Archaeologists Clash Over Final Location of Captain Cook’s Ship

Two museums are currently at odds

Captain Cook Monument
We know where Captain Cook traveled. Where his ship is now is another matter.
Robert Linsdell, CC BY 2.0

British captain James Cook is best known today for his travels in the Pacific Ocean, where he was the first European to reach the Hawaiian Islands. His travels also took him to what is now New Zealand and Australia, and his work in mapping the coastline of Newfoundland helped heighten our knowledge of North America. Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, is at the center of a dispute among historians — namely, where the remains of that vessel can be found.

244 years ago, a ship sank near Newport, Rhode Island. Exactly what ship that was, however, is a matter of some debate. A new article at The Art Newspaper maps out the conflict between two institutions over whether or not that shipwreck is of the Endeavour.

The short version: in January, the Australian National Maritime Museum announced that the shipwreck was the Endeavour. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, which had been working with the Australian National Maritime Museum, contended that it was still too early to conclusively identify the shipwreck.

These two institutions spent 22 years partnering to investigate a number of shipwrecks in Newport Harbor; according to the article, their relationship ended in November, 2021.

If the shipwreck does prove to be that of the Endeavour, its fate remains unclear. As the article points out, its connections to British colonialism don’t make it terribly popular in Australia, while its use in holding American prisoners during the Revolutionary War suggests that it might not impress many in the United States, either. Sometimes, when delving into history, a discovery is only the beginning of a story.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.