James Cook’s HMS Endeavour Discovered, Solving Centuries-Old Mystery

Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

One of the greatest mysteries of maritime exploration is the fate of Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour. That mystery may have been solved on Wednesday as archaeologists believe they have found the ship off the East Coast of the United States, according to reports from Fox News.

The ship is known worldwide as the vessel that carried Captain Cook on his “voyage of discovery” that brought him to Australia in 1770. After this journey, Endeavour was converted into a naval ship and used during the American War of Independence, during which it was sunk in 1778 off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island, where it appears to have laid ever since. That is until archaeologists from Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project announced that they have found it.

The timing of the discovery couldn’t have been better, with plans already in motion for a potential excavation and refurbishment for the ship to mark the 250th anniversary of Cook landing in Australia. The United Kingdom could also stake a claim in having the ship housed in the country it was built.

The official announcement of the discovery will occur on Friday, marking the culmination of a 25-year search off the coast of Rhode Island. Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project and the Australian National Maritime Museum will be releasing 3D renderings from the wreck, according to reports from Fox News.

The exact location of the Endeavour appears to be very close to Goat Island, a small island located in the Narragansett Bay.

Director of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, Kathy Abbass spoke to the media about the discovery, saying, “We can say we think we know which one it is. It is exciting, we are closing in. This is a vessel that is significant to people around the world.”

Currently, divers are exploring five different shipwrecks in the vicinity in an effort to make the final confirmation of the ship’s identity. The Endeavour was made in northern England out of oak and pine and has laid underwater for more than two centuries.

Due to the length of time underwater, scientists can’t be sure what condition the Endeavour will be once it is excavated from the sea floor. The shipwrecks in the area have been maintained by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.

The Endeavour is one of the most well-known ships in history, carrying on its legacy with the U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was named for the first European ship to reach the east coast of Australia, in an area now known as Botany Bay.