A 500-meter perimeter is being built to help protect the Endurance, the ship famously lost in Antarctica by explorer Ernest Shackleton.
The boat’s position at the bottom of the Wendell Sea was finally located in March, 107 years after it sank.
The member states of the Antarctic Treaty have already declared the wreck, which is located in 3,000 meters of water, as a Historic Site and Monument (HSM).
They have now requested a management plan that will guide its ongoing maintenance.
This will be compiled by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). It will determine the types of restrictions and responsibilities that will be placed on anyone who goes near Endurance in the future.
Even now a permit is required to visit the ship.
It is worth noting that the parties to the Treaty agreed to publish the exact coordinates of the wreck, at 68 ° 44’21 “South, 52 ° 19’47” West.
A slight ambiguity could be considered more appropriate given the way in which some marine archeological sites have been looted in the past. However, the site’s overall inaccessibility due to perennial sea ice is the only deterrent, says Amanda Milling, the UK’s Office of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO).
“At the moment, its best protection is its location 3,000 meters below an icy Wendell Sea,” he told BBC News.
“This may not be forever, mainly due to climate change and shrinking sea ice. That’s why we commissioned the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust to work with experts to prepare a conservation management plan and see if additional protection measures are needed. .
“We have already declared it a historic site and the members of the Antarctic Treaty have agreed to increase the protection zone around it from 150 meters to 500 meters.
“This incredibly well-preserved ship, and its artifacts, are part of Shackleton’s legacy – they need to be protected so that they can inspire future generations.”
The Endurance story is a story that has fascinated the world for decades.
It is narrated how Shackleton led his men to safety against all odds when their mission ship was trapped and then pierced by ice in the Weddell Sea in 1915.
The discovery of the boat on March 5 of this year was just a sensation.
It was considered perhaps the most difficult wreck to be found anywhere in the world.
The Endurance22 project, led by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, managed the feat using underwater robots launched by the South African icebreaker Agulhas II.
The wood of the sunken boat was virgin. The hull seemed to be reminiscent of its condition seen in photographs taken a few days before diving into the depths more than a century ago.
The new 500-meter perimeter has been established to include any objects that may have been separated from the Endurance as it descended to the seabed. This will include parts of the ship (although it looks very intact in underwater scans) and any of the crew items.
The future management plan may seek to extend the perimeter upwards of the water column by several hundred meters, and most likely to the surface.
The aim would be to impose strict licensing controls on activities in this 3D space.
Today, with the brutal ice conditions that persist in the Wendell Sea, these activities will be few. But for how long?
Within weeks of the discovery, this correspondent received a message from a travel company offering its paid passengers “the only opportunity to see the wreckage for themselves.”
Such a perspective is detached from reality today, but it may not always be the case.
“As you know, tourism is growing around the Antarctic Peninsula and people are looking for new opportunities, and new adventures, and trips to the Wendell Sea will certainly be in the spotlight. “allow a superyacht to go so deep into the Wendell Sea,” said Camilla Nichol, UKAHT CEO.
“Perhaps the biggest danger in the future could be from longline fishing or some kind of fishing activity in this area. If left unchecked, it could cause accidental damage to the wreck.”
Endurance’s status as an Antarctic Historic Site and Monument meant that Endurance22 had to promise not to remove any artifacts. The search team would not have obtained its license from the FCDO without this commitment.
Others will no doubt want to make another visit. For deep-sea biologists, the ship would be an exciting study. Endurance is now covered by all the organisms that exploit it as a platform from which they feed on any bite of food that moves through the stream of water.
Now is the time to learn how this type of access can work.
Professor Mike Meredith, of the British Antarctic Survey, told a recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Polar Regions: . “There is no doubt that the effects of climate change on sea ice cover will make the Endurance wreck more accessible in the future.”
UKAHT expects to have a management plan ready for consideration by members of the Antarctic Treaty at a meeting next year.
December 1914: Endurance departs from South Georgia
February 1915: The ship is well locked with ice
October 1915: The wood of the boat begins to break
November 1915: Endurance disappears under the ice
April 1916: The escaping crew reaches the island of elephants
May 1916: Sackleton goes to South Georgia for help
August 1916: A relief ship arrives at Elephant Island