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Researchers hope to find missing ship of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton

A picture of Endurance caught in the ice Photo: PA

Cambridge researchers hope to find the lost ship of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton when they set off on a major international scientific expedition next year.

Led by the University's Scott Polar Research Institute, the team hopes to finally locate the Endurance, which has lain at the bottom of the Weddell Sea since 1915.

Slated for 2019, the scientific mission to investigate the Larsen C Ice Shelf will also search for the wreck 3,000m beneath the waves.

Shackleton pictured in 1910 Credit: PA Images

The group, which includes researchers from universities in South Africa and New Zealand, will be the first to use autonomous underwater vehicles to scan the seabed for the ship's remains.

Thick pack ice and extreme weather are among challenges faced by those who venture to the isolated and wild region, much as Shackleton faced more than a century ago.

SPRI's director, Professor Julian Dowdeswell, chief scientist of the Weddell Sea Expedition 2019, said:

"Whatever ship you have, it's possible it won't get there. It could be a better or worse sea ice year, so everybody is going into this with their eyes open."

– Prof Julian Dowdeswell

Shackleton's attempt to cross Antarctica began in 1914. After the vessel became trapped in ice for 10 months and then sank, the explorer and his crew survived for six months before reaching uninhabited Elephant Island.

Shackleton and five other men then set off to seek help at a whaling station on the island of South Georgia, with their perilous journey regarded as one of the most heroic feats of navigation.

After three unsuccessful attempts, Shackleton finally rescued his men in August 1916.

Alexandra Shackleton, the explorer's granddaughter, supports Prof Dowdeswell's expedition, but as her family owns the wreck their permission will be needed if any items are to be recovered.

"I would love to see her image. But I'm not sure how I would feel about having her touched."

– Alexandra Shackleton