From Monty Python to the ends of the earth, actor, author and presenter Michael Palin has done it all, and then gone back, and done some more.

His latest quest has seen him trace the voyage of the HMS Erebus on a passion project he jumped into inspired by the life of Joseph Hooker, who signed on to become an assistant surgeon on the first big expedition to learn about the Antarctic in 1839.

Michael’s own research took him to the Faulkner Islands, Tasmania, the Northwest Passage and beyond.  He spoke to Marian Finucane about his all-consuming project and the man who inspired it.

"He was on a little ship called Erebus and the more I researched Hooker, the more I became fascinated by Erebus, by this little ship which had gone down to, you know, really into the unknown, they didn’t know what they’d find down there.  It successfully completed all its tasks, went further south than anyone had ever been."

Erebus was then chosen as the flagship for John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to the Northwest Passage during which both ships involved tragically disappeared, along with 129 men.  It seemed the Erebus was lost forever until about four years ago.

"The Canadian Prime Minister announced on television that they had found the wreck of HMS Erebus in a barely accessible part of northern Canada so you know, there was a beginning, a middle and an end, and a beginning again. I thought 'Now this is a story!'"

You can read all about the story in Michael’s book HMS Erebus, and listen to his illuminating interview with Marian in full below:

LISTEN: Michael Palin talks to Marian Finucane