AN intrepid fundraiser is starting a 9,000-mile journey to Easter Island this week to mark the 100th anniversary of a landmark expedition.

Darlington-born Susie Stephen was inspired to take on the challenge after researching the story of Katherine Routledge who was the first female archaeologist to study in Polynesia.

Mrs Routledge was the granddaughter of Darlington railway pioneer Joseph Pease and she joined the Easter Island expedition in 1914 to document Polynesian culture and the island’s Moai stone statues.

To celebrate Mrs Routledge’s work, Mrs Stephen will run and cycle to the island in the hope of raising around £20,000 to buy a unit to recycle water for its residents.

As she travels she will document the environmental changes that have occurred since the 1914 expedition by comparing notes with Mrs Routledge’s book The Mystery of Easter Island.

The aim of Mrs Stephen’s trip - dubbed Running after Routledge - is to highlight the difficulties of supplying clean drinking water to ever-growing human populations.

Her journey starts on Friday and she intends to run a marathon a day over the next fortnight to reach Southampton.

After a recovery break she will fly to South America to cycle 1,000 miles across the Andes from Buenos Aires to Santiago.

Mrs Stephen plans to arrive on Easter Island in time to take part in the island marathon on June 1.

She said: “I am excited; I am ready to get going now.

“I think I am a little bit nervous about how my body is going to cope but that just makes me realise how important it is going to be to stick to my routine.”

Mrs Stephen plans to return to Darlington in September to stage a public exhibition of photographs from her journey.