AUSTRALIAN and US archaeologists now officially believe they may have found Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour, but it could take four months to ascertain whether this is correct.
That’s because they have to test wood taken from a wreck found at the bottom of a harbour on America’s east coast after an epic 25 year search
The massive archaeological study of transport ships deliberately sunk by the British in Newport Harbour, Rhode Island, in 1778 during the American War of Independence has led to a wreck that fits the dimensions of the Endeavour.
“I think we can say with a great deal of confidence, based on everyone we’ve heard today that this is the resting place of the Endeavour here in Newport Harbor,” said Australia’s Consul General in New York, Alistair Walton today.
It comes after searchers worked through a process of elimination from 13 ships known to lie at the bottom of the harbour off Goat Island, Newport, down to a final potential two wrecks. And they already know the Endeavour was the largest of the scuttled ships, and 3D imaging had revealed one that fit its specifications.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead, but it is an exciting day,” Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption told AAP.
The results of the study were announced at a press conference on Friday held by Dr Kathy Abbass, founder of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project.
The Endeavour, through its lifetime, was used for different purposes. After Captain Cook took it on his historic voyage to Australia and the South Pacific from 1768 to 1771 it was refitted into a transportation vessel.
It was used renamed the Lord Sandwich and in 1775 was used to take German mercenaries to Newport and New York before its final refit into a prison ship. Divers on Thursday carefully took four samples from the potential Endeavour.
Three will be delivered to separate laboratories around the world, with one location possibly Australia, to confirm if it is timber grown in the north of England in the early part of the 18th century.
That would match the timber used for the Endeavour.
The other sample would be stored and archived.
Other key indicators it is the Endeavour will be if the shipwreck is a 360 tonne vessel and if it was a prison ship.
“What will ultimately determine which of the ships is Endeavour is if we are lucky enough to do an excavation that finds evidence that it was used as a prison hulk,” Mr Sumption said.
“That will be the definitive evidence really.”
The incredible findings come as rumours swirl over what actually happened to Captain Cook, including a story that Hawaiian cannibals ate him.
Hawaiian tribesmen removed Cook’s body from the beach, disembowelled it and baked it — which were the traditional mortuary rites performed by the indigenous Polynesians on Hawaii Island for those of high status.