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Maritime Museum confirms Rhode Island as Endeavour wreck site

HM Bark Endeavour Replica in Floating Dry Dock. Photo: Able Seaman David McMahon

There can be no doubt that sailing ship Lord Sandwich, formerly HMB Endeavour, is wrecked at Newport Harbor in Rhode Island, according to the Australian National Maritime Museum.

There can be no doubt that sailing ship Lord Sandwich, formerly HMB Endeavour, is wrecked at Newport Harbor in Rhode Island, according to the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The museum announced shipwreck site RI 2394 in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, as that of Lord Sandwich – originally Whitby collier Earl of Pembroke, and later HMB Endeavour – in February last year, based on evidence discovered at the site.

His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour played a key role in the history of Australia when it acted as a British Royal Navy research vessel, commanded by Lieutenant James Cook, to travel to Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia on his first voyage of discovery from 1768 to 1771.


It was made famous for its circumnavigation of the globe under the command of James Cook between 1768 and 1771, and later renamed Lord Sandwich in February 1774.

Militarily, the ship was used to ferry troops and cargo transport to and from the Falkland Islands, and as a British troop transport before being scuttled by British forces in the blockade of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, during the American War of Independence in 1778.

The museum confirmed the site in a preliminary report published in February 2022 and presented findings by archaeological team Kieran Hosty and Dr James Hunter to the International Congress for Underwater Archaeology, International Symposium of Conservation for Underwater Archaeology, Australian Advanced Diving Conference, and University of West Florida’s maritime archaeology program.

The team have also gathered definitive new evidence including the discovery of the shipwreck’s pump well and keel-stem scarph joint in the shipwreck’s bow section, according to Australian National Maritime Museum director and chief executive officer Daryl Karp.

“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,” Ms Karp said.

“The additional research done by our maritime archaeologists that led to the identification of the pump well, which in turn enabled clarity on the final physical position of the wreck and the keel-stem scarph joint, provides further evidence as to the identity of the wreck.

“I would like to commend our archaeological team, Kieran Hosty and Dr James Hunter, for their thorough and professional work in leading the museum to identify this important shipwreck site.

“The museum of course also acknowledges the work of the team from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission for their assistance and oversight over many years.”

When RI 2394’s site plan was superimposed over Endeavour’s 1768 lower hold plan and scaled to the same size, the positions of the surviving pump shaft stump and pump well partitions aligned perfectly with their counterparts on the archival document, according to Ms Karp.

A final archaeological report is under review and will be released in 2024, while the museum is expected to release a new publication on the history of the Endeavour from collier to replica.

In addition, the Australian National Maritime Museum is also inviting former Defence force members to join the volunteer cohort at the museum, in partnership with founding partner Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation.

Former Defence personnel are welcome to bring their knowledge and experience to the museum, according to Ms Karp.

“Our volunteers are integral to the success of the museum. They are the welcoming face to our visitors, our friendly experts,” she said.

“They assist us in keeping our vessels afloat and they provide invaluable knowledge and skills across the organisation.

“The defence force program will provide a great avenue for many ex-service personnel to continue to serve and participate whilst learning new skills.”

The museum offers volunteers experiences such as tour guide, fleet maintenance, sailing hand, project assistant roles.

Volunteers undertake formal training and have access to discounted museum membership, invitation to annual social events, access to volunteer’s website and quarterly magazine, preferential access and free museum entrance passes annually.

“Being a volunteer at the Australian National Maritime Museum has been a highlight of my transition out of the Navy into civilian life,” according to Navy veteran Chris Perrin.

“The camaraderie among the volunteers is just like being in a mess deck. It is a great mix of Navy, Army, Air Force, merchant navy, and civilian volunteers.

“There is a volunteering appointment suitable for all defence veterans, wherever they are on their journey. You can have some fun whilst giving back to the community.”

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