AN OXFORD explorer is on the hunt for a lost German fleet, which mysteriously went missing in the First World War.

Maritime archaeologist Mensun Bound – who recently reached the last known site of Ernest Shackleton’s famous lost ship the Endurance – is now hunting for Admiral Graff von Spee’s lost squadron, which never returned from the Battle of the Falklands, in 1914.

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The fleet’s whereabouts is seen as one of the great mysteries of the maritime world.

In early April, Mr Bound, 66, resumed a five month search he began in 2014 for four fighting ships – including the Flagship Scharnhorst – and two merchant vessels. Now following a short delay to the second mission, Mr Bound is due to restart the voyage shortly.

It comes just three months after calling off an Antarctic expedition which came tantalisingly close to finding the Endurance.

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But the Horspath local is hoping his latest mission will be more fruitful. He explained: “Since the discovery of the Titanic, the Endurance and the fate of Admiral Graf von Spee’s great cruiser fleet have been the two great enduring maritime mysteries of our times.

“In our search we are not just seeking new archaeological and historical insights, but also, by finding them, we hope to keep their stories alive by telling them to the next generation.”

Mr Bound, who was born in the Falklands, is eager to keep the event in public memory.

Ahead of the centenary of the December 8, 1914 battle – between the British and Germans – which is seen as one of the major moments in the Islands’ history, he held a public meeting in the Falklands in 2012.

There, one audience member asked him if he could find the ships involved, sparking the eventual search.

However, old technology and horrendous weather hampered the previous mission.

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Ahead of the latest foray, though, Me Bound seems more upbeat.

He explained: “This time we fortunate to have the finest deep-ocean, search-and-survey ship in the world, the Seabed Constructor.

"It is fitted with a state-of-the-art fleet of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, or AUVs.

“Each is a torpedo-shaped package containing side-scan sonars, multi-beam echo sounders, sub-bottom profilers, magnetometers, forward-looking sonars and an array of the most advanced underwater camera systems in the world today.”

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Yet the task is still a tough one.

Mr Bound continued: “The area in which we believe the ships were lost is huge... Equal in size to New York City.

“Although these were great fighting ships, they nonetheless present a tiny target. Where to begin and then where to go; it’s all a bit like pinning the tail on the donkey.

“But if we are systematic and persistent, we will find them.”

Mr Bound says the coordinates in official reports are incorrect.