US researchers explore Cook’s HMS Endeavour

The sailing ship Endeavour arrives at in Whitby harbour.21 June 2002.
Nikon D1, 17-35mm, exposure was 250th f11.
The sailing ship Endeavour arrives at in Whitby harbour.21 June 2002. Nikon D1, 17-35mm, exposure was 250th f11.

Researchers in America are exploring the shipwreck that is Captain Cook’s Whitby-built Endeavour.

The vessel has lain underwater in Newport Harbour, Rhode Island, New England, since 1778.

Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project says it is 80 per cent certain that material found in its investigations belongs to the Endeavour, based on high-tech mapping of the seabed and historical shipping documents.

Captain Cook set sail from Plymouth at the helm of HMS Endeavour in 1768 on a mission for the Admiralty to record the transit of Venus across the sun – and to locate a Great Southern Continent.

He charted the east coast of Australia and all of New Zealand, meeting with Polynesians, Melanesians, Aborigines, Maoris, Eskimoes, Canadian Indians and Patagonians on his three-year voyage.

The vessel that was built in Whitby as the Earl of Pembroke, was sold four years later and renamed Lord Sandwich. It used to transport troops during the American Revolution before being sunk by British forces to blockade the waters of Newport.

The former 368-ton coal ship that was built at Thomas Fishburn’s yard near to where the replica ship visited Whitby in May 1997, was known to have been scuttled in the harbour.

But now the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project has announced its progress on mapping nine sites of the 13 ships scuttled in Newport Harbour.

It said: “One group of fiveships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Captain James Cook’s Endeavour Bark.

“We now know the general area where those five ships were scuttled, and in previous work had already mapped four of the sites there.

“A recent analysis of remote sensing data suggests that the fifth site may exist, too. That means the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now has an 80 to 100 per cent chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbour, and because the Lord Sandwich was Captain Cook’s Endeavour, that means we have found her.”

The next step for the archaelogical project is a more intense study of each vessel’s structure and its artefacts.

There also needs to be a proper facility in place to conserve and store waterlogged material from the sites so the project has launched a fund campaign.

There are plans for some of the artefacts to be displayed to the public.

The Gazette has been in contact with the project organisers about the possibility of raising the ship.