Captain Cook's missing HMS Endeavour 'discovered' off US coast

James Rothwell
Replica of Captain Cook's 'Endeavour' receives a ceremonial escort as it sails into Portsmouth harbour,

Archaeologists claim to have discovered the missing HMS Endeavour off the coast of the United States in what would be one of the most significant findings in Australian history.

Experts at the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (Rimap) say they have tracked down the resting place of Captain Cook's doomed vessel, which found Australia in 1770.

The ship was later used by the British royal navy in the American war of independence, at which point it was scuttled off the coast of Rhode Island in 1778.  

The full details off the possible discovery will be announced at an "event" on Friday, according to a statement on Rimap's website. 

"The event will review how the 25-year-long archaeological study of the Newport transports has narrowed the search for the Endeavour from a fleet of thirteen vessels to five and now possibly to one or two archaeological sites,'  a spokesman said.

According to Fairfax media, project director Kathy Abbas added:  “We can say we think we know which one it is”.

 

James Cook (detail), 1776, by John Webber  Credit: National Portrait Gallery

However, some researchers have called for caution, stressing that the wreckage was yet to be confirmed as HMS Endeavour.

“It’s not definitive that this is Endeavour,” Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption told the Guardian.

“We’re carefully gathering very specific samples of timber and we’re going to conduct forensic analysis to see what we have. Most of the ships that were scuttled in Newport in August 1778 were built of American or Indian timbers [but] the Endeavour was built in the north of England of predominantly oak  

“With some good detective work we can sample the timbers of this promising site [and] then we might have evidence that this ship is at least British in origin.”  

Captain Cook set off from England in 1768 in search of Australia with a crew of around 100 sailors. He reached New Zealand in 1769, producing maps of its north and south islands. HMS Endeavour then reached the East Coast of Australia, landing in Botany Bay in 1770.

Cook was promoted to Commander and returned to the Pacific on two more occasions, sailing on the HMS Revolution. But he was killed in Hawaii in 1779 during a fight with islanders.

HMS Endeavour was renamed Lord Sandwich and sent to meet its fate at the Battle of Rhode Island