Mystery solved? Finding the lost Endeavour

Caption: Captain Cook, pictured with a modern replica of the Endeavour.

In a little over a year, Australia and New Zealand will celebrate one of the most momentous occasions in their shared history: the arrival of Captain Cook in HMB Endeavour.

Despite fashionable modern hand-wringing and statue-toppling, James Cook was one of the great figures of history: navigator beyond compare, explorer, scientist, best-selling author, humanitarian. Cook embodied the spirit of the Enlightenment.

Now, the long-lost ship synonymous with Cook?s epic voyages may have finally been found. Quote:

Marine archaeologists believe they have finally identified the resting place of HMB Endeavour, the ship James Cook commanded to Australia on his first voyage of discovery, an achievement that would solve one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time.

The breakthrough has raised hopes the remains of the vessel will be excavated next year, in time for the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival in Australia. The ship is historically significant to many countries – including the US, Britain, New Zealand and Australia. End of quote.

This is a huge potential discovery. Quote:

The breakthrough, to be officially announced on Friday, follows an arduous 25-year search for the historic ship off Newport, Rhode Island, on the north-eastern coast of the US.

Archaeologists from the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project will release a detailed 3D image of the site in Newport Harbour where they believe the ship is located.

Peter Dexter, the chairman of the Australian National Maritime Museum, is travelling to the United States to attend the event, as will Australia’s consul-general in New York, Alastair Walton.

Over 25 years, marine archaeologists have narrowed down the search for the Endeavour from a fleet of 13 vessels to five, and have now pinpointed one extremely promising site.

The site is located just off Goat Island, a small island in the Narragansett Bay.

Kathy Abbass, director of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, told Fairfax Media: “We can say we think we know which one it is.

“It is exciting, we are closing in. End of quote.

What is often forgotten is that Cook?s voyages were primarily scientific: the object of his first was to observe the Transit of Venus, an immensely important scientific event that spawned one of the world?s first transnational science ventures. His second voyage was intended to test designs for naval chronometers, a vital maritime technology that probably changed the course of world history. Cook very narrowly missed being the first human being to ever set eyes on Antarctica by a bare 250 kilometres or so.

Cook?s mission of exploring and mapping new lands in the South Seas was a secondary, secret mission. That Cook?s secondary mission itself managed to change the world, both for good and ill for the people involved, highlights his greatness. Whatever consequences flowed from his discovery, Cook, as revealed in his journals, was a remarkable human being who endeavoured (no pun intended) to treat all people justly and humanely. Quote:

“This is a vessel that is significant to people around the world, including Australia.”

Dr Abbass said she was hopeful the ship could be excavated next year, in time for the April 2020 celebrations marking 250 years since Cook’s arrival at Botany Bay?It is unclear how much of the ship remains given Endeavour was primarily made of materials such as oak and pine and has been underwater for over 200 years.

The Endeavour was purchased by the British Navy in 1768 for a scientific mission to the Pacific Ocean and to locate the mysterious southern continent then known as Terra Australis.

Cook departed Plymouth in August 1768, travelling through the Pacific Islands before arriving in New Zealand in September 1769.

In April 1770, Endeavour became the first ship to reach the east coast of mainland Australia, when Cook arrived at the site now known as Botany Bay.

The ship was sold in 1775 and renamed Lord Sandwich 2. It was hired as a British troop transport during the American War of Independence and was scuttled in a blockade off Rhode Island in 1778. End of quote.