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The Cook’s Endeavour Discovery

The Cook’s Endeavour Discovery

As one of the most famous ships in the history of the British Royal Navy, the HMS Endeavour holds a special place in naval history. The research vessel was used by Lt. James Cook as he headed to Australia and New Zealand. As part of the famous First Voyage of Discovery, the HMS Endeavour is regarded as one of the most important ships in the history of Australia.

It was, after all, the first European ship to reach the eastern coast of Australia. Cook arrived at Botany Bay, and sailed north while avoiding disaster after it hit the Great Barrier Reef. The ship eventually arrived at the Batavia port, and continued westward as it reached – and rounded – the Cape of Good Hope in 1771. However, after much of the voyage, the Endeavour became a relic in history and spent much of its later life being used for cargo transport to the Falklands, eventually being sold into private hands.

The last time the Endeavour was used for any wartime purpose was during the American War of Independence, when it was scuttled in a blockade near Rhode Island. Indeed, for years, it was believed the ship sank alongside other British transport ships in 1778, and sunk north of Goat Island. All that we had to remark the ship, though, were relics and mementos left behind.

However, a discovery in early February 2022 might change the story forever. Australian experts claim to have found the Endeavour. US experts, though, are not so sure.

Has the investigation found something worthwhile?

It depends on who you listen to. Australian experts believe they have found the ship in its final resting place. the Australian National Maritime Museum’s chief executive, Kevin Sumption, believes they have found the ship. After a two-decades long investigation, it looks like they have found something worth mentioning.

Indeed, during an interview, Sumption suggested that the wreck that was found was indeed the Endeavour sailed by James Cook himself. Regarded as among the most important ships in Australian history, the discovery was naturally celebrated by those with a passion for such things. The fact it was eventually sunk meant that for centuries we have known nothing of the Endeavour. Since the turn of the millennium, though, researchers have been investigating the Rhode Island area to see if they could find the final resting space of this amazing ship.

An area was found with several ships from the 18th Century found to be sunk here across a two-mile long space. The investigation focused on comparing the wrecks with plans and size measurements of the Endeavour itself. They also looked at the origins of any materials used to build the Endeavour. Based on the evidence found, though, the academics involved in the research feel more or less entirely confident that they have found the Endeavour.

Where was the Endeavour found to be resting?

The research team think they have found it just 500 metres from the cost, and around 14 miles below the surface of the water. Around 250 years of sediment has built up, though, so there are still some who feel apprehensive about the claim being made that this is 100% the Endeavour.

Indeed, those who are part of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project have said that it was a “premature” announcement. They even suggested that it was a “breach of contract” to make such a statement, suggesting that there were “many unanswered questions” according to Dr. Kathy Abbass, the executive director.

They also noted that any official announcement and discovery would be “driven by proper scientific process” and “not Australian emotions or politics” – at the moment, the information is still being peer-reviewed.

As ever, there will be back-and-forth debates regarding what happens next and who agrees with who. Many times, these cases can come down to one party wishing to be seen as the original to make the claim and to find such a landmark piece of history.

As it stands, then, it is not likely that consensus will be found anytime soon. As the research is reviewed by outside parties, the rather brewing war of words between those involved in the discovery will be fascinating to watch from afar.

How did the HMB Endeavour end up near Rhode Island?

As mentioned above, it is likely that the ship wound up in Rhode Island are being used during the American War of Independence. After many years of being used to transport goods like timber, it was eventually brought back into the ownership of the British government. The British needed vessels to bring troops and equipment across the Atlantic, and the Endeavour was picked to be used for this particular purpose.

The ship was packed up and brought along to take part in the war. However, as the war kicked off, in 1775 the ship was suggested by it’s owner, shipping magnate J. Mather, as being used – it was swiftly rejected. A second submission – using the odd name Lord Sandwich – was rejected, and repairs were carried out extensively to bring the ship up to standard. It was eventually suggested a third time, and was brought to service as the Lord Sandwich II – a transport ship had already taken this rather unique name.

The ship sailed from Portsmouth and joined around 100 other vessels as they made their way to America. The mission was simple – capture New York. The ship was anchored at Sandy Hook. While New York fell, Rhode Island would not – the Lord Sandwich II set out alongside other ships to try and capture Rhode Island. The island was taken, and the ship was turned into a prison ship to help carry the prisoners of war.

However, on August 4th, 1778, the Lord Sandwich II was sunk during a battle involving the Continental Army which intended to capture Newport. This explains how the vessel was later found near Rhode Island; it had served as a prison ship here until the surrender of John Burgoyne brought the French into the war.

Seacraft Gallery – March 2022

HMB Endeavour ship - James Cook

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