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The Royal Canadian Geographical Society launches the Shackleton Quest Expedition-a search to find Sir Ernest Shackleton’s last ship


Royal Canadian Geographical Society 

Jun 10, 2024, 07:58 ET

«The expedition left St. John’s, Newfoundland on June 5th

ST. JOHN’S, NL, June 10, 2024 /CNW/ – The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) is leading the Shackleton Quest Expedition off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador to find the historic shipwreck of Quest, a schooner-rigged steamship that is famous as polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s last expedition ship and the ship upon which he died in 1922.

The co-patrons of the expedition are the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, the granddaughter of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Traditional Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Miawpukek First Nation. 

Royal Canadian Geographical Society (CNW Group/Royal Canadian Geographical Society)

Expedition leader John Geiger heads an international team of experts, including world-renowned shipwreck hunter David Mearns and sonar specialists from Memorial University’s Marine Institute.  Participants are drawn from Canada, the Fram Museum in Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States and include oceanographers, historians and divers.

Sir Ernest Shackleton died of a heart attack aboard Quest on January 5, 1922 while the ship was anchored off the coast of South Georgia, in the South Atlantic. Shackleton was en route to Antarctica on the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition. He had been forced to abandon earlier plans to use Quest as part of a Canadian Arctic expedition after the Canadian government of Arthur Meighen withdrew its support.  

When he died, Shackleton was 47 years old and was mid-way through a journey to explore several islands and regions of the Antarctic continent. Shackleton was one of the world’s most recognized  polar explorers who led several expeditions to Antarctica, including the famed Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition aboard Endurance.

After his death, Quest was acquired by a Norwegian company, and was involved in a series of important expeditions, including the 1930-31 British Arctic Air Route Expedition led by British explorer Gino Watkins, who himself tragically died aged 25 while exploring Greenland. Quest was also used in Arctic rescues, including the search for Roald Amundsen when he disappeared searching for Umberto Nobile and his men in 1928. The ship also served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, before resuming work as a sealing ship. In 1962, Quest was damaged by ice and sank off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. All of the Norwegian crew survived.

More about Quest:

The Shackleton Rowett Expedition of 1922 on board Quest is acknowledged to be the final chapter in the so-called Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1880-1922) which saw polar titans Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen lead pioneering expeditions to the frozen continent in the name of science and discovery. The death of Shackleton on 5th January 1922 is often cited by historians as the dividing line between the «Heroic» and «Mechanical» ages of exploration.

Quest was originally built in Risør, Norway in 1917 as the wooden-hulled sealer Foca I. She was renamed Quest by Lady Emily Shackleton. Finding Quest, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final ship, would be a major discovery in maritime history. After months of research, including the examination of logs, ship records, and mapping from Norway to the Labrador strait, the expedition team believes it has all the elements in place to make a discovery.»

SOURCE Royal Canadian Geographical Society

The Fram Museum has assisted in the search for logs, diaries, photos and other information on the history and sinking of Quest, and is participating in the expedition with Tore Topp, the son-in-law of the last owner of the Quest Ludolf Schjelderup.

Shackleton, Rowett and Wild on the bridge of Quest on a visit to
Southhampton to supervise the fitting of the ship

Headline image: Quest sinking west of Labrador, Canada, on 5 May 1962. ((c) Tore Topp).