Captain Cook's sunken ship, HMS Endeavour, may have been found in America

A replica of Captain James Cook’s ship, the Endeavour. Photo: James Morgan/ Carnival Australia via Getty Images.

On 29 April, 1770, British explorer Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay on Australia’s east coast as part of the first voyage to the south Pacific Ocean aboard HMS Endeavour.

His visit to the area adjacent to Sydney airport was the beginning of European Australia.

The ship that brought him here began life six years earlier as the merchant collier Earl of Pembroke, before the Admiralty bought her in 1768. After Cook’s return to England in 1771, HMS Endeavour was sent for another refit, this time as a naval transport, before being sold into private hands. The ship was sunk off the United States during the Revolutionary War in 1778, a year before its former captain’s untimely demise on the shores of Hawaii.

The location of the wreckage of the ship — iconic in Australian history — has been unknown, until now.

Researchers at the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) say they have found the Endeavour’s remains off the state of Rhode Island in Newport Harbor.

“A recent Australian National Maritime Museum grant allowed RIMAP to locate historic documents in London that identify the groups of ships in that fleet of 13, and where each group was scuttled,” the RIMAP says.

“One group of five ships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Capt. James Cook’s Endeavour Bark. RIMAP now knows the general area of Newport Harbour where those five ships were scuttled, and in previous work had already mapped four of the sites there.

“A recent analysis of remote sensing data suggests that the 5th site may still exist, too. That means the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now has an 80 to 100% chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbor, and because the Lord Sandwich was Capt. Cook’s Endeavour, that means RIMAP has found her, too.”

The organisation is now launching a campaign to finance the excavation process.

“The next phase of the archaeological investigation will require a more intense study of each vessel’s structure and its related artifacts. However, before that next phase may begin, there must be a proper facility in place to conserve, manage, display, and store the waterlogged material removed from the archaeological sites. Therefore RIMAP has begun the capital campaign to create the facility to satisfy those technical requirements and allow the intense archaeological fieldwork to begin.”

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