the deck area above the bow – is bent back almost at 90 degrees to the rest of the deck. The masts appear to have fallen on to the deck.
“But you can also make out the funnel and some of the cranes and boat skids for the small life rafts.
“There is something almost romantic about the thought we now have these images of its final resting place.”
Mr Rolley explained that the Terra Nova had been discovered as the crew of the Falkor were testing the new sonar equipment’s mapping capabilities and had spotted an “unidentified” feature on the seabed .
He continued: “The discovery of the lost SS Terra Nova, one of the most famous polar exploration vessels, is an exciting achievement.”