First sonar image of wreck of Ernest Shackleton's 'last vessel' discovered after more than 60 years

The ship has been missing since 1962

The first sonar images of the wrecked ship on which explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton made his final voyage have been published after it was discovered by Canadian searchers.

Quest was located in the Labrador Sea off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada - after being missing for more than 60 years.

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Sir Ernest, who was born in Ireland but had links to Dundee, suffered a fatal heart attack on board Quest on January 5 1922, aged 47, while trying to reach the Antarctic.

After Sir Ernest’s death in the South Atlantic, Quest was acquired by a Norwegian company and it was involved in a series of expeditions until May 5 1962, when it was damaged by ice and sank. All of the crew survived.

The Shackleton Quest Expedition, led by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), said on Wednesday that the schooner-rigged vessel was found “intact” lying at a depth of 390m.

Wreck searchers used sonar equipment to aid the discovery, which falls in the 150th year after the explorer’s birth.

Polar Explorer, Sir Ernest Shackelton, who made his final voyage on Quest.Polar Explorer, Sir Ernest Shackelton, who made his final voyage on Quest.
Polar Explorer, Sir Ernest Shackelton, who made his final voyage on Quest. | PA/PA Wire

Discovery, the ship used by Sir Ernest and his colleague Robert Falcon Scott on their first, and highly successful, journey to the Antarctic, was built in Dundee and is still on display in the city.

Expedition leader John Geiger, of the RCGS, said: “Finding Quest is one of the final chapters in the extraordinary story of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Shackleton was known for his courage and brilliance as a leader in crisis. The tragic irony is that his was the only death to take place on any of the ships under his direct command.”

Martin Brooks, of British expedition and apparel company Shackleton, said: “The finding of Quest is an important new chapter in the story of Ernest Shackleton and polar history; an iconic vessel, she marked the end of the heroic age of polar exploration. It is an honour to have supported this historic discovery.”

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Search director David Mearns said of the ship: “She is intact.

“Data from high resolution side scan sonar imagery corresponds exactly with the known dimensions and structural features of this special ship. It is also consistent with events at the time of the sinking.”

In 2022, a British-led expedition located Mr Shackleton’s once-lost ship Endurance, which in 1915 became stuck in pack ice and sank in the Weddell Sea.

The wooden cross from Sir Ernest’s Hope Point memorial will soon be on display at Discovery Point museum in Dundee, where the Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery, which first carried Shackleton to Antarctica in 1901, is kept.

Crew members of the Shackleton-Rowett expedition on Quest erected a memorial at Hope Point, near to his final resting place in Grytviken Cemetery.

The Hope Cross was constructed at nearby Grytviken whaling station by crew members unable to attend the funeral of their expedition leader, whom they called The Boss.

It will now be transported 7,000 miles to Dundee.

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