News that the wreck of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour has been discovered off the coast of America has already seen calls that it be raised, restored and returned to its ‘rightful place’ in a suitable setting in Sydney. Whether this will ever happen remains to be seen in what could easily become an international dispute as to who actually owns the sunken ship.
Both the Rhode Island State Government in the USA and the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in England are claiming legal rights with Australia and New Zealand each pushing their case in an argy bargy four way tussle. Given that the Endeavour was scuttled in 1778 during the American War Of Independence and has been lying on the seabed ever since, there may not be much left to drag to the surface.
If a bunch of rotting barnacle clad timbers and the odd metal artefact ever sees the sunlight it might be a case of divvying up the meagre spoils to satisfy the claims of four different countries. We could end up with a Phar Lap like situation where New Zealand has the skeleton of the famous racehorse, Melbourne has the stuffed hide and the National Museum in Canberra has the old boy’s 6.35 kilogram heart.
As for all that remains of the Endeavour junk pile ever being returned to Sydney and then being restored at a cost that would surely run into millions, there’s probably more chance of Phar Lap’s assorted body parts being put together in a common exhibit – although his skeleton did cross the ditch in 2010 for a brief reunion with his hide at the Melbourne Museum.
There have already been a number of replicas of Cook’s famous ship and in August of last year a British replica, originally built as a floating museum was sold at auction for what seemed a bargain basement price of £110,000. If that’s the market value then the Australian Government could probably buy a dozen or more replicas for the same cost of putting the underwater jigsaw together. The Government has in fact allocated some $50 million for a four year celebration of Cook’s voyage to Australia and theoretically we could end up with more Endeavours than Elvis impersonators at the Parkes Festival.
Maybe at least one of these replicas could be given to Australia’s first nation peoples to symbolically burn at Botany Bay on Invasion (aka Australia) Day. Wow, even the very suggestion is enough to send the culture wars into apoplexy. At the very least, once the four year celebration of Cook’s arrival has mercifully finished, all existing replicas could be rounded up and ceremoniously scuttled as a dive site in the Whitsundays.
In the meantime why not let the bloody Endeavour remain where it is and preserve its historical fate rather than creating something that is about one twentieth of the original. After all we are content to leave the Titanic where it rests, was the Lusitania ever raised to the surface and if the Lost City Of Atlantis was ever discovered, would we be refloating it and relocating it to Disney World in Florida?