Overboard! US Archaeologists Dispute Australian Claims of Finding Captain Cook’s Endeavour

© James HunterDivers at the believed sunken site of Endeavor
Divers at the believed sunken site of Endeavor  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.02.2022
The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) has disputed the Australian National Maritime Museum’s (ANMM) claim that a shipwreck discovered off the coast of Rhode Island, United States, is Captain Cook’s famed 18th-century research ship, the Endeavour.
On Thursday, ANMM’s director and CEO, Kevin Sumption, announced the shipwreck of James Cook’s Endeavour had been positively identified. A 22-year program to study a wreck in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, reportedly led Sumption to the monumental conclusion.

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. Since 1999, we have been investigating several 18th century shipwrecks in a two square mile area where we believed that Endeavour sank, however, the last pieces of the puzzle had to be confirmed before I felt able to make this call. Based on archival and archaeological evidence, I’m convinced it’s the Endeavour.”

However, ANMM’s partner in the program, RIMAP, ruled the claim as premature.
In a press release, RIMAP countered, “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.”
RIMAP’s statement additionally claims that ANMM’s announcement is in “breach of contract,” and that, “[RIMAP] is now and always has been the lead organization for the study.”
RIMAP concluded their statement by saying, “RIMAP recognizes the connection between Australian citizens of British descent and the Endeavour, but RIMAP's conclusions will be driven by proper scientific process and not Australian emotions or politics.”
The contention seems to stem from the very reason that ANMM are certain that the vessel is Cook’s Endeavour.
Seven key points cited by ANMM are reported to be circumstantial evidence. The location and size of the shipwreck match historical records, the length of the hull “is almost exactly the same as that recorded for Endeavour,” its structural details closely match Endeavour’s, “specific diagnostic clues…are identical to those shown on 18th century plans,” and timber samples highly suggest the ship was built in Europe.
However, only 15% of the ship still remains and no definitive evidence has been found to conclude that it is truly the Endeavour.
The ANMM announcement came with the unveiling of an online interactive program called Deep Dive that chronicles the discovery or potential discovery of Endeavour.

Charting Endeavour’s Course Through History

Endeavour was originally launched in 1764 as a cargo ship before being bought by the Royal Navy in 1768 as a scientific vessel on an exploratory mission to the Pacific Ocean, helmed by Captain James Cook.
The three-year mission saw Endeavour arrive in Tahiti to chart the transit of Venus across the sun, reach New Zealand, and become the first European vessel to reach the eastern coast of Australia. The vessel had circumnavigated the world when it docked in Dover in 1771.
Following Endeavour’s successes in the Pacific, it hauled cargo and troops to the Falkland Islands. In 1775 it was sold and renamed Lord Sandwich.
During the American War of Independence, the former Endeavour was hired to transport British troops. It was deliberately sunk in 1778 in Newport Harbor to form a blockade against French ships assisting American fighters seeking to recapture the city.
The ship is one of the most famous in maritime history. The command module of Apollo 15 took a piece of wood from the ship to space. It wasn’t until 1999 when RIMAP and ANMM began their quest to identify the long lost boat.
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