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Newly discovered polar shipwreck may contain intriguing artifacts

By Ashley Strickland, CNN

(CNN) — In the early 1900s, Antarctica became a hot spot for explorers undertaking intrepid but dangerous expeditions.

Polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men set off aboard the HMS Endurance in 1914. But Endurance became trapped in ice, documented in dramatic images by the crew’s official photographer.

The crew established a “land station” and watched as ice slowly crushed and sank the boat. The men floated on an ice floe and used lifeboats to reach the uninhabited Elephant Island.

Shackleton and a few crew members then embarked on a risky trek across hundreds of miles of violent seas to South Georgia island to search for rescuers. After receiving aid from a whaling station, Shackleton returned for his men. He refused to give up.

The entire crew survived despite the perilous adventure that concluded in 1916. While the expedition wasn’t successful, the crew’s safe return became the bigger story.

A search expedition found the HMS Endurance wreck in 2022, and now, another part of Shackleton’s legacy has been recovered.

Ocean secrets

An international team of experts using sonar has located the exploration ship Quest, once captained by Shackleton, off the coast of Canada.

The explorer was aboard the ship, seeking his fourth expedition to Antarctica, when he died of a heart attack in January 1922 at age 47.

After his death, the vessel continued on more adventures before sinking in 1962, and researchers think there may be artifacts on board with a story to tell about the ship’s voyages.

An expedition will deploy a remotely operated vehicle to explore the Quest’s interior later this year.


The late physicist Freeman Dyson theorized in 1960 that if advanced civilizations of alien life existed, they might devise a way to harness the power of stars as an energy solution.

His idea of these stellar megastructures, inspired by science fiction, resulted in a concept called Dyson spheres, and he thought they might be detectable in infrared light.

While identifying sources of infrared radiation wouldn’t be direct evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the famed scientist said he also hoped the search would lead to the discovery of new types of celestial objects.

Now, new research has pinpointed seven possible stars in the Milky Way that may host Dyson spheres, and the finding is shaking up the astronomical community in more ways than one.

Wild kingdom

Similar to humans, wild African elephants may use individual personal name-like calls to address and identify one another, according to a new study.

Scientists analyzed recordings of different types of rumbles, or sounds that the female elephants and their calves use. And after hearing the playback, the elephants responded most strongly to the calls originally intended for them.

“That implies some capacity for abstract thought — they have to be able to learn this arbitrary sound and associate it with other individuals and essentially call each other by name,” said animal behaviorist Mickey Pardo, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.

A long time ago

For years, the myth that it was overwhelmingly young girls who were ritualistically sacrificed in the ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá has persisted — but new evidence suggests another part of the population played a role in the deadly rites.

An analysis of dozens of skeletons deposited in a sacred sinkhole in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula showed the victims were young boys between 3 and 6 years old. Many of them were related, including a few who were twins.

The reason for their sacrifice remains unknown, but the revelation adds another layer of complexity to the ancient Maya ritual calendar, the researchers said.

Other worlds

An orbiter circling Mars has spied frost forming on the tops of the red planet’s volcanoes for the first time.

Mars’ equatorial region hosts some of the tallest volcanoes in the solar system, with a few peaks soaring well above the height of Mount Everest.

“It’s significant because it shows us that Mars is a dynamic planet, but also that water can be found almost everywhere on the Martian surface,” said Adomas Valantinas, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University.

Additionally, a large solar storm slammed into Mars in May, and NASA missions captured stunning planet-engulfing auroras and other surprising views of the event.


Take a deep dive into these new finds:

— A vegetarian piranha relative with humanlike teeth seems unlikely, but it’s a newfound Amazonian species that researchers named after a villain from “The Lord of the Rings” series.

— Recent excavations turned up artifacts such as pottery and coins that show how the Romans integrated with local communities in southern England thousands of years ago.

— A farmer and amateur paleontologist unearthed the fossil of a previously unknown species of pterosaur that soared over the sea that once covered part of Australia 100 million years ago.

— A botanist spotted a tiny plant species new to science growing in an unlikely place on the slopes of the Andes.

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