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The Search for Captain Cook’s Endeavour May Be Over

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) may have located the wreckage of the famous sailing ship Endeavor. The Endeavor has a storied history, first sailing the Pacific Ocean under the helm of Captain James Cook, the famed British explorer who had claimed Australia as part of England. Second, after having been renamed the Lord Sandwich (carrying oil) it had been used to blockade the port of Newport during the Revolutionary War and later scuttled in 1778.

Famous Portrait of Captain James Cook

Famous Portrait of Captain James Cook

According to the Captain Cook Society, the Whitby-built ship had originally been named The Earl Of Pembroke. It was sold at the age of 3 ½ years, in 1768, to the British admiralty for an expedition sponsored by the Royal Society of London. James Cook was to command her on an expedition to observe the transit of Venus. She was renamed the Endeavour Bark. At the time, a bark was a square-rigged ship, though this one had a mizzen-mast that was fore-and-aft rigged. It was a bluff-bowed ship and Captain Cook liked the fact that it could float off if grounded in shallow water. She weighed 365 tons and had an overall length of 105-feet. Unlike most ships at the time, she had no ornamental figurehead on the prow or stern. There was plenty of room for provisions and storage. Little did she know her ultimate fate.

Rhode Island, the “Ocean State” is known for having lost more vessels per square mile than any other state. Its maritime past is being studied and promoted by the nonprofit RIMAP. The organization has mapped 9 archaeological sites of the 13 ships scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778 during the American Revolution.

Drawing of the famous Endeavour

Drawing of the famous Endeavour

Thanks to a recent grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum, RIMAP was able to locate historical documents in London that identify the groups of ships in the fleet and where each group was scuttled. Though RIMAP mapped the general area of Newport Harbor where four of the ships were scuttled, the one with the Lord Sandwich had been unknown. Now, there is a 80-100% chance that the Lord Sandwich is in Newport Harbor.

RIMAP writes,

The next phase of archaeological investigation will require a more intense study of each vessel’s structure and its related artifacts. 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. Therefore, RIMAP has begun a capital campaign to create the facility to satisfy those technical requirements and allow the intense archaeological fieldwork to begin.

RIMP hopes to build its facility at Butts Hill Fort, the center of the American line during the Battle of Rhode Island in Portsmouth in August of 1778.