The HMS Endeavour – captained by renowned explorer and cartographer James Cook – may have just been discovered off the coast of Rhode Island.
Researchers at the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) are set to announce Wednesday, May 4th, that the HMS Endeavour is one of 13 ships submerged in and around the harbor off Newport, RI.
After a colorful history, including a trip to Australia under the command of Capt. James Cook, the ship was scuttled (intentionally sunk) by its British owners during the Revolutionary War to blockade Newport Harbor and keep French troops from coming to the aid of Continental troops.
RIMAP researchers recently located documents in London that identified the groups of ships and the locations in which they were scuttled.
"One group of 5 ships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Capt. James Cook's Endeavour," said the group in a press release. Four of the five ships had already been mapped.
"Remote sensing data suggests that the 5th site may still exist, too. That means the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now has an 80 to 100% chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbor, and because the Lord Sandwich was Capt. Cook's Endeavour, that means RIMAP has found her, too."
The Wednesday announcement would come on Rhode Island’s 240th birthday. Over the next year, RIMAP plans to confirm the presence of the fifth sunken ship and identify the names and exact locations of each of the five.
While he was captain of the HMS Endeavour, acclaimed explorer James Cook discovered Australia, where the ship almost sank after running aground on the sharp coral formations of the Great Barrier Reef.
During his second circumnavigation of the globe, Captain Cook even came close to sighting Antartica before the pack ice forced him to turn away.
Following Cook’s three-year voyage, during which he thoroughly navigated the South Pacific and the Dutch East Indies, the HMS Endeavour was sold by the British government. After changing hands several times, the ship relaunched as a troop transport named Lord Sandwich during the American Revolution – which brought the famous ship to Rhode Island in time for the blockade of Narragansett Bay.
Meanwhile, Captain Cook took command of the HMS Resolution and Discovery where he became the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he christened the Sandwich Islands after his benefactor. He would later die in Hawaii in 1779, killed by native Islanders after an attempt to discover the Northwest Passage north of Alaska.
"For RIMAP to be closing in one of the most important shipwrecks in world history, for that ship to be found in Newport, and for it to have an international reputation, should be an intriguing birthday gift for all of Rhode Island," said RIMAP.