Maritime experts have clashed over the apparent discovery of a British ship that famously landed in eastern Australia in 1770. The Australian National Maritime Museum said a wreck in Newport Harbor, off Rhode Island in the United States, had been confirmed as Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour. Archaeologists in the U.S., though, called the announcement “premature.”
The Endeavour was deliberately sunk by British forces during the American Revolutionary War in 1778.
Australian experts believe what remains of the vessel has been found after years of painstaking research in Newport Harbor. This great historical puzzle, they have insisted, has been solved. They have pointed out that what is left of the hull and other key structural details are almost exactly those recorded for the Endeavour.
In the United States, though, the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project is not so sure. It said there was no “indisputable data” to prove that the Endeavour had been discovered. It described the Australian announcement as premature and a breach of contract.
Kevin Sumption, the chief executive of the Australian National Maritime Museum, is adamant the Endeavour has been located.
“This, of course, is the vessel that James Cook sailed to Tahiti in 1769 to observe the transit of Venus and, following that, he continued his scientific journey, charting large parts of the South Pacific and, of course, the east coast of Australia in 1770,” he said. “It is arguably one of the most important vessels in Australia’s maritime history.”
The famous vessel was originally launched in 1764 as the Earl of Pembroke. It was renamed Endeavour by Britain’s Royal Navy four years later.
The ship was later sold to a private owner and renamed the Lord Sandwich but was contracted by the British navy to transport soldiers in 1776 to fight against the American colonists who sought to break free from British control.
In August 1778, the British scuttled the Lord Sandwich and four other vessels at Newport Harbor to try to create a blockade to stop a fleet of French warships that had sailed in to support the American forces.
More than 240 years later, the ultimate resting place of the Endeavour remains in dispute.
Cook’s visit to Australia in 1770 would be followed by the start of British colonization in 1778.