A team searching for Sir Ernest Shackleton's lost ship in the Weddell Sea includes members from universities in New Zealand.

Scientists have reached the last known wreck of Shackleton's ship Endurance which was abandoned in 1915 when it became stuck in thick ice and crushed, The Times reports.

Endurance then sunk to the bottom of the Weddell Sea, in the Southern Ocean, and the Weddell Sea Expedition team will now send submersibles to search for the vessel.

The Weddell Sea Expedition team is from the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge and universities in South Africa and New Zealand.

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Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will map the seafloor with side-scan sonar, travelling the designated search zone searching for anomalies.

The team said the timbers of Endurance are likely to be well preserved due to the lack of organisms which rot wood in the cold sea, The Times said, and the researchers are the first people to be there since Shackleton and his men.

The first dive will last 45 hours and will make a 3D model of the wreck site and take photographs without touching or removing any artefacts.

Shackleton became a hero after leading his 27 men to safety after the wreck, escaping over the frozen sea to Elephant Island before sailing in an open boat with five others to find help at a whaling station on South Georgia, around 1287km away.

The skipper of Endurance, Frank Worsely, used a sextant and chronometer to calculate the exact co-ordinates the ship sank: 68°39'30.0" south and 52°26'30.0" west.

The team has been assisted by satellite ice charts and their ship SA Agulhas II is owned by South Africa and can break metre-thick ice, The Times reports.

Searching for Endurance will be difficult due to the nature of sea ice at the surface and to avoid becoming ice-bound in areas, the Agulha, will have to periodically shift its hull to maintain open holes in the floes to launch and recover AUVs.