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Quest Found!

The wreck of RYS Quest, the historic vessel of the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition of 1921-1922, has been found in the Labrador Sea off the coast of Newfoundland, near to its recorded sinking location.

On Sunday 9 June 2024, Quest was found lying reasonably intact at a depth of just less than 400 metres, by a mission organised and sponsored by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.  The team was led by RCGS CEO John Geiger with Deputy Search Director Antone Normandin, supported by experts from Newfoundland’s Marine Institute. Also aboard was the leading wreck-hunter David Mearns. Normandin had over several years painstakingly built up a catalogue of information about Quest’s sinking, which occurred on 5 May 1962.  Forty years before that, Sir Ernest Shackleton had died on board Quest in the small hours of 5 January 1922, at Gritkyken, South Georgia in the early stages of the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition.  Shackleton’s last expedition – he himself described it as his swansong – continued under the leadership of Frank Wild until being recalled to England in June 1922 by the mission’s financial backer, Shackleton’s friend John Quiller Rowett.   

The 2024 RCGS Shackleton-Quest search expedition was conducted aboard LeeWay Marine’s research vessel Odyssey, captained by Levi Nippard. Sponsors included the Shackleton clothing and expeditions company (London) whose co-founder Martin Brooks joined the search team.

Originally an Arctic sealer, Quest was sold back into Norwegian hands in late 1923, to the Schjelderup family.  She sank in May 1962, off the Newfoundland coast. Tore Topp, the son-in-law of Ludolf Schjelderup, was present on the successful search expedition some 62 years after the sinking, as was Jan Chojecki, the grandson of John Quiller Rowett and author of The Quest Chronicle.  Topp has compiled the story of Quest’s distinguished and varied service between 1924 and its sinking. In addition to returning to her original role as a sealer, Quest was involved in several Arctic expeditions and missions, as well as performing wartime duties as a minesweeper. In May 1962, Quest was on a sealing voyage in the Labrador Sea with other vessels of the same fleet. She sustained damage from ice exacerbating an existing slow leak which eventually overcame the bilge pumps. On 5 May, after attempts to return to land were abandoned, the crew were taken off and she sank, over a period of several hours, watched by the sister ships.

Below – Tore Topp (L) and Jan Chojecki celebrate the finding of Quest

Below – The Shackleton-Quest Expedition team

From top left: Geir Klover, Director Fram Museum; Derek Lee, Team Member; Jan Chojecki, Grandson of John Quiller Rowett and Author of Quest Chronicle; John Geiger, Expedition Leader and CEO, Royal Canadian Geographical Society; Tore Topp, Author, Son-in-Law of Quest’s Final Owner; Katherine Smalley, Team Member, Fellow of Royal Canadian Geographical Society; Mark Pathy, Team Member, Fellow of Royal Canadian Geographical Society; Craig Bulger, Project Engineer, Fisheries and Marine Institute, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Front row from left: Sarah Walsh, Geomatics Specialist, Centre for Applied Ocean Technology, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Martin Brooks, Co-Founder,; Antoine Normandin, Deputy Search Director; David Mearns, Search Director, Blue Water Recoveries Ltd.; Jill Heinerth, Author, Explorer in Residence, Royal Canadian Geographical Society; Alexandra Pope, Editor in Chief, Canadian Geographic.

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Articles about the RCGS expedition that found the wreck of Quest, 9 June 2024: