The wreck of one of the world's most legendary exploring ships was found in icy waters off the coast of Antarctica, and the pictures from the expedition are incredible.

The taffrail and ship’s wheel of the Endurance
Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic

The discovery comes more than 100 years after the ship Endurance was crushed by sea ice, leaving Ernest Shackleton and his crew to find an alternate route home. The final resting place of the ship was discovered by the expedition Endurance22, which used high-tech underwater search vehicles to find and document the wreck.

In a long career of surveying and excavating historic wrecks, I have never seen one as beautiful and bold as this one.

The team narrowed down the search area because of the records kept by Frank Worsley. The wreck was found four nautical miles south of its last known location. It was found under the surface of the sea.

The Endurance22 mission’s icebreaker S.A. Agulhas II surrounded by sea ice
Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and James Blake

The ship was in great shape, with paint still visible on parts of it. The ship's wheel and name are still remarkably intact, despite the fact that the ship was crushed in sea ice. Since it is a historic site, nothing will be done to the wreck.

Starboard bow of the ship
Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic

It would appear that the wood-munching animals found in other areas of the ocean are not in the forest-free region, according to a polar biologist. She identified the organisms seen in the images of the wreck as stalked sea squirts, anemones, sponges, brittle stars, and crinoids.

A Sabertooth vehicle on board the S.A. Agulhas II
Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and Nick Birtwistle

The team used an underwater vehicle to find the wreck. The Sabertooth can travel up to 100 miles away from its ship on its own. Even if the mission's icebreaker couldn't get close to the wreck site, it could send a Sabertooth under the ice to investigate.

Displays showing the wreck inside the control room for the Sabertooth vehicles on board the S.A. Agulhas II
Esther Horvath and Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

The expedition's vehicles were specially designed to locate and map the wreck site. A 3D model of the site will be created by using a laser scanner on the wreck. According to the website of the expedition, the data will allow researchers to see the site with a level of accuracy comparable to an archaeological survey on land.

Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and Nick Birtwistle

Other researchers on the expedition were monitoring and measuring sea ice, making detailed maps of the ocean floor, and testing engineering limits in some of the toughest conditions on Earth.

Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and Nick Birtwistle

A documentary about the expedition is expected to premiere on National Geographic.