In the News | Wreck (Perhaps) of Cook’s HMB Endeavour Found

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on February 6, 2022

The HM Bark Endeavour Replica, on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, November 2017). The ship, on of two replicas, was completed in 1994.

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From The New York Times:

Manan Luthra, “Captain Cook’s Ship Caught in Center of a Maritime Rift,” The New York Times (4 February 2022). After researchers in Australia reported finding the wreck of the Endeavour off Rhode Island, their U.S. partners issued a startling rebuke.

When the British explorer James Cook set out in 1768 in search of an “unknown southern land” called Terra Australis Incognita, he sailed on a navy research vessel called the HMB Endeavour. More than 90 people were on board the ship, described by some historians as homely but sturdy.

Two years later, it dropped anchor off the east coast of what is now Australia, precipitating two centuries of British control. It would go on to transport British troops during the American Revolutionary War, and meet its demise in 1778, part of a fleet of ships that historians believe sank off Rhode Island.

For more than two decades, a team of Australian and U.S. researchers have been scouring the waters in search of the wreckage.

Then, on Thursday morning, 254 years after Cook set sail, archaeologists at the Australian National Maritime Museum announced that they were “convinced” they had identified the final resting place of what the museum’s chief executive and director, Kevin Sumption, called “one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history.”

But soon after the news conference in Sydney, there was an unexpected response from the museum’s American research collaborator, the Rhode Island Marine Archaeological Project.

From Rhode Island, where it was still the middle of the night, a terse statement appeared on the project’s website. It called the identification of the wreckage “premature” and the Australian museum’s actions “a breach of contract between RIMAP and the ANMM for the conduct of this research and how its results are to be shared with the public.”

The dueling statements raised several questions. Did the Australians jump the gun, announcing the finding without the Rhode Island group’s approval? Why had they chosen to hold their news conference at a time seemingly inconvenient to their American research partners? What, exactly, did the breach of contract consist of? And most important: Had the wreckage of Cook’s famous ship finally been discovered, or not? . . .

The full article is available here»

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