Wreckage of Captain Cook's ship Endeavour may be in U.S. harbor

Wed May 4, 2016 12:19pm EDT
 
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By Scott Malone

PROVIDENCE (Reuters) - The wreckage of the Endeavour, the storied British ship that 18th-century explorer Captain James Cook sailed through the uncharted South Pacific, may lie a few hundred feet off Rhode Island's coast in Newport Harbor, researchers said Wednesday.

The 105-foot (32-meter) long, three-masted bark, later renamed the Lord Sandwich, had been hired out by the British Royal Navy as a troop transport when it was one of 13 ships deliberately sunk by the British in 1778 in an effort to blockade the harbor.

New research by the Rhode Island Marine Archeology Project indicates it was one of a group of five of the 13 vessels sunk in an effort to prevent French forces from coming to the aid of the rebellious American colonies, said Kathy Abbass, executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.

An inspection of the site by RIMAP, in water less than 50 feet (15 m) deep, found the remnants of four ships and an indentation where a fifth may be, Abbass said. They had been positioned to protect a battery of cannon.

"When we saw that here's five that were put in front of the north battery, well glory be, we found four of them and there's a hole where the fifth one should be," Abbass told reporters in Providence on Wednesday. "That's pretty significant."

Cook sailed the Endeavour with a crew of 94 on a 1768-1771 Pacific expedition that marked the first time Westerners laid eyes on New Zealand and Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The voyage was the first Western expedition through the South Pacific to end with most of the crew alive, said Edward Gray, a Florida State University history professor and author of a 2007 book about John Ledyard, a Connecticut-born man who served on Cook's final Pacific voyage.

"Every time Europeans did this, it was an absolute cataclysm," Gray said. "There was no record of anyone exploring the Pacific without massive loss of life."   Continued...

 
A small sailing boat sails past the replica of the famous 18th century ship The Endeavour as it sits anchored in Botany Bay, Australia April 17, 2005.  REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo