The final resting place of Captain James Cook’s HMB Endeavour has been found, Australian experts say – a claim their US colleagues say is “premature”.
On Thursday, the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) said a wreck in Newport Harbour, off Rhode Island in the US, had been confirmed as the ship.
But the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) immediately said “many unanswered questions” remained.
The British-built coal ship famously landed in eastern Australia in 1770.
Before that, HM Bark Endeavour had sailed for several years around the South Pacific, after setting out from Plymouth in England.
The vessel, then known as Lord Sandwich II, was sunk with 12 other ships off Rhode Island in August 1778 – but no-one was sure where.
The ANMM made its announcement in Sydney on Thursday morning.
‘Last pieces of the puzzle’
“I am satisfied that this is the final resting place of one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history,” ANMM Director and CEO Kevin Sumption said in a statement.
“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,” Mr Sumption added.
But shortly afterwards, the RIMAP, the lead team involved in the years-long research, posted a statement saying the ANMM report “that the Endeavour has been identified is premature”.
The RIMAP accused the ANMM of a breach of the contract between the two organisations “for the conduct of this research and how its results are to be shared with the public”.
“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, and there are many unanswered questions that could overturn such an identification,” said the statement by RIMAP’s Executive Director Kathy Abbass.
It added that “when the study is done, RIMAP will post the legitimate report on its website” and that its “conclusions will be driven by proper scientific process and not Australian emotions or politics”.
The Endeavour was the ship in which Captain Cook charted New Zealand and Australia between 1769 and 1771. The British explorer, who sailed under the command as lieutenant, arrived off the south-east coast of what is now Australia in 1770, eventually making landfall at Botany Bay.
He later claimed the region for the British crown, despite the presence of large Indigenous communities.
After sailing back to Britain, the Endeavour was renamed Lord Sandwich II and became a troop carrier.
During the American War of Independence it was scuttled by the British Navy to form a blockade of the Narragansett Bay.