Has Captain Cook’s famed sunken ship HMB Endeavour finally been found?

Captain James Cook’s ship, famous for having sailed the globe from 1768-1771, might have finally been identified, according to a press release published on November 23 by the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The ship, named HMB Endeavour and later renamed Lord Sandwich, had been sunken during the United States War of Independence in 1778. Its location was considered lost for many years, until the museum’s divers located it in September 2021 and announced in 2022 that it suspected it had identified the remains of the historic vessel. 

Following nearly 2 years of further investigation, the museum has continued its quest to have the historic wreck recognized.  The archaeological team, led by Kieran Hosty and Dr James Hunter, presented their findings to the International Congress for Underwater Archaeology (IKUWA), International Symposium of Conservation for Underwater Archaeology (ISCUA), and the Australian Advanced Diving Conference (OZTek).

The new findings

The museum cited two main findings supporting the identification of the ship. Firstly, the discovery of the ship’s pump well. Secondly, the discovery of a keel-stem scarph joint in the shipwreck’s bow section.

The keel-stem scarph also used a rare stem attachment known as a ‘half-lap’ which allowed for additional identification based on a scarcity of ships from this period utilizing this style.

Ms Daryl Karp AM, Director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum said, “We consider this evidence further supports the museum’s announcement in February 2022 that the wreck site known as RI 2394 is that of Lord Sandwich/HMB Endeavour.

“The additional research done by our maritime archaeologists that led to the identification of the pump well, which in turn enabled clarity on the final physical position of the wreck and the keel-stem scarph joint, provides further evidence as to the identity of the wreck.

“I would like to commend our archaeological team, Kieran Hosty and Dr James Hunter, for their thorough and professional work in leading the museum to identify this important shipwreck site. The museum of course also acknowledges the work of the team from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission for their assistance and oversight over many years.”

At the time of the initial announcement in 2022, Kevin Sumption, Director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum stated, “I am satisfied that this is the final resting place of one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history. Since 1999, we have been investigating several 18th-century shipwrecks in a two square-mile area where we believed that Endeavour sank, however, the last pieces of the puzzle had to be confirmed before I felt able to make this call. Based on archival and archaeological evidence, I’m convinced it’s the Endeavour.

“It’s an important historical moment, as this vessel’s role in exploration, astronomy, and science applies not just to Australia, but also Aotearoa New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Although only around 15% of the vessel remains, the focus is now on what can be done to protect and preserve it. The museum continues to work closely with maritime experts in Rhode Island and of course with the Australian, Rhode Island, and US Governments to secure the site.”

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