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Experts Think Captain Cook’s Ship Has Been Found After 22-Year Search

Jess Hardiman

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Experts Think Captain Cook’s Ship Has Been Found After 22-Year Search

Captain Cook’s ship has been found, according to Australian investigators – who say the discovery is an ‘important historical moment’. 

The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) said a wreck in Newport Harbour, off Rhode Island in the US, was Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour.

A 1794 painting of Endeavour. Credit: Alamy
A 1794 painting of Endeavour. Credit: Alamy

However, their US colleagues at the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) have warned that the announcement is ‘premature’, arguing that there are still ‘many unanswered questions’. 

The British-built ship first set out from Plymouth in England, going on to sail for several years around the South Pacific. 

It was used by Captain Cook to chart New Zealand and Australia between 1768 and 1771, with the British explorer claiming the region for the British crown - despite the fact it was already home to large communities of indigenous people. 

Captain James Cook. Credit: Alamy
Captain James Cook. Credit: Alamy

After the ship was brought back to Britain, it was renamed Lord Sandwich II and became a troop carrier. 

In 1778, it was then sunk with 12 other vessels off Rhode Island, having been scuttled by the Navy to form a blockade of the Narragansett Bay during the American War of Independence. 

Investigators now believe they have found the precise location of the ship following a 22-year search, saying the dimensions, structure, shape and construction of the wreck suggest it is the remains of Endeavour.

Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum
Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

While further testing is needed, Kevin Sumption, Director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum, said he is happy with the ‘archival and archeological’ evidence so far. 

He said: “I am satisfied that this is the final resting place of one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history.

Since 1999, we have been investigating several 18th century shipwrecks in a two square mile area where we believed that Endeavour sank, however, the last pieces of the puzzle had to be confirmed before I felt able to make this call.

"Based on archival and archaeological evidence, I’m convinced it’s the Endeavour. 

“It’s an important historical moment, as this vessel’s role in exploration, astronomy and science applies not just to Australia, but also Aotearoa New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

“Although only around 15 percent of the vessel remains, the focus is now on what can be done to protect and preserve it. The museum continues to work closely with maritime experts in Rhode Island and of course with the Australian, Rhode Island and US Governments to secure the site.” 

Sumption also praised the ‘combined efforts’ involved in the identification of the wreck, noting the work of Dr Kathy Abbass and her team at the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP). 

However, Abbass – who is the lead investigator of the American operation – said the announcement was ‘premature’, saying RIMAP’s conclusions should be ‘driven by proper scientific process’ and not ‘Australian emotions or politics'. 

Abbass said in a statement: “The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) report that the Endeavor has been identified is premature. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) is now and always has been the lead organisation for the study in the Newport harbour. 

Replica of Endeavour on the River Derwent in Tasmania, Australia. Credit: Alamy
Replica of Endeavour on the River Derwent in Tasmania, Australia. Credit: Alamy

“What we see on the shipwreck site under study is consistent with what might be expected of the Endeavour, but there has been no indisputable data found to prove the site is that iconic vessel, and there are many unanswered questions that could overturn such an identification. 

“When the study is done, RIMAP will post the legitimate report on its website at www.rimap.org. Meanwhile, RIMAP recognizes the connection between Australian citizens of British descent and the Endeavour, but RIMAP’s conclusions will be driven by proper scientific process and not Australian emotions or politics.” 

Featured Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

Topics: US News, Australia, World News

Jess Hardiman
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