A team of marine archaeologists believe they have found the resting place of the HMS Endeavour in Newport Harbor, off Rhode Island.
The fate of the Endeavour – the flagship on which Captain Cook famously voyaged to New Zealand and along the eastern coastline of Australia – has long been debated.
Researchers from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) are almost certain that they have located the vessel’s remains among a group of wrecks, thanks to Admiralty documents.
The Endeavour was reputedly sold into private hands and renamed Lord Sandwich in 1775, before being used as a troop transport by the British Navy following the revolt of the American colonies. During the war that followed, it served as a prison ship in Newport Harbor.
Records discovered in Britain’s National Archives earlier this year suggest that the Lord Sandwich was among a group of five vessels that had been scuttled in a specific part of the harbour. Although the specific wreck has not been identified at this point, this discovery should help narrow down the final resting place.
“RIMAP has mapped nine archaeological sites of the 13 ships that were scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778 during the American Revolution,” its representatives announced in a statement.
“One group of five ships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Captain James Cook’s Endeavour. RIMAP now knows the general area of Newport Harbor where those five ships were scuttled.”
RIMAP researchers believe that there is an “an 80 to 100 per cent chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbor”.
Australian historian Michael Flynn said that this could be a momentous discovery.
“Anyone who has ever seen the replica of HMS Endeavour in Sydney Harbour will be amazed to hear of the reported discovery by maritime archaeologists of the underwater wreck of Captain James Cook’s original off Rhode Island, USA,” Flynn told Inside History.
“Cook and his crew made huge contributions to scientific and geographical knowledge when they charted Pacific Islands, eastern Australia and New Zealand on board Endeavour in 1769-1771.”
“It was the moon mission of its time. If positively identified, the wreck would rate as one of the great maritime discoveries of the century.”
The archaeological investigation will continue to examine each of these vessels’ structures and artefacts in further detail.
Useful Links: More about the Endeavour
- Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project
- Biography of Captain James Cook on Australian Dictionary of Biography
- Cook’s chart of New Zealand, 1772
- Cook’s observations on the Transit of Venus, 1769
- Watercolours illustrating Captain Cook’s last voyage, 1773-1784