Marine archaeologists believe that they have finally located the remains of Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour. The ship was last seen 230 years ago, when it was likely scuttled during the American Revolution. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project located the remains off the coast of Newport, and the group plans to release more information later this week.
“RIMAP has mapped 9 archaeological sites of the 13 ships that were scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778, during the American Revolution,” the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project announced today. “A recent Australian National Maritime Museum grant allowed RIMAP to locate historic documents in London that identify the groups of ships in that fleet of 13, and where each group was scuttled. One group of 5 ships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Capt. James Cook’s Endeavour.”
The HMS Endeavour is one of the most famous vessels in naval history, but nobody was quite sure what happened to it until now.
In August 1768, the Endeavour departed England to chart the transit of Venus across the face of the sun expected to take place the following year. James Cook was granted a lieutenancy to allow him to command the mission, which held a secret component that would ultimately play a large part in both his legacy and secure the HMS Endeavour a place in naval history.
The Endeavour sailed around Cape Horn in January 1769 and proceeded to Tahiti, where the Venus transit was observed. The results were less than satisfactory, but it was then that Cook opened his sealed orders. The Endeavour was to leave Tahiti, sail south, and search for Terra Australis Incognita, the hypothesized southern continent.
Cook sailed the HMS Endeavour south from Tahiti, first encountering and fully mapping the islands now known as New Zealand. The Endeavour then sailed once again to the west and became the very first European vessel to sight the eastern coast of Australia.
The expedition explored the coast of the newly-discovered continent and made landfall in an area that Cook named Botany Bay, but it ran into trouble when the Endeavour slammed into the Great Barrier Reef.
Captain Cook was forced to take the Endeavour into a river mouth, where the crew spent nearly two months repairing the badly damaged hull. When repairs were complete, the Endeavour finally returned to England via the Cape of Good Hope, having completely circumnavigated the globe.
Despite having participated in one of the most famous voyages in naval history, the HMS Endeavour was relegated to transport duties after Cook’s mission was complete.
Until recently, the ultimate fate of the Endeavour was unknown. It wasn’t until 1999 when the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project started looking into a group of ships that were scuttled during the American Revolution, that a connection was noticed between the Endeavour and a ship called the HMS Lord Sandwich 2.
My favorite part: Endeavour renamed “The Lord Sandwich” when repurposed as a shipping vessel.
— Betsy Golden Kellem (@betsykellem) May 2, 2016
They renamed Endeavour as The Lord Sandwich?!? Why not just Boaty McBoatface and be done with it… https://t.co/JK8GKNqVoW
— Mark Ogden (@MarkIOgden) May 2, 2016
During the American Revolution, the owner of the Endeavour attempted to sell it into British naval service twice, first as the Endeavour and then renamed as the Lord Sandwich. It was refused both times but finally entered service as a troop transport as the Lord Sandwich 2 after serious repair work.
The Lord Sandwich 2 was ultimately scuttled to blockade Newport.
Now the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project has finally located the scuttled remains of the Lord Sandwich 2, which it believes are actually the remains of Cook’s famous HMS Endeavour.
“The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now has an 80 to 100% chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbor, and because the Lord Sandwich was Capt. Cook’s Endeavour, that means RIMAP has found her, too.”
The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project plans to release more information on Wednesday. The group has also announced plans to excavate materials from the scuttled remains they believe belong to the Endeavour, which would then be displayed to the public.
[Photo by AP Photo/Victoria Arocho]