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Watery Grave Of Ship That Took Scott To Antarctic Is Found

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Lying more than 1,000ft down in the icy waters off Greenland, the ship that took Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his ill-fated mission to the Antarctic has been discovered.

The SS Terra Nova was found by chance by a team from Schmidt Ocean Institute, the research company, when they were testing new survey equipment on one of their ships.

The ship, built in Dundee in 1884, took Captain Scott and his team from Cardiff in 1910 on their quest to be first to reach the South Pole.

His British Expeditionary Force sailed the Terra Nova to the Antarctic, disembarking in November 1911 for the 167-mile trek that would eventually take the lives of four team members and his own.

Brian Kelly, the education officer at Discovery Point museum in Dundee where the RRS Discovery is held — the first ship to take Captain Scott to the Antarctic in 1901 — said he was “amazed†by the find. He added that he had not been able to tell anyone about it until now.

He said: “A man came into the centre ... he said he had some information I might be interested in and he turned out to be Leighton Rolley, a technician on the Schmidt team who found her.

“I was amazed at what he told me, but he insisted that I didn’t tell anyone about it at that time. The Terra Nova had only just been found but various organisations had to be told before it could be made public.

“It is remarkable that the Terra Nova has been found now, 100 years on from the race to the Pole, the death of Scott and four of his crew, and in the year of various events to commemorate that occasion.â€

After the ill-fated exploration mission the ship was bought by the Bowring Brothers, who had previously owned her as a fishing vessel, and in 1913 she returned to the Antarctic to work in the Newfoundland seal fishery.

During the First World War she was used for coastal trading voyages. In 1942 the ship was chartered by Newfoundland Base Contractors to carry supplies to base stations in Greenland but on September 13, 1943, she was damaged by ice.

The US Coastguard rescued all 24 crew and then fired bullets into the vessel’s side, sinking her just off the southwestern tip of Greenland.

Mr Kelly believes that hopes of salvaging the vessel are thin. “She was severely damaged when she was sunk by the US Coastguard and the front of her hull is peeled back, suggesting that the structure may not be able to take any movement.

“She is also in very deep water, I think over 1,000ft. I’m not an expert on the salvage of ships but I would think that the depth she is at, the condition she is in and the cost of any salvage operation would make her recovery most unlikely.â€

The ship was found when a team from the Schmidt Ocean Institute, with experts from the University of New Hampshire, the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution began an exploration exercise in the North Atlantic.

They discovered the wreck while testing echosound equipment from the institute’s flagship vessel R/V Falkor.

The wooden-hulled barque, with one funnel and three masts, was known to be in the general area but the precise location was unknown.

While inspecting an area of the seabed Jonathan Beaudoin, a survey expert from the University of New Hampshire, noticed an unidentifiable feature. He and a colleague, Leighton Rolley, compared it with other shapes on the seabed and decided to carry out further investigation.

Using sophisticated technology, the boat-shaped object was measured and its 57m length matched the dimensions of the Terra Nova.

After analysing data from acoustic tests, the team sent down a camera for a closer look and the pictures showed a wooden wreck. The camera footage also identified the runnel of the vessel next to the wreck.

The forecastle, a section of the upper deck, appeared to be peeled upwards to the port side and at an angle from the rest of the ship.

The team compared the funnel image with historic photographs of the SS Terra Nova. All observations confirmed that the wreck is the ship in question.


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