Wreck found off Rhode Island could be Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavour’

Boat used to claim Australia for the British was scuttled during the Revolutionary War

A replica of the HMB Endeavour leaves Honolulu on a four-year, round-the-world cruise. Researchers say they have found a site where they think the original ship Captain James Cook used sank and may be located, and are planning an excavation off the coast of Rhode Island. Photograph: AP Photo/Ronen Zilberman

A replica of the HMB Endeavour leaves Honolulu on a four-year, round-the-world cruise. Researchers say they have found a site where they think the original ship Captain James Cook used sank and may be located, and are planning an excavation off the coast of Rhode Island. Photograph: AP Photo/Ronen Zilberman

 

The head of Australia’s navy has described a wreck found off Rhode Island as “very exciting” as researchers seek to establish whether it is Captain James Cook’s ship, the Endeavour.

Experts have identified a site off the coast of US state Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, which is leading the search effort, and the Australian National Maritime Museum identified the site in the harbour near Newport, Rhode Island.

Archaeologists were meeting on Friday in Newport to talk about their recent fieldwork.

“Early indications are that the team has narrowed the possible site for the wreck of HMB Endeavour to one site, which is very promising,” said Kevin Sumption, director and chief executive of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project also described the site as promising but said it will still take a lot more work and money to identify it.

Nearly 250 years ago, Cook ran aground on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during a voyage to the South Pacific.

His ship was the Endeavour, an awkward little vessel that improbably helped him become the first European to chart Australia’s east coast.

He used the Endeavour to claim Australia for the British during his historic 1768-1771 voyage.

Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, chief of the Royal Australian Navy, said he went diving at the Rhode Island site with researchers.

He measured one of the cannons so the dimensions can be compared to historical records, and they took samples of the wood.

He is hopeful the wreck is the Endeavour.

“Certainly it’s a very exciting discovery in absolute terms,” he said on Friday.

“They’re very, very confident that the Endeavour is in the site.”

The Endeavour was also part of the fleet of 13 ships the British scuttled during the Revolutionary War in 1778 to blockade Newport Harbour from the French.

It was listed in the records under a different name, the Lord Sandwich.

The non-profit Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project located documents in London identifying the groups of ships in that fleet and where each was scuttled.

It has been studying the wrecks in Newport Harbour since 1993.

It announced this week that it had narrowed the search for the Endeavour to one, or possibly two, archaeological sites.