Photo Credit: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales


107 years after Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance was lost in the Weddell Sea, the vessel was discovered upright and in good condition, lying 3008 metres below the surface. The wreck was discovered just four miles south of the location recorded by Frank Worsley in the expedition log books as 68°39′30′′S 52°26′30′′W.

After a previously unsuccessful attempt to find the wreck in 2019, the Endurance22 expedition, organized by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, announced they had successfully located the Endurance on 9 March 2022.

The Endurance is recognized as an Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, but its survival is by no means certain. In this open letter to the press jointly issued by IPHC president Dr. Michael Pearson and ICUCH President Dr. Christopher Underwood, the authors outline some of the challenges facing the Endurance, and call for specific measures to ensure its preservation.

Concerns for the future of the Endurance prompted the IPHC and ICUCH, both Special Scientific Committees of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), to formally address the issues in a comunique to the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs on 24 March 2022.

FINAL Op-Ed for Press.pdf
IPHC & ICUCH letter - COMNAP Final.pdf

The IPHC's 20th Anniversary

Recognising the similarities of heritage conservation and management between the north and south polar regions, the ICOMOS International Polar Heritage Committee (IPHC) was created on the recommendation of the XII General Assembly of ICOMOS in Mexico in October 1999 and subsequently confirmed by the Executive Committee in Paris in March 2000. It was formally established on 1 November 2000 with the intention of bringing together heritage professionals working in one or both areas.

The work of ICOMOS IPHC

Amongst the more recent work the IPHC has addressed has been the development of guidelines relating to archaeological sites and archaeological work in Antarctica. It is hoped that this detailed expert advice will be accepted and adopted by both ICOMOS and the Antarctic Treaty System.

The IPHC is not one of the larger ISCs since the number of ICOMOS members who work actively with polar heritage is limited, but it does have an additional group of Associate and Affiliate members who inspire and engage in the work of the Committee. Currently 30 expert members come from 14 different countries, while 13 Associate and Affiliate members add 3 additional countries to the list. The number of Emerging Professionals is also growing.

On 1 November the IPHC will be celebrating its 20 years of engagement for polar cultural heritage with an open digital (zoom) meeting.

Sunday, 1 November 2020 21:00 UTC Information on the event's link can be obtained by emailing: iphc[at]


Polar heritage in the Arctic and Antarctic

Polar heritage has its own characteristics that are related to the extreme climatic and geographical circumstances of the Arctic and Antarctic. Climatically the heritage is affected by extreme cold, ice and snow, permafrost and a barren landscape. Geographically it belongs to areas with few larger concentrations of human inhabitants and little or no infrastructure.

The two areas are also joined to a large degree by a common history of exploration and exploitation of natural resources, with the additional indigenous heritage in the Arctic that the Antarctic lacks. Finally the regions can have a specific legal status with regard to heritage legislation; certainly this applies to Antarctica which is designated as an international area devoted to peace and science, while individual national Arctic areas can have heritage legislation adapted to the specific conditions there.