Captain Cook's Legendary Ship May Be Found

Researchers bicker over confirmation of wreck off Rhode Island
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2022 7:45 AM CST
Captain Cook's Legendary Ship May Be Found
This painting by Samuel Atkins, circa 1794, shows HMS Endeavour off the coast of what is now Australia.   (Wikimedia Commons/National Library of Australia)

The long-lost Endeavour, which Capt. James Cook used to sail the South Pacific while claiming New Zealand and Australia for Great Britain in 1770, has reportedly been found. Kevin Sumption, director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, announced Thursday that "the final resting place of one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia's maritime history" was discovered in Newport Harbor, off Rhode Island. An hour later, however, the principal research team in that state, which has been working with Australian researchers since 1999 to investigate five 18th-century wrecks in a two-square-mile area, said Sumption spoke too soon. In fact, the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project said the "premature" announcement was a breach of contract.

Though the wreck "is consistent with what might be expected" of the British Royal Navy ship, there is "no indisputable data" to prove that it is, said Dr. Kathy Abbass, head of the RIMAP, per the Guardian. "RIMAP's conclusions will be driven by proper scientific process and not Australian emotions or politics," she added. The ANMM responded that its contract with RIMAP expired in November. Sumption added he is "convinced" the wreck is the Endeavour, which was later used to transport British troops during the Revolutionary War. In August 1778, it was scuttled along with four other British transport ships north of Goat Island to create a blockade, per the Independent. Researchers have long been trying to determine which sunken ship is which.

Just 15% of the vessel believed to be the Endeavour remains, according to reports. But it's the largest with a hull almost the exact same length as recorded for the Endeavour, per ABC Australia. The museum noted "the construction of the keel along the bottom of the wreck, the joinery used in its bow at the front and the placement of the vessel's fore and main mast ... are identical to those shown on 18th century plans," per the Independent. "The last pieces of the puzzle had to be confirmed before I felt able to make this call," said Sumption. Abbass "is entitled to her own opinion regarding the vast amount of evidence that we have accumulated," the ANMM added, per the Guardian. RIMAP said its report on the find would be peer-reviewed, then published on its website. (More shipwreck stories.)

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