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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Endeavour: Has the ship Captain Cook sailed to Australia been found?

Back in 1986, when I was doing some research at the Historical Society in Newport, Rhode Island, a curator gave me a matchbox holding a fragment from the keel of the Endeavour.  It came from the wreck, he said, which was lying just offshore.  The fragment is now held by the Museum of Wellington, but I remember it well -- and was not surprised at the news below, just that it had taken so long to come out.

3 May 2016

Researchers in the US believe they may be a step closer to locating
the ship in which British explorer Captain James Cook sailed to
Australia in 1768.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (Rimap) has known for some
time the ship was scuttled in Newport Harbour, off the US coast, in

But they now believe they have narrowed down the search to a cluster
of five shipwrecks on the seafloor.

The researchers plan to investigate the ships and their artefacts further.

They are also appealing for funds to build the right facilities for
handling and storing items retrieved from the sea.

"All of the 13 ships lost in Newport during the Revolution are
important to American history, but it will be a national celebration
in Australia when RIMAP identifies the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour,"
the researchers said in a statement.

Rimap is a non-profit organisation set up 1992 so that the "diving and
non-diving public" could study maritime history and marine archaeology
sites in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, according to its website.

Capt Cook set sail on Endeavour - a British-built coal ship - in 1768
on a scientific voyage to map the Pacific Ocean.

In 1770 he arrived off the south-east coast of what is now Australia,
eventually making landfall at Botany Bay.

He later claimed the region for the British crown, despite the
presence of large Indigenous communities.

After sailing back to Britain, the Endeavour was renamed Lord Sandwich
and became a troop carrier ship.

During the American War of Independence it was scuttled by the British
Navy in a blockade of the Narragansett Bay.

The wreckage has never been found, but the Rimap researchers have been
investigating 13 sunken ships, with the help of remote sensing
equipment and historical documents.
They said an analysis of data suggests there is "an 80 to 100% chance"
that the Lord Sandwich wreckage is still in Newport Harbor, "and
because the Lord Sandwich was Capt Cook's Endeavour, that means RIMAP
has found her, too".

They plan to outline their plans for confirming the find at a news
briefing on Wednesday.
The announcement coincides with the 240th anniversary of Rhode Island
declaring independence from the UK.

Rimap said closing in on identifying "one of the most important
shipwrecks in world history" would be "an intriguing birthday gift for
all of Rhode Island".

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