Captain Cook’s lost ship, the HMS Endeavor, the vessel which first reached the continent of Australia, may have been found on the seafloor under the harbor of Newport, Rhode Island.
But the head archaeologist in the investigation is not so sure, saying only 15% of the ship found on the bottom of the enormous harbor is still intact and it is by no means certain that this wooden ship is indeed the vessel captained by the man who first mapped the coast of Australia.
The ship is now the center of a bit of controversy in that an Australian museum official appears to have jumped the gun, announcing that the Endeavor had indeed been found, while the American head of the archaeological project told the press that any such pronouncement was premature.
Captain Cook first European to reach Australia, Hawaii, Tahiti
Not only that, she charged, such a statement constituted a breach of contract in their joint research regarding the iconic vessel.
The marine archaeological site in question, measuring two square miles of the scenic harbor, has been the subject of systematic research for the past 22 years.
It is without question where the HMS Endeavor was sunk deliberately by the British, as was recorded at the time, during the American Revolution.
The ship is the very vessel that Captain Cook had commanded in his epic voyages in the South Pacific, including his charting of Australia.
It was the same vessel that was his base when he landed on the east coast of Australia in the year 1770; clearly, it is plays an enormous part in that nation’s history.
American archaeologist: “RIMAP will post the legitimate report”
Kevin Sumption, the chief executive of the Australian National Maritime Museum, may have jumped the gun, however, when he announced on Thursday that indeed the Endeavour had finally been found, even taking it upon himself to hold a news conference in Sydney to make such a pronouncement.
He had earlier alerted the media that he would be making “a major historic maritime announcement.”
Sumption declared to the press that the maritime archaeologists were convinced that they had indeed located the wreck of Captain Cook’s ship the Endeavour after studying the structural details and the remains of the vessel on the bottom of the harbor and comparing them to the original plans for the ship, which still exist.
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.”
However, there was instant blowback from Dr. D.K. Abbass, the executive director of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, whose group is the lead organization on the project.
“What we see on the shipwreck site under study is consistent with what might be expected of the Endeavour, but there has been no indisputable data found to prove the site is that iconic vessel, and there are many unanswered questions that could overturn such an identification,” Abbass stated.
She added tersely “When the study is done, RIMAP will post the legitimate report.”
There was an immediate response in Australia, when Kieran Hosty, the Australian museum’s manager of maritime archeology, stated in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he had believed that the Museum’s contract with RIMAP had ended last November. However, he added that he wasn’t certain about that.
Dr. Abbass says report will be driven by “proper scientific process”
He went on to say that some aspects of the shipwreck led him to believe that it was the Endeavour, including the size of the timbers used, that it had been constructed in Europe, and the fact that the researchers had found what they believe to be scuttling holes in the keel.
“So it ticks all those boxes,” Hosty told the interviewers, adding “so, we are very open to conversations with Dr. Abbass if she disagrees with our findings, their findings.”
Sumption had earlier said that the ship’s significant role in exploration, astronomy and science made it important not only to Australia, but also to New Zealand, Britain and the U.S.
“The last pieces of the puzzle had to be confirmed before I felt able to make this call,” Sumption said at the news conference. “Based on archival and archaeological evidence, I’m convinced it’s the Endeavour.”
He said that the museum was still working closely with the maritime experts in Rhode Island and with state and federal officials in both the U.S. and Australia.
Dr. Abbass cautioned, however, that even though she was cognizant of the deep connection between Australian citizens of British descent and the ship, the conclusions arrived at by her study would be driven “by proper scientific process, and not Australian emotions or politics.”
Dr. Abbass is a veteran marine archaeologist who directed the project investigating the remains of the US’ earliest oldest warship ship 23 years ago in Lake George, New York. One of the first times volunteers had been used, this was a seminal marine archaeological project in many ways.
She was then invited to begin the study of the harbor of Newport, Rhode Island.
The Endeavor plays enormous part in history of Australia
The Endeavour was launched in 1764 with the name “Earl of Pembroke.” However, four years later, when it was used for a major scientific voyage to the Pacific, it was renamed Endeavour by the British Navy.
From 1768 to 1771, the ship sailed the South Pacific, with the astronomers onboard recording the transit of the planet Venus when they reached in Tahiti in 1769. Cook then continued sailing the great waters of the Pacific, searching for what had been rumored to be the “Great Southern Land,” the continent of Australia.
He spotted Australia’s eastern coastline and claimed the land for Great Britain in 1770, going on to chart the coastline of New Zealand.
In 1771, Cook returned to England and was hailed as a great hero, having explored the coast of New Zealand and Australia and later circumnavigating the entire globe.
In 1772, he took up command of a major exploratory mission to the South Pacific. For the next three years he explored the Antarctic and charted the New Hebrides and New Caledonia.
Later sold to private owners, his ship the Endeavour was subsequently renamed the “Lord Sandwich.” History records that it was then deliberately sunk in 1778 by British forces in Newport, Rhode Island.
On January 18, 1778, Cook was the first European to travel to the Hawaiian Islands when he sailed past the island of Oahu. Two days later, he landed at Waimea on Kauai and officially named the island group the Sandwich Islands, in honor of John Montague, who was the earl of Sandwich and one his patrons, according to history.com.
Just one year later, in 1779, Cook was killed in Hawaii during another voyage to the Pacific aboard the Resolution. After fighting the native Hawaiians, he was killed — and subsequently cannibalized by them — as described in the book “The Bounty,” by Caroline Alexander.
Incredibly, William Bligh, of later Bounty fame, was a 17-year-old cartographer on Cook’s ship and it was he who recorded the disturbing event that occurred onshore as he watched the sailors and Cook trying to fend off the attacks by the Hawaiians.
His blow-by-blow account of the incident cast a shadow on the sailors who were supposed to have been protecting Cook. Bligh’s whistleblowing expose of the attack embarrassed the British Navy; some believe that Bligh’s subsequent trial was payback for his exposure of the men who had been tasked with providing support for the famed explorer.
In 1788, the so-called First Fleet of eleven ships, with hundreds of convicts aboard, arrived in Australia to establish a British penal colony, marking the first European colonization of that continent.