New discoveries suggest Rhode Island shipwreck is Captain Cook's long-lost vessel after battle over ship's identity

  • Australian researchers believe a shipwreck off the coast of Rhode Island is that of the HMS Endeavor.

  • The Australian National Maritime Museum said Thursday new discoveries allowed them to identify the wreck.

  • Previously, their claim was contested by their research partner, The Rhode Island Maritime Archeology Project.

An Australian museum is doubling down on its previously contested claim that a shipwreck off the coast of Rhode Island is the long-lost ship once sailed by British explorer and cartographer Captain James Cook.

The Australian National Maritime Museum on Thursday said two new discoveries offer further evidence that a shipwreck located in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, is the final resting place for the HMS Endeavour, a British Royal Navy vessel sailed by Cook during his first discovery voyage and the first European ship believed to have reached the eastern coast of Australia.

The museum's announcement this month comes nearly two years after it first claimed the Rhode Island wreck was that of the Endeavour — prompting a swift and strong rebuke from its research partner.

The Rhode Island Maritime Archeology Project quickly cast doubt on the Australian museum's February 2022 announcement saying that while the remains could very well be that of the Endeavour, there was a lack of "indisputable data" at the time to prove it.

The Rhode Island organization said it would not be swayed to prematurely confirm the wreck's identity by "Australian emotions or politics" and accused its Pacific partners of a "breach of contract."

The museum, however, stood by its announcement, saying on its website that the vessel's identity was confirmed using a "preponderance of evidence approach."

Daryl Karp, chief executive of the Australian National Maritime Museum, said Thursday that "no further dissenting responses" to the museum's previous claim have been levied in the years since its controversial announcement, The Sydney Herald reported.

The two recent findings held up as further evidence of the shipwreck's identity include the discovery of a pump well and part of the wreck's bow, the museum said.

Museum researchers compared the new discoveries with archival plans of the Endeavour that were created during a British admiralty survey in 1768, The Guardian reported.

After comparing the wreck to the historical documents, archeologists were able to accurately predict where the ship's bow would be located and found a unique joint in the timber matching information included in the original plans, according to the outlet.

The Rhode Island Maritime Archeology Project did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment regarding the recent announcement of evidence.

The Endeavour served to transport British troops during the Revolutionary War before being "scuttled" — or deliberately sunk — in 1778. Researchers believe the ship was one of five British vessels that now lie 39 meters below the Newport Harbour waters.

Kieran Hosty, marine archaeology manager, told The Herald that the museum was eager to return to the site and 3D model the wreck so people around the world can view the ship's final resting place.

"We would like to work with the Rhode Island government to do that," Hosty told the outlet. "If it means working with Rhode Island Maritime Archaeology Project we'll work with them; we'll work with anyone who is willing to help us on this site."

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