The wreck of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour, the first European ship to reach the east coast of Australia at what is now called Botany Bay, may have been found off Newport, Rhode Island, according to CNN. While they have not yet “definitively” confirmed the finding, the vessel was discovered by archaeologists from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), which will release more details and a 3D mockup of a prospective site on September 21.
The Endeavour was used by Cook to land on Australia’s east coast, map New Zealand and circumnavigate the globe during his 1768-1771 voyages. The finding comes in time for the 250th anniversary of Cook’s voyage from the U.K. to Australia aboard the vessel, the first recorded European contact with that continent. The vessel, which was made of oak and pine in the north of England, was later renamed the Lord Sandwich and used as a troop transport during the Revolutionary War. When France sided with the revolutionaries, the Admiralty ordered it sunk in shallow waters along with 12 other transport ships to act as a blockade.
Records of the transport ships were discovered in the 1990s. The archaeology team narrowed 13 prospective wreck sites down from 13 to two. The most promising site is located off the Goat Island shore, near Gurneys Resort. Divers are currently working to confirm the ship is the Endeavour. Scientists are not sure what condition the wreck will be in once it is extracted.
If the discovery is confirmed and the ship can be moved, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and the U.K. will all want diplomatic bragging rights to keep and display the remains of the ship. The Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission is now the custodian of the shipwrecks. The U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavour is named after the ship.
Captain James Cook FRS, who was born in 1728, joined the Royal Navy in 1755 and served during the Seven Years’ War. He first came to the Admiralty and Royal Society’s attention by mapping the passage to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec.
The discovery of the Endeavour comes as Australia is preparing for the 250th anniversary of its landing. A statue of Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park was vandalized last year with graffiti reading “no pride in genocide” and “change the date,” referring to Australia Day, which celebrates the day the Union Flag went up at Sydney Cove to establish a British penal colony. The Aboriginal community and Torres Strait Islanders call January 26, 1788, Invasion Day. Indigenous people suffered from the foreign diseases they had no immunity to, as well as the white settler’s attempts at ethnic cleansing.
Cook was attacked and killed at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1779, during his third voyage in the Pacific, while attempting to kidnap Hawaiian chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu to reclaim a stolen cutter from one of his ships.