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Pristine ship discovered in Antarctica 107 years after it sank


By Ashley Strickland, CNN

As humans, we can’t seem to help leaving traces of ourselves behind everywhere we go. And some of these artifacts are bigger than others.

In South America, there is a wall of rock art created by early humans 8 miles (13 kilometers) in length that serves as a record of when Homo sapiens arrived from Africa.

By contrast, the International Space Station is 356 feet (109 meters) from end to end. And in 2031, it will fall to Earth and become another piece of space junk resting in watery Point Nemo.

Just like the archaeological investigations of early human sites, there are efforts underway to illuminate what life has been like aboard the space station through space archaeology.

The very first experiment began in January and will come to an end later this month. The findings could show how humans have turned the floating laboratory into a unique home — and preserve the cultural heritage of a habitat beyond Earth before it slips beneath the waves.

And this week, we explore another vestige of human exploration, found deep beneath the wild waters at the world’s edge.

Ocean secrets

The HMS Endurance, the ship of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton that sank in 1915, has been discovered intact off the coast of Antarctica.

Shackleton and his crew set off from the UK in 1914. But when they reached McMurdo Sound, the ship became stuck in the thick ice of the Weddell Sea.

The crew was forced to abandon the ship and eventually reached a Norwegian whaling station.

The ship is resting 1.9 miles (3,008 meters) beneath the sea. Now that Endurance has been found, she can be studied and photographed while the story of her great journey continues to be shared.

Wild kingdom

This spider is anything but itsy-bitsy. And if you live in the southeastern US, chances are you’ve already seen a Jorō spider tending to its massive sticky web.

These giant arachnids can reach about the size of the palm of your hand or larger, and they have distinctive color patterns of black, yellow and gray.

But there is nothing to fear. The spiders may be venomous, but researchers say they pose no threat to humans.

Experts believe the spiders could rapidly spread into the Northeast this year because they can survive in colder climates. How the spiders reached the US from their original home in southeastern Asia remains a mystery, but these crawlers are effective travelers and can even create their own parachutes.

A long time ago

About 12,000 years ago, South America was home to car-size giant ground sloths, elephantlike creatures and deerlike animals with trunks.

Fossils aren’t the only remnants telling the tale. The dramatic story of these ice age beasts is thought to be preserved in a frieze of rock paintings created by early humans in the Colombian Amazon rainforest.

The depictions reveal the diversity of animal life that migrating Homo sapiens may have encountered when they entered this unusual landscape.

To some, the idea that the paintings show now extinct creatures is considered controversial because they could be interpreted as modern animals. But researchers are conducting an investigation that could solve the mystery once and for all.

Consequences

The Amazon rainforest may be letting us know it’s reaching the tipping point.

The lush ecosystem, home to unique species of animals and plants, may become a grassy savannah. Three-quarters of the rainforest show signs of “resilience loss” because the Amazon is struggling to recover from droughts, fires and logging.

The world’s largest tropical rainforest is critical to Earth’s health because it stores a tremendous amount of carbon and even influences global weather patterns.

New research suggests that if the rainforest crosses the environmental threshold, it could disappear within decades.

Fantastic creatures

The ocean’s “twilight zone” is full of gems, like the rose-veiled fairy wrasse, a striking species new to science.

The rainbow-hued fish was found living at ocean depths ranging from 131 to 229 feet (40 to 70 meters) around the Maldives.

While hundreds of species thrive in the waters near and surrounding the archipelago nation, this is the first fish to be described by a Maldivian scientist.

During recent dives, researchers found more of this fairy wrasse — as well as at least eight potential new fish species — living deep beneath local recreational diving zones.

Explorations

Consider us intrigued:

— Our sun’s activity is ramping up — like this massive solar flare caught on video on March 2 — and two solar missions are poised to witness every moment.

— The oldest ancestor of modern octopuses lived 328 million years ago and had 10 arms, according to new research. The fossil was so well preserved that scientists could see the suckers on each arm.

— A wolverine sighting was captured on video this week in Yellowstone National Park. The rare creature was seen galloping in the snow.

Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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