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"New evidence" proves shipwreck off Rhode Island is Captain Cook's Endeavour, museum says

Almanac: Captain Cook
Almanac: Captain Cook 01:36

The Australian National Maritime Museum released new details to support their 2022 claim that a shipwreck in Rhode Island's Newport Harbor is that of the Endeavour, the iconic ship sailed by James Cook on his historic voyage around the world in the 1700s before being renamed the Lord Sandwich.

The initial claim, announced in Feb. 2022, said that evidence including structural details and the shape of the wreck led them to believe the shipwreck was that of the Lord Sandwich, which was deliberately sunk by British forces in 1778, during the Revolutionary War. At the time, there was some doubt about the identification, according to a news release from the Australian National Maritime Museum. 

The museum said in the news release that it "has received no further dissenting responses to its decision," and outlined ongoing research that has made its experts even more positive about the wreck's identification. That "new evidence" includes the discovery of the shipwreck's pump well and the discovery of a specific joint in the bow section of the wreck. 

A replica of Captain Cook's ship 'Endeavour' is seen at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney on September 19, 2018. SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Finding the pump well was a "significant turning point in the identification of the site," according to the news release, because it was a "recognizable structural feature" that allowed maritime archaeologists at the museum to positively identify the midships section of the wreck. The archaeologists were able to look at archival plans from when the ship was built and confirm that the pump well's location on those plans was "aligned perfectly" with where it was drawn on the plans.  

The joint, known as a "keel-stem scarph," was a "highly diagnostic feature" that was "critical to the identification of the wreck," the museum said. First, it confirmed that the ship was of the correct dimensions, and it also provided "critical details" about the design and construction of the ship. The keel-stem scarph found on the wreck also was an "exact match" to the one detailed on the ship's plans. Only one other wreck with a keel-stem scarph like this one has been found, the museum said, and that shipwreck is in Bermuda. 

The explorer and navigator Captain James Cook (1728-1779). CBS News

"We consider this evidence further supports the museum's announcement in February 2022 that the wreck site ... is that of Lord Sandwich/HMB Endeavour," said Daryl Karp, the director and CEO of the museum, in the news release. 

From 1768 to 1771, the Endeavour sailed the South Pacific. Cook then continued sailing the region searching for the "Great Southern Land." Local tribesmen killed Captain Cook in Hawaii on February 14, 1779. 

A final archaeological report on the wreck's identification will be released in 2024, the museum said. 

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