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HMS Endeavour Replica

Have Experts Finally Located the Wreck of Cook’s Ship HMS Endeavour?

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Marine archaeologists are about to announce that they have solved one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time. They believe that they have finally discovered the wreck of HMS Endeavour, the ship that the legendary explorer James Cook captained on his first expedition to Australia. The location of the wreck has been a mystery for centuries, even though its general location was known. Marine archaeologists are expected to announce that they have found the 250-year-old ship, finally solving the enigma of the final resting place of the Endeavour.

Captain Cook and the Pacific

Captain James Cook was a British mariner, cartographer, and explorer. His skills as a map maker persuaded the Royal Navy to commission him to carry out the exploration of the Pacific. In three voyages around the world, he mapped much of the Pacific Ocean and explored Australia, New Zealand and countless islands. Cook was killed in a skirmish in Hawaii in 1797. His voyages are commonly seen as changing the history of the Pacific forever and his arrival on the shores of Australia is seen as very important in the history of that nation.

Captain James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776. (Public Domain)

Captain James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776. (Public Domain)

The Ship That Sailed South

The Endeavour was purchased by the British Navy in 1768 and Cook sailed it around the globe to Australia. The Endeavour, which according to the Cook Society is ‘Captain Cook’s most famous ship’, also reached the east coast of modern Australia and was the first to moor in Botany Bay. It was later renamed after the Earl of Sandwich and it was used as a transport ship during the American War of Independence. The Endeavour, along with 12 other vessels, was scuttled in 1778 to prevent them from falling into the hands of the French.  So renowned is the Endeavour that the US named one of the Space Shuttles after the 18 th-century vessel.

HMS Endeavour (Archives of New Zealand/ CC BY 2.0)

HMS Endeavour (Archives of New Zealand/ CC BY 2.0)

They Think They’ve Found it!

Archaeologists from the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) have been collaborating on a search for the wreck of the HMS Endeavour in recent months. They have focused their search on a location in Newport Harbor in the state of Rhode Island on the east coast of the USA.  Here they believe, with a high degree of certainty, that they have found the final resting place of HMS Endeavour.  This is based on documentary evidence found in archives in London by the head of the RIMAP. According to the RIMAP website, the location of the wreck has been narrowed to ‘possibly to one or two archaeological sites.’ There has also been some preliminary surveying of the site where Cook’s ship is believed to rest by dive teams.

Painting of the Earl of Pembroke, later HMS Endeavour, leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768 by Thomas Luny. (Public Domain)

Painting of the Earl of Pembroke, later HMS Endeavour, leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768 by Thomas Luny. (Public Domain)

No further details have been announced but according to the  that the team will ‘release full details of their findings and a 3D photogrammetric image of the site’ at the press conference in Newport on Friday 21 September. The team is confident that they have found the last resting place of the Endeavour. Fox News reported that Kathy Abbass, director of the RIMAP, claims that ‘we are closing on’ the wreck.

Replica of Cook’s Ship Endeavour. (CC0)

Replica of Cook’s Ship Endeavour. (CC0)

The team of marine archaeologists is taking a cautious approach because the 18 th century ship is one of a number of other wrecks in the area.  The Endeavour was scuttled along with twelve others but now according to the Guardian, the director of the project has stated:

“we can say we think we know which one it is”

Once wood has been taken from the wreck it will be subjected to extensive testing that could take up to one and a half years to conclusively prove that the wreck is indeed that of the HMS Endeavour.

There have been many claims with regard to the location of the wreck of the Endeavour, but the latest claims are backed up by records and some photo-imagining. So confident are the team that they have found Cook’s ship that they have begun to fundraise for the management and conservation of the items that will be retrieved from the vessel.

HMB ENDEAVOUR sailing replica from Hew Mills on Vimeo.

The Importance of the Discovery.

Whatever artifacts are recovered will remain in Rhode Island because of a judgment by the Attorney General of that state. There are hopes that some artifacts from the wreck will be sent to Australia as part of an exhibition to mark the 250 th anniversary of Cook’s historic exploration of Australia. If the correct wreck has been identified, it will end a great maritime mystery and mark the end of over 25 years of searching for the Endeavour by marine archaeologists and researchers.

Top image: HMS Endeavour Replica             Source: CC BY-SA 3.0

By Ed Whelan

Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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