The possible discovery of HMS Endeavour off the east coast of the US has been hailed as a “hugely significant moment” in Australian history, but researchers have warned they are yet to “definitively” confirm whether the wreck has been located.
On Wednesday Fairfax Media reported archaeologists from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, or Rimap, had pinpointed the final resting place of the famous vessel in which Captain James Cook reached Australia in 1770.
The ship was later used by the Royal Navy in the American war of independence and was eventually scuttled with a dozen other vessels off Newport, Rhode Island in 1778.
Kathy Abbass, the director of the project, reportedly told Fairfax that “we can say we think we know which one it is”.
The director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Kevin Sumption, confirmed to the Guardian that a “promising site” had been located, though he said it had yet to be confirmed as the final resting place of the Endeavour.
He said divers in the US were currently working to confirm whether one of five shipwrecks is the Endeavour by gathering samples from the location.
“It’s not definitive that this is Endeavour,” he said. “We’re carefully gathering very specific samples of timber and we’re going to conduct forensic analysis to see what we have. Most of the ships that were scuttled in Newport in August 1778 were built of American or Indian timbers [but] the Endeavour was built in the north of England of predominantly oak.
“With some good detective work we can sample the timbers of this promising site [and] then we might have evidence that this ship is at least British in origin.”
I have walked Cape Tribulation where the Endeavour put in on the Queensland Coast in 1770 to repair damage. The Endeavour was perhaps the apogee of the logistical opening of the world, beginning in 1497 with Vasco da Gama's voyage from Europe to India, followed in 1519 by Magellan's first circumnavigation.
The Endeavour was among the first, and certainly perhaps the most accomplished scientific voyages of exploration. Artists and cartographers and scientists and astronomers and botanists - Britain made money available for scientific discovery.
Our global world is such a recent phenomenon, it would be fantastic to recover even some slim remnants of those first voyagers of scientific discovery. To be fair though, our archives and museums are full of their wonders.