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Researchers say they’re closing in on Captain Cook’s ship

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 1999

    A replica of the HMB Endeavour leaves Honolulu, as it embarked on a four-year, around-the-world cruise, in 1999. The original vessel was commanded by Capt. James Cook in the 1700s when he became the first European to chart Australia’s East Coast. Researchers said they’ve found a site where they think the ship that Cook used sank and may be located, and are planning an excavation off the coast of Rhode Island.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. >> Researchers say they’ve identified a site off the coast of Rhode Island where they think the ship that 18th-century explorer Capt. James Cook used to sail around the world may be located.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, which is leading the search effort, and the Australian National Maritime Museum identified the site in the harbor near Newport, Rhode Island.

Archaeologists are meeting Friday in Newport to talk about their recent fieldwork.

“Early indications are that the team has narrowed the possible site for the wreck of HMB Endeavour to one site, which is very promising,” said Kevin Sumption, director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project also described the site as promising but said it’ll still take a lot more work and money to identify it.

Nearly 250 years ago, Cook ran aground on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during a voyage to the South Pacific. His ship was the Endeavour, an awkward little vessel that improbably helped him become the first European to chart Australia’s east coast. He used the Endeavour to claim Australia for the British during his historic 1768-1771 voyage.

Cook sailed on the Endeavour for the first of his three voyages around the world. He was killed in Hawaii on his final voyage in 1779.

The Endeavour — or by this point, the Lord Sandwich 2 — made its way to North America, where the British used it to carry troops and prisoners during the American Revolutionary War. In 1778, it was intentionally sunk with 12 other ships to block French ships coming to aid the Americans in their rebellion.

The nonprofit Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project located documents in London identifying the groups of ships in that fleet and where each was scuttled. It has been studying the wrecks in Newport Harbor since 1993. It announced this week that it had narrowed the search for Endeavour to one, or possibly two, archaeological sites.

They’re hoping to excavate the most likely site in time for the 250th anniversary celebrations of Cook claiming of Australia, which is in 2020.


The New York Times contributed to this report.


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