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A replica of the HMS Endeavor in Cooktown, Australia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A replica of the Endeavor in Cooktown, Australia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons


The Inertia

Marine archaeologists believe they’ve found the remains of the HMS Endeavor, the ship that Captain James Cook helmed in the first of his three voyages of discovery in the Pacific and beyond. It was on the Endeavor that Cook charted parts of Australia and that Joseph Banks, the expedition’s official botanist, recorded the first known description of surfing in Tahiti.

“In the midst of these breakers,” wrote Banks in his journal on May 29th, 1769, “10 or 12 Indians were swimming who whenever a surf broke near them divd (sic) under it with infinite ease, rising up on the other side; but their chief amusement was carried on by the stern of an old canoe, with this before them they swam out as far as the outermost breach, then one or two would get into it and opposing the blunt end to the breaking wave were hurried in with incredible swiftness. Sometimes they were carried almost ashore but generally the wave broke over them before they were halfway, in which case the[y] divd (sic) and quickly rose on the other side with the canoe in their hands, which was towd (sic) out again and the same method repeated.”

According to the New York Times, a decade after the expedition, the Endeavor sank off the coast of Rhode Island – having been sold and renamed Lord Sandwich 2.

Apparently, researchers have theorized for some time that the Endeavor was one of many ships in a mass grave of wreckage off the Rhode Island coast. And on Friday, marine archaeologists are set to make an official announcement they’ve identified the Endeavor‘s remains. The news has raised hopes that the remains will be excavated next year in time for the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival to Australia, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

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“We can say we think we know which one it is,” Kathy Abbass, director of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, told Fairfax Media. “It is exciting, we are closing in. This is a vessel that is significant to people around the world, including Australia.”

Dr. Abass explained that the only way to definitively prove the remains are that of the Endeavor is to excavate them, a process that would require considerable funding.

It’s also hard to say how much of the ship remains since it’s largely comprised of wood and has been underwater for over 200 years.

The discovery could also spark a battle to determine where the remains will be housed. In 1999, the Rhode Island state government claimed official ownership of the fleet of ships in the underwater graveyard, including the Endeavor. If the remains are proven to be from Cook’s famous ship, Australian officials may seek to negotiate for the rights to some of them.

First things first, though. The research team must raise funds in order to excavate the vessel.

“Now that RIMAP [Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project] and the ANMM [Australian National Maritime Museum] have identified a possible site in Newport Harbor that might be the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour, the detailed work must begin to prove it,” said Abbass in a statement on the group’s website. “Therefore, fundraising is ongoing for the artifact management facility needed to process, store, and display the artifacts that will emerge from the planned 2019 excavation.”