Portland storyteller Lawrence Howard has studied British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's famous early 20th century misadventure in Antarctica since his youth.
He has shared the Shackleton tale in storytelling dozens of times. It's his specialty, it's his passion, hearkening to when he and his father would sit around and talk about Shackleton for hours.
"It's been my lifelong passion and shaped my life," he said.
So, when crews recently found the wreck of Shackleton's ship, Endurance, in 10,000 feet of icy water in the Weddell Sea, Howard obviously was "thrilled" but also "not surprised" when he saw video images of the word "Endurance" and a five-pointed star. He knew the Endurance was out there, and he is thankful a crew from Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust persevered in trying to find the ship.
"It looked exactly how I thought it would look," Howard said. "Frank Worsley, the great navigator, recorded coordinates where the ship went down, and it gave (searchers) a starting point. They knew exactly where it went down. The location it was found was four miles from Worsley's coordinates.
"It's not clear if it drifted as it slowly sank to the ocean floor or perhaps Worsley's coordinates were slightly off or it shifted over years. I was confident they would find it."
Endurance was the second name of the ship; Polaris was the first. It was originally built to bring "filthy rich nobility of Europe to the Arctic to hunt polar bears," he said. "That fell through. Shackleton took it over, bought it specifically for this journey."
It was renamed Endurance because of the Shackleton family motto, "fortitudine vincemus," which means "endurance we conquer." He left the five-point star that went with the Polaris name.
"It doesn't look that much different two miles down underwater, it's so recognizable," said Howard, who followed the search on the Facebook "Ernest Shackleton Appreciation Society" page. The mast and rigging were damaged before it sank, and the hull was preserved because of cold waters and lack of wood-eating organisms.
Shackleton's 1914-16 voyage to become the first person to traverse Antarctica via the South Pole failed, and he never reached the continent. The ship became stuck in ice, was battered by the elements and eventually sank. Shackleton made it to a whaling station and helped rescue his 27 men.
The Endurance was found on March 5 — 100 years to the day that Shackleton was buried at the whaling station, Grytviken on South Georgia Island, after dying during another voyage.
Apparently, nothing will be done with the Endurance, as it's covered by the Antarctica Treaty.
Howard's fascination with Shackleton started at a young age.
"This was something my dad and I shared. My dad Marty had the Alfred Lansing book," he said, referring to "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage," which Howard read and it "set my imagination on fire."
He added: "We talked about it endlessly. We both read it many times, and we could quote from it. It bonded us."
When Howard, the co-founder with wife Lynne Duddy of Portland Story Theater, again tells the next version of "Shackleton's Antarctic Nightmare," he'll obviously integrate the discovery of the Endurance into it.
"I'm hoping the discovery will generate a whole new interest in the Shackleton story and a whole new generation of fans. That is my dearest wish. I hope to be there tell to them all about it," he said.
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