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Ernest Shackleton’s Ship Was Found by a Saab

Ripping doughnuts with the Saab.

  • An expedition involving two autonomous underwater vehicles made by Saab helped find the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s ship in Antarctica.
  • Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance embarked on an Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914, which ended when the ship sank in the icy Weddell Sea in 1915.
  • But back to Saab: the Sabertooth, product of the company’s military/industrial division, can stay underwater for six months at a time with no maintenance. Now that’s an unusual claim for a Saab.

    Saab enthusiasts, rejoice! Your favorite brand from Trollhättan is back in the news, and this time it has nothing to do with epic torque steer or Spyker. Nope, this time the star Saab isn’t a 900 SPG or Turbo X SportCombi but a Sabertooth, a 2860-pound EV with a 30.0-kWh battery and a top speed of 4.6 mph. The Sabertooth is an AUV—autonomous underwater vehicle—and a pair of them were used to find Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance. Which was last seen in 1915 by Shackleton and his crew as it got crushed by ice and sank in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea. At which point Shackleton, like many a Saab owner, had to start walking.

    The Endurance22 Expedition, which discovered the wreck, had its work cut out for it, for the same reasons that Shackleton lost his boat: ice, and lots of it. In describing where the Endurance went glub-glub-glub, Shackleton called it, “the worst portion of the worst sea in the world.” Even the Sabertooth, which is rated for a depth of 9842 feet (3000 meters), was up against the limits of its design—the Endurance was found at 9869 feet. Good thing the expedition used the sturdy double-hull Sabertooth rather than the sportier 5.8-mph single-hull model, which is only good for about 4000 feet of water.

    saab sabertooth auv

    The Saab Sabertooth can carry one stuffed dog to a depth of approximately 10,000 feet.

    Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and Nick BirtwistleCar and Driver

    While the Sabertooth can carry tools and bring back samples from the briny depths of Davey Jones’s locker, the Endurance22 Expedition embraced a look-but-don’t-sample policy toward Shackleton’s sorry sailboat, which turned out to be in amazing condition—thanks to the utter iciness of the waters, the wood remained unmunched by marine snackers for more than 100 years. On the stern, you can still see a star underneath the “Endurance” lettering, a remnant from the ship’s first owner, who christened it Polaris. Isn’t it supposed to be bad luck to rename a ship? Somebody should have mentioned that to a certain E. Shackleton.

    Saab owners like to visit interesting places.

    Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust Car and Driver

    As for the Saberteeth, they’re ready for their next job. The Sabertooth brochure—yeah, we’re window shopping—points out that with its optional underwater recharging dock/Snork garage, the Sabertooth can stay underwater for six months at a time with no maintenance. A Saab that goes six months without maintenance? The mind boggles. But we guess the military-slash-industrial side of Saab is a different beast than the old automotive arm.

    It’s nice to know that, 11 years after the last cars rolled off the line, there’s a part of Saab that has something in common with Ernest Shackleton: it survived.

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