Arts & Entertainment

Shipwreck of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour Identified

Mr Kevin Sumption, Director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum, announced today that the shipwreck of James Cook’s famous vessel, His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour, has been positively identified. A 22-year program of fieldwork and research has led Sumption to conclude that the Newport Harbor, Rhode Island USA site known as RI 2394 is the location of remains of the HMB Endeavour.

Mr Sumption stated, “I am satisfied that this is the final resting place of one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history. Since 1999, we have been investigating several 18th century shipwrecks in a two square mile area where we believed that Endeavour sank, however, the last pieces of the puzzle had to be confirmed before I felt able to make this call. Based on archival and archaeological evidence, I’m convinced it’s the Endeavour.

“It’s an important historical moment, as this vessel’s role in exploration, astronomy and science applies not just to Australia, but also Aotearoa New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

 “Although only around 15% of the vessel remains, the focus is now on what can be done to protect and preserve it. The museum continues to work closely with maritime experts in Rhode Island and of course with the Australian, Rhode Island and US Governments to secure the site.”

Key points used in identifying the Endeavour

There are several key identifiers that set Endeavour apart from the four other ships sunk in Newport in August 1778.

  1. Historical evidence indicates that the Lord Sandwich (formerly Endeavour) was scuttled just to the north of Goat Island in Newport Harbor along with four other British transports.

  2. Lord Sandwich was the largest by far of the five scuttled transports in that area.

  3. Archaeological evidence indicates the site of RI 2394 is significantly larger than any of the other 18th century shipwreck sites.

  4. The length of the surviving hull is almost exactly the same as that recorded for Endeavour.

  5. The structural details and shape of the remains closely match historic plans of Endeavour.

  6. There are specific diagnostic clues such as 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 which are identical to those shown on 18th century plans of Endeavour.

  7. Timber samples strongly suggest a vessel built in Europe, not America.

The vessel is famous in Australia and New Zealand as James Cook’s Endeavour. Over 1768 to 1771, Endeavour voyaged to the South Pacific, primarily to record the transit of Venus in Tahiti in 1769. Following the completion of that astronomical mission, the bark sailed around the South Pacific searching for the Great Southern Land, charting the coast of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia (New Holland) in 1770.

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