Friday, May 19, 2006

 

Could be years before Endeavour is positively identified

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Radio New Zealand
May 18, 2006



A replica of Captain Cook's Endeavour.

Archaeologists say it could be years before they know for sure they have found the remains of the ship Captain James Cook used to map New Zealand.

Four new shipwrecks, sunk in 1778 by the British during the American Revolutionary War, have been discovered off the east coast of the United States.

The team says there is a 50% chance one of them was Captain Cook's Endeavour.

The head of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, Kathy Abbas, says they have to find several other ships that were sunk in 1778 before they confirm anything.

Historically, the finding is significant because it helps tell the story of the siege of Newport - marking France's first attempt to aid the American insurrection against the British.

The ship is among four from a British fleet used during the Revolutionary War found off Rhode Island.

Sunk in 1778
Project researchers say they believe the ships, and two others previously discovered, are part of a 13-vessel transport fleet.

The fleet was intentionally sunk by the British in Newport Harbor in 1778 to keep French ships from landing to aid the Americans' drive for independence.

Archaeologists say one of the 13 ships in the sunken fleet was the Lord Sandwich, which records show, was once the Endeavour.

Captain Cook used the Endeavour - a former collier - to sail the Pacific Ocean, map New Zealand and survey the eastern coast of Australia in 1768-1771.

Unclear which ship is which
Archaeologists say it is unclear which ship could be the Endeavour.

Seven of the ships in the British fleet have not been found; but the find raises the chances that one of the discovered ships is the Endeavour.

Using historical materials and sonar, the archaeologists discovered the ships in Narragansett Bay, about 1km off Newport.

University of Rhode Island associate professor of history, Rod Mather, says all that remains of the vessels is piles of rocks with artifacts around them, but he says its close to a 50:50 chance the ship is the Endeavour.

He told Morning Report they are currently assessing the sites and hope to get funding to excavate and preserve the vessels in the future.

Also found were at least one cannon; an anchor with a five-metre shank; and a cream-coloured fragment of an 18th century British ceramic teapot.


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