New Evidence That Wreck Off Rhode Island is Captain Cook’s Ship

British explorer James Cook famously sailed a ship that had spent two centuries lost to history — until 2022.

That’s when research into one wreck located off the coast of Rhode Island suggested that the rotted remains were Captain Cook’s ship itself.

News bulletins posted that HMB (Her Majesty’s Bark) Endeavour was finally located. The wreck, designated RI 2394, had seen over two decades of cooperative investigation between Australian and U.S. groups leading up to the announcement.

Some remained skeptical — but now that may change.

Archaeologists this month said that a pump well and one section of a bow found at the wreck site support the possibility that RI 2394 is in fact Cook’s ship.

“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,” said Daryl Karp, director of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Endeavour lived a charmed life, attracting acclaim during fledgling exploratory efforts under Cook in the Pacific Ocean — until she didn’t anymore.

Demoted to transport vessel

By 1778, she served as a transport vessel in the American Revolutionary War. But British maritime troops intentionally scuttled her in Rhode Island’s Newport Harbor, in an effort to keep French ships at bay.

For over 200 years, that was the last anybody saw of the Endeavour. The ship was too famous to disappear from the lexicon, though, and RI 2394’s position under just 14 meters of water, only 500m from shore, sparked interest.

Skeptics still spoke up at the time of the 2022 announcement.

“What we see on the shipwreck site under study is consistent with what might be expected of the Endeavour, but there has been no indisputable data found to prove the site is that iconic vessel,” Dr. Kathy Abbass of the Rhode Island-based archaeological contingent (RIMAP) told ABC. “And there are many unanswered questions that could overturn such an identification.”

Now, two Australian National Maritime Museum researchers say they’ve got even stronger proof.

Evidence builds

Kieran Hosty and James Hunter filed the original report that led to the Museum’s assertion. Now, they have compared RI 2394’s pump well to plans of the Endeavour created during a 1768 survey of the ship by the British Admiralty. The wreck lines up perfectly with the archived plans, the scientists told Artnet News.

That’s especially significant because shipbuilders at the time usually did not create plans with such precision, Hosty and Hunter said. According to an article published in the journal Archaeonautica, improvisation ruled the trade, along with imitation — usually of captured ships.

The ship’s keel also aligns with the archival documents, Hosty and Hunter told Artnet. One uncommonly used joint closely matches the planned measurements of the part, they said. And confirming this measurement allowed the team to measure other aspects of the wreck, which also held true against the archival plans.

If the sunken remains do in fact constitute Captain Cook’s famous ship, they’ll pass further scrutiny before proof. Abbass, who remains skeptical, has also promised a report on the wreck.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.