Undersea explorers believe they have found HMS Endeavour, which famed explorer Capt. Cook sailed to Australia. According to the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project
(RIMAP), the renamed Endeavour was one of 13 ships scuttled during a blockade in Newport Harbor in 1778 during the Revolutionary War. Having been re-christened as ‘Lord Sandwich’, the vessel was used to transport British troops before being sent to the bottom in the days before Battle of Rhode Island.
RIMAP used a grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum to research documentation still extant in London that identified groups of ships in the fleet of thirteen vessels and where they rested on the bottom of the harbor. According to a statement, RIMAP declared “One group of 5 ships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Capt. James Cook's Endeavour Bark.”
RIMAP had already mapped four of the five sites. “A recent analysis of remote sensing data suggests that the 5th site may still exist, too,” the group explained. “That means the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now has an 80 to 100% chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbor.”
RIMAP will reveal more plans at a May 4 meeting.
Captain James Cook
RIMAP explained on its website, “The next phase of the archaeological investigation will require a more intense study of each vessel's structure and its related artifacts.” It added, “However, before that next phase may begin, there must be a proper facility in place to conserve, manage, display, and store the waterlogged material removed from the archaeological sites.”
For RIMAP to be closing in one of the most important shipwrecks in world history,” declared RIMAP, “for that ship to be found in Newport, and for it to have an international reputation, should be an intriguing birthday gift for all of Rhode Island.”
The HMS Endeavour was a bark, a three-mast sailing ship. Originally, she was launched in 1764 as the collier Earl of Pembroke. In 1768, the Royal Navy purchased her for a scientific mission to the Pacific Ocean and to explore the seas for the surmised Terra Australis Incognita or "unknown southern land." The ship was navy renamed and commissioned as His Majesty's Bark the Endeavour. With Captain James Cook in command, she departed Plymouth in August 1768, rounded Cape Horn, and reached Tahiti. Cook and the Endeavour then set sail for the mostly uncharted Pacific Ocean to the south, stopping at the islands of Huahine, Bora Bora, and Raiatea. Cook claimed them for Great Britain. In September 1769, the Endeavour anchored off New Zealand, which Cook also claimed for Great Britain. In April 1770, she was the first European vessel known to reach the eastern shore of Australia.
On a return trip to Hawaii, Cook was killed in a melee with Hawaiian natives in 1779.
The Endeavour nearly met disaster on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, where the bark went aground. She managed to become free, limping until she reached Jakarta. From thence, the ship sailed towards Africa where she rounded the Cape of Good Hope and made it to England in October 1771. Sold to private hands in 1775 and rechristened as Lord Sandwich, she met her fate on the bottom of Newport Harbor while American patriots battled British troops and loyalists.
Relics of the wreck, which were brought up by salvage crews, are found in several museums. The 50 cent coin of New Zealand bears the likeness of HMS Endeavour, while the Endeavour space shuttle also bears its name.