How we helped make history on the far side of the world
Saab engineers Lars Lundberg and Thomas Andréasson were part of the successful expedition to find legendary Antarctic exploration ship Endurance. They tell us what it was like to help make history.
When polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance was re-discovered three kilometres down off the coast of Antarctica earlier this year, it made headlines around the world. A legendary ship from the great era of early 20th century exploration had been found - in dark, freezing depths but in amazing condition - after 107 years.
But what was it like to be part of the team that made this historic find? And, through the use of the Saab underwater technology Sabertooth, how did it feel to play a key role in making history?
Thomas Andréasson, Software System Engineer, and Lars Lundberg, who has technical responsibility for Saab Sabertooth, were on board the Endurance22’s expedition ship S.A. Agulhas II. They ensured that the technology worked properly as the research team collected and evaluated the search data.
The duo would spend a total of six-and-a-half weeks on board the expedition ship, which set off from Cape Town in South Africa in January. Both Lars and Thomas were struck by how friendly the South African crew were, as well as the intense focus and team spirit shown by the scientific researchers who were their shipmates.
“It got quite intense at times”
There were three different working scenarios during the journey. As they were travelling to Antarctica, the research team kept ordinary working hours -- in Lars and Thomas’s case from 8am to 6pm -- as they prepared the equipment for the search. But, as they got closer to the search area in the Weddell Sea, just off the coast of Antarctica, their daily routines changed.
“When we got closer to the ice the underwater crew started working 24 hours, split into two 12-hour shifts,” says Thomas. “That meant Lars and I, due to our particular expertise, were sometimes available 24 hours a day. On a couple of occasions we had to work through the night. It got quite intense at times.”
It may have been tiring, but, Lars says adrenaline and excitement got them through it. “The good thing is that even though you’re tired, everyone is in problem-solving mode. You’re in a remote location where everyone is working towards the goal and to get back into the water to do the searching,” he says.
A white desert” and incredible animals
After so many weeks at sea, the first sight of Antarctica was an intense experience, especially with the sunlight constantly reflecting off the ice. It reminded Lars of a certain classic movie franchise…
“If you’ve seen the Star Wars movie where they are on the ice planet, it was a bit like that. You’re in a completely different landscape, in a white desert,” he explains.
“During the first launch we had a whale come up through a hole in the ice,” says Thomas, while Lars adds that the animals were surprisingly unafraid and even curious of the human visitors.
“Whenever we saw the wildlife it gave us an extra energy boost,” he says. “Before we headed home we had the chance to be on the ice for a couple of hours, and the Emperor Penguins came over to investigate us. It’s paradise for the animals because there are no humans living there.”
The moment of truth as Endurance is found
Endurance was located on 6th March, just a couple of days before changing seasonal weather would’ve made it impossible for the search to continue.
"At that moment we knew it was a big achievement for the expedition and for us at Saab"
“It was a huge relief that we’d succeeded, as well as a huge sense of joy,” says Lars. “It was then that we understood what we’d done. At that moment we knew it was a big achievement for the expedition and for us at Saab. But it was also slightly sad because there was a real family feeling on board the ship. When the discovery was made we knew that everyone would soon scatter with the wind.”
“When I got back, it felt like it was all a dream”
Lars and Thomas are now firmly re-established in their daily routines. Meanwhile, the discovery of Endurance has been a perfect use case for presenting to customers. There’s been huge interest in Saab Sabertooth ever since.
As they look back, the duo are thankful for a once-in-a-lifetime work assignment.
“It was an amazing experience but it was also a very long journey! We’re not professional explorers that are used to being on ships for such a long time; we’re used to being at our desks in the office!” says Lars.
“When I got back from the expedition it felt like I’d been in a dream,” adds Thomas.
However, they do have some special mementos to prove it really happened – photos of Emperor Penguins that they’re both now using as screensavers.
Join us as we head far down south, all the way to the Antarctic, and learn more on how underwater vehicles work. And how Sabertooth could help out in finding the Endurance.
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