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The eyes of the world were entranced as the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance, which was sank by sea ice in 1915, was found intact in Antarctica – but some noticed a pair of eyes staring back at them.
Sir Ernest and his crew set out to achieve the first land crossing of Antarctica but Endurance did not reach land and became trapped in dense pack ice, forcing the 28 men on board to abandon ship.
Last month the Endurance22 Expedition set off from Cape Town, South Africa, on a mission to locate the legendary vessel, but may have found more than they bargained for, in the shape of the ghost of the ship's cat, Mrs Chippy, according to some onlookers.
Pictures filtered through of the 3000-metre-deep wooden wreck, surprisingly intact and covered in all manner of sea life, including anemones, corals and what some think is a "ghost cat."
"We were able to film the wreck in super high definition. The results are magical," said TV historian Dan Snow, who was on the expidition.
And as he shared photos of the discovery on Twitter, some people noticed something not magical, but supernatural.
"Anyone else see the cat staring back?" said one woman.
"Oh great, 'ghost cat' is going to be keeping me awake for months!" someone said in response.
Another person said: "Not 100% on the Endurance, but it wasn't uncommon for ships to keep a cat to help rodent control If they had a cat, it means it would have been one of the last things the crew ate before resorting to abandoning ship."
A cat was taken aboard the ship by Harry 'Chippy' McNish, who was a master carpenter and shipwright.
The cat gained the name Mrs Chippy after the crew noticed it following Harry around the boat.
Somehow, one month into the expedition, it was discovered that Mrs Chippy was in fact a male – though the name had stuck by then.
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Ernest was reportedly happy to have a feline friend onboard, as a good mouser could keep the ship's rodents in check.
As most cats tend to do, Mrs Chippy did cause a bit of trouble.
In the black waters of the South Atlantic, he leaped for freedom from a cabin porthole.
The ship's officer of the watch heard the cat’s cries and turned the vessel around to pick him up, one of the feline's nine lives now used up.
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When Endurance became trapped in packed ice Harry was responsible for much of the work that ensured the crew’s survival, modifying a small accompanying boat to help get some of the crew to fetch help.
Sadly, Mrs Chippy would not survive the incident.
After it became clear the ship wasn't moving anytime soon, Ernest made the decision that some of the animals onboard would not survive.
In his book, South, published in 1919, Ernest writes: “This afternoon Sallie’s three youngest pups, Sue’s Sirius, and Mrs Chippy, the carpenter’s cat, have to be shot.
“We could not undertake the maintenance of weaklings under the new conditions.
“Macklin, Crean, and the carpenter seemed to feel the loss of their friends rather badly.”
According to those onboard, Harry never forgave Ernest for the loss of Mrs Chippy and she may have returned to haunt the wreckage of the ship.
- In the News
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