Children at Chelsea Prep school Cameron Vale welcomed a duo of very special visitors, who told tales of extreme bravery in -30 degrees and brought to life the hunt for a long-lost shipwreck during a one-of-a-kind assembly.
Cameron Vale, situated just off the King’s Road in Chelsea, was delighted to host renowned Historian Dan Snow and esteemed Marine Archaeologist Mensun Bound for a special assembly to share stories about their awe-inspiring Antarctic expedition during which they discovered the missing wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance.
Staff and children alike were excited to meet Dan, who has his own history channel called History Hit, and Mensun, the chief archaeologist of the dive which took place earlier this year.
Bridget Saul, Headteacher at Cameron Vale, said: “We were thrilled, quite literally, to hear the incredible story of Dan and Mensun’s mission to unearth a piece of fascinating maritime history. It was a real treat for our children to share in the retelling of the discovery first-hand. We have had so many questions raised by the children and learning opportunities drawn from the visit and can certainly see that there are now some hopeful future explorers in our midst!”
The assembly focused on the ship Endurance and the messages that we can learn from the experience, that no one is left behind and the importance of caring for each other.
Endurance was last seen in 1915 when Irish-British explorer Shackleton and his crew, on a mission to be the first people to cross the Antarctic continent through the South Pole, saw their ship get trapped under ice, damaged beyond repair. They resorted to living on three lifeboats for five days until reaching Elephant Island, where they made a camp to wait for rescue, their mission abandoned.
Shackleton and two of his crew members decided to find some help in South Georgia. They took a long 36-hour walk to get to a station on the island to raise the alarm and to save his crew. If it weren’t for his decision-making and abandonment of the mission, lives would have been lost.
Dan’s team discovered the wreck of the ship on 5th March this year, 107 years after it disappeared, at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, just off the coast of the Antarctic, 3000m deep in the icy water.
Dan and Mensun told the story to the enraptured audience of Cameron Vale children, detailing how between landing on Elephant Island and awaiting rescue, Shackleton’s crew had to endure -30 degrees temperatures and resorted to eating penguins – a detail the children found incredible!
He said: “It was great to see the children so engaged in our stories, constantly asking questions, and wanting to know more – it was truly a heart-warming experience. Being able to go on this trip was brilliant, when I first saw the ship standing upright it was breath-taking. The presentation alone would make anyone take a step back and admire the view. I felt like a part of history uncovering a 107-year-old mystery.”
When the explorers found the wreck, they were amazed to see an array of items including a cricket bat, thigh boot and flare gun intact. They didn’t touch anything however but protected their incredible findings using their robot which captured 25,000 perfect images of the ship using laser technology.
A year 5 pupil at the school added: “I found it interesting when you talked about finding the gun and the boot on the deck of The Endurance. I want to be an explorer like you both when I grow up. Thanks for coming to our school!”
Bridget added: “We are so thankful to Dan and Mensun for bringing this fascinating mystery to life for our children. They were encouraged to express their curiosity and gain a fuller understanding of what happens during an exhibition as well as the history of world exploration. It was a truly memorable day for our school.”
Both Dan and Mensun wish to continue their historical discoveries, with Mensun focusing on the search for other wrecks and Dan planning to visit the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and then taking a trip to Wiltshire to look for WW2 artefacts in a training facility.
A film about the discovery of the Endurance is set to be made next year.
See Cameron Vale’s online listing here.