August 15, 2013
Why Shipwrecks in Antarctica Are Well-Preserved

If the wreck of the Endurance, the ship abandoned nearly 100 years ago by Ernest Shackleton and his crew in one of history’s greatest sagas of polar exploration, were to be found today beneath the icy waters of Antarctica, it might be in surprisingly pristine condition. The ship is one of several wooden vessels presumed to be lying untouched on the Southern Ocean’s floor.
"Untouched" and "wooden" are words rarely used to describe the same shipwreck — sea worms and other creatures usually bore into the wood with such vigor that by the time archaeologists discover the remnants, the ship’s skeleton has often completely disintegrated. But now, researchers from the Royal Society in London have discovered that there are virtually no wood-threatening organisms in Antarctic waters.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Science, come from the first study ever to compare the decay of whale bones and wood pieces on the Antarctic seafloor. Turns out that in this particular underwater realm, ship skeletons outlast whale skeletons.
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

Why Shipwrecks in Antarctica Are Well-Preserved

If the wreck of the Endurance, the ship abandoned nearly 100 years ago by Ernest Shackleton and his crew in one of history’s greatest sagas of polar exploration, were to be found today beneath the icy waters of Antarctica, it might be in surprisingly pristine condition. The ship is one of several wooden vessels presumed to be lying untouched on the Southern Ocean’s floor.

"Untouched" and "wooden" are words rarely used to describe the same shipwreck — sea worms and other creatures usually bore into the wood with such vigor that by the time archaeologists discover the remnants, the ship’s skeleton has often completely disintegrated. But now, researchers from the Royal Society in London have discovered that there are virtually no wood-threatening organisms in Antarctic waters.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Science, come from the first study ever to compare the decay of whale bones and wood pieces on the Antarctic seafloor. Turns out that in this particular underwater realm, ship skeletons outlast whale skeletons.

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

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