THE wreckage of a Scottish whaling ship has been discovered in the Canadian High Arctic by a graduate from the North-East.

University of Sunderland PhD graduate Matthew Ayre worked with underwater archaeologist Michael Moloney to find the previously unknown wreckage, along with wood from its mast still strewn across a beach.

Using historical documents and newspaper clippings connected to the 19th Century Arctic whaling trade, they narrowed the search for the Nova Zembla, which hit a reef off the east coast of Baffin Island in 1902.

After months of research, in August the pair embarked on a One Ocean Expeditions voyage through the Northwest Passage and Greenland aboard their vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov.

The ship departed on August 30 and the next morning, at 6am, they and two crew members set out in a dinghy, battling one-and-a-half-metre swells, to search a windblown stretch of beach near Buchan Gulf.

With only an eight-hour window of daylight, they used drone footage and SONAR imaging deployed on a remote-operated underwater vehicle to locate what is believed to be the first of dozens of British whaling shipwrecks to be found in the area.

Mr Ayre, from North Tyneside, said: “We were thrilled by this discovery and it's going to tell us a lot about what life was like aboard a whaler."

The 31-year-old, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary’s Arctic Institute of North America, learnt about the Nova Zembla in whilst doing climatological research.

He landed his role at Calgary as a result of his research on the ARCdoc project at Sunderland– analysing historical logbooks recorded by explorers, whalers and merchants during epic expeditions between 1750 and 1850 to increase scientific understanding of climate change.

The discovery of the Nova Zembla offers insight into the little-known social history of the treacherous whaling industry.