Mensun Bound discusses maritime archeology, rediscovery of Endurance at CES talk

By Emma Reilly


Explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance,sunk after being crushed by Antarctic ice floes in 1915. The underwater remains of the barquentine were rediscovered in 2022, 106 years after they were pulled down to a depth of nearly 10,000 feet.

Mensun Bound, leader of the Endurance22 expedition that relocated the three-masted ship, is a renowned maritime archeologist credited with the discovery of several historically significant wrecks and artifacts. Bound discussed his career and achievements with a crowd of students, staff, faculty, and community members on April 12. Almost every seat in Washington College’s Alonzo G. and Virginia Gent Decker Theatre, located in the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts, was sold out.

Bound’s talk was made possible by the Center for Environment and Society, the department of archeology and anthropology, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, the archeology club, and the WC chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. A catered reception and book signing followed the talk.

Bound was introduced by the Director of CES Dr. Valerie Imbruce and President of the College Dr. Michael Sosulski.

“Mensun Bound is a jewel of the liberal arts,” Dr. Imbruce said. “His is a story of persistence and endurance.”

According to Dr. Sosulski, Bound was born in the Falkland Islands. He studied ancient history at Fairleigh-Dickinson University, classical art and archeology at Rutgers University, and classical archeology at Oxford University.

Bound’s career hit the ground running in 1981. In the late 1960s, British diver Reg Vallintine came across a Greek or Etruscan wreck off the coast of Giglio Island. Bound led the team of Oxford University archeologists that excavated the wreck between 1982 and 1986.

According to Bound, the artifacts found by the team could be dated back to approximately 600 B.C.E., making the Giglio wreck “the oldest post-Iron Age shipwreck ever found.”

Bound said that his career is the product of “chance and serendipity.” Recalling the moment when, while diving for the Giglio wreck, he looked down and saw an intricate clay pot lying in the sand, Bound said he could feel himself “tumbling back over the centuries to touch minds with people from the past.” According to Bound, he was astounded not just to find the object, but to recognize the ancient artist, too.

After the Giglio excavation, Bound went on to pursue archeological endeavors in many places, including North Africa, Gibraltar, and Greece. Most notably, Bound rediscovered the HMS Agamemnon, one of Lord Nelson’s ships from the Battle of Trafalgar, in the River Plate. He also recovered artifacts from a German World War II battleship, Admiral Graf Spree, from those same waters.

From 1997 to 1999, Bound was working on excavating the Hội An wreck from the South China Sea. The wreck consisted of the remains of three deep-ocean vessels, three deep-ocean tugboats, and two gunships, according to Bound.

Bound said that he and his team excavated two warehouses worth of fifteenth-century porcelain and other artifacts from the wreck. The Hội An excavation is notable for the amount of materials found and for its innovative use of saturation diving, according to Bound.

For the last segment of his talk, Bound talked about the rediscovery of the Endurance. Shackleton’s ship took two expeditions to locate but was found in excellent condition.

The experience was an eerie one. Bound said that the rediscovery of the ship in 2022 occurred on the same day of the year that Shackleton was buried 100 years earlier, in 1922.

“I felt the breath of Shackleton himself on the back of my neck,” Bound said.

According to Bound, he plans to continue pursuing maritime archeology while working to produce an upcoming documentary on the Endurance22 exploratory voyage.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo Caption: The Endurance sank over a century ago, and final photos of the ship illustrate its turmoil.

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