How a Great Yarmouth firm helped to discover long-lost Endurance

Undated handout photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust of the standard bow on the wreck o

The Endurance has been found thanks to Great Yarmouth company Hydramec - Credit: PA

It is a ship that had remained hidden in the depths off the coast of Antarctica for 107 years and carried one of Britain's bravest explorers.

This week startling images of the Endurance were released after an expedition located her at a depth of 3,008m in the Weddell Sea.

The Endurance had fallen victim to the ice in 1915, leading to an act of immense bravery by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, who set off in appalling conditions to find help for his stricken crewmates.

Ernest Shackleton's ship, the 'Endurance', after the ice pressure was released, sank between the ice

Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship, the Endurance, sank between ice floes. The floes came together again, shearing off the masts and top deck and thrust the ship below the ice into the waters of the Weddell Sea on October 27th 1915. - Credit: PA

And playing a vital role in the hunt for the ship by the Endurance22 Expedition's S.A Agulhas II was Great Yarmouth firm, Hydramec Offshore Hydraulics Ltd.

Hydramec, whose main office is on Boundary Road, was commissioned by the expedition to build 25,000m winches with fibre optic cables that could be connected to an underwater drone searching for the ship.

Images could be beamed back live to the expedition.

Hydramec was commissioned as a previous expedition in 2019 had lost an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) which had not been able to transmit any data back to scientists.

Danny Church, managing director of Hydramec in Great Yarmouth

Danny Church, managing director of Hydramec in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Hydramec

Most Read

Explaining his company's role in the search, managing director Danny Church said: "For this expedition we supplied the 25,000m winches. 

"They have 3.5mm fibre optic cables on them and that basically allowed the AUVs to tether back with this cable to get real time data.

"They did this because in 2019 they used an unmanned vehicle without any tether and they lost it underneath the ice and lost all the data they had.

The Endurance keeling over

The Endurance keeling over. - Credit: PA

"So this is why this time they used an AUV that could have a small tether cable with a link to it so they could take the data in real time as soon as they were seeing it.

The Hydramec winching system on a trial run in France

The Hydramec winching system on a trail run in France - Credit: Hydramec

"We trained their staff up to use the equipment.

"The beauty of having the tether cable is that it transmitted straight to the survey room live.

"It is amazing work. It was technically all prototype work. It went through a certifying authority. We had to run the rule over everything to make sure there are no failures.

"The expedition was running out of time. I believe they had 12 days allowed in that area and I believe it was day eight or nine that they found her."

Sir Ernest Shackleton was on his third expedition to the South Pole when disaster struck.

Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. - Credit: Archant

Sir Ernest and the crew managed to escape the ice-trapped Endurance by camping on sea ice until it melted before using lifeboats to reach Elephant Island.

He then set off with five other crew members to reach South Georgia to get help on an epic 720-nautical mile journey.

Last month the Endurance22 Expedition set off from Cape Town, South Africa, on its mission.

Endurance was found at a depth of 3,008 metres and approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by the ship's captain Frank Worsley, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust said.

Undated handout photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust of the stern of the wreck of Endur

Undated handout photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust of the stern of the wreck of Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship which has not been seen since it was crushed by the ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915. One hundred years after Shackleton's death, Endurance was found at a depth of 3008 metres in the Weddell Sea, within the search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town, and approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by Captain Worsley. Issue date: Wednesday March 9, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story HERITAGE Shackleton . Photo credit should read: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/National Georgraphic/PA Wire OTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder. - Credit: PA

Twenty people from Hydramec worked on the specially commissioned winches, which were field tested off France.

Expedition members study footage.

MarcDe Vos (left), Senior Meteorologist and Oceanographer from South African Weather Service, showing the weather data to Jean-Christope Caillens, Off-Shore Manager, Nico Vincent, Expedition Sub-sea Manager and Lasse Rabenstein, Chief Scientist on the bridge of S.A. Agulhas II during the expedition to find the wreck of Endurance - Credit: PA

Mr Church said it was "amazing" to see the first images of the Endurance and said they were another feather in Yarmouth's marine industry cap.

Images from the underwater drone connected with Hydramec winching system

Images from the underwater drone connected with Hydramec winching system - Credit: PA

He said: "We have been in this business 30 years working out of Great Yarmouth. We started as a single man business run by my father.

"Yarmouth has also been heavily involved in the sub sea industry, although fairly quietly.

"A lot of people don't know Yarmouth has built many remotely operated vehicles and ROV launchers, even as early as the 1970s and 1980s.

"It's great kudos for Great Yarmouth.

South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II,

South African polar research and logistics vessel, S.A. Agulhas II, on an expedition to find the wreck of Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship - Credit: PA

"We could not have done it without our staff.

"Hydramec are known for their quality and that is why we pick up the work we do.

"We have good quality engineers and designers. We control 90pc of what we do."

Hydramec employs 60 people and its last turnover was £5.5m. It has two bases in the town and has worked on contracts for the Royal Australian Navy and across the globe.

The crew of the Endurance

The crew of the Endurance - Credit: PA

Who was Sir Ernest Shackleton?

Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on February 15, 1874 in County Kildare, Ireland.

Growing up in London, he rejected his father's wish that he become a doctor and joined the merchant navy when he was 16.

In 1901 he was chosen to go on the Antarctic expedition led by British naval officer Robert Falcon Scott on the ship Discovery.

With Scott and one other, Shackleton trekked towards the South Pole in extremely difficult conditions, getting closer to the pole than anyone had come before. 

Sir Ernest Shackleton on board the Quest

Sir Ernest Shackleton on board the Quest - Credit: PA

Shackleton then spent some time as a journalist and was elected secretary of the Scottish Royal Geographical Society.

In 1908 he returned to the Antarctic as the leader of his own expedition on the ship Nimrod.

During the expedition, he set a record by coming even closer to the South Pole than before. He was knighted on his return to Britain.

In 1914 Shackleton made his third trip to the Antarctic with the ship Endurance.

His fourth expedition aimed to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent but in January 1922 he died of a heart attack off South Georgia. He was buried there.

Undated handout photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust of the stern of the wreck of Endur

Undated handout photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust of the stern of the wreck of Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship which has not been seen since it was crushed by the ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915. One hundred years after Shackleton's death, Endurance was found at a depth of 3008 metres in the Weddell Sea, within the search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town, and approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by Captain Worsley. Issue date: Wednesday March 9, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story HERITAGE Shackleton . Photo credit should read: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/National Georgraphic/PA Wire OTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder. - Credit: PA