On 9 December, 2021, during the opening remarks at the Cook Symposium organised by the Australian Branch of the Captain Cook Society, Kevin Sumption, Director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, said
Since 1999 the museum has been working in Newport Harbor on a site we believe to be the wreck of Endeavour. And we’ve worked tirelessly particularly since 2015 on that site. In 2020 and this year 2021 we couldn’t send our divers but we commissioned a series of eminent maritime archaeologist divers in the US who have done some very exciting work for us. Stay tuned to the first week of February for some exciting news.
On 3 February, 2022, at a news conference in Sydney, Kevin announced, according to the museum’s official press release, that the shipwreck of Endeavour “had been positively identified”. He was quoted as saying “Since 1999, we have been investigating several 18 century shipwrecks in a two square mile area where we believed that Endeavour sank, however, 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”.
This announcement was widely reported in the press and media around the world.
From Rhode Island, where it was still the middle of the night, a statement appeared on the website of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP),1 dated 2 February.
The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) report that the Endeavour has been identified is premature. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) is now and always has been the lead organization for the study in Newport harbor. The ANMM announcement today is a breach of the contract between RIMAP and the ANMM 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. When the study is done, RIMAP will post the legitimate report on its website at: www.rimap.org. Meanwhile, RIMAP recognizes the connection between Australian citizens of British descent and the Endeavour, but RIMAP’s conclusions will be driven by proper scientific process and not Australian emotions or politics.
This response was reported by even more news outlets, who were delighted to see a disagreement between two important organisations.
The next day, the ANMM released the following statement by Kieran Hosty, one of the Australian Maritime Archaeologists involved.
We will never find anything on this site that screams Endeavour. We will never find a sign saying, “Cook was here”. We will never see a ship’s bell with Endeavour crossed out and Lord Sandwich inscribed on it. Archaeology is an interesting process… we call on the “preponderance of evidence” where we’ve got a whole series of things that tie into Endeavour. And so far, we’ve found lots of things that tick the boxes for it to be the Endeavour and nothing on the site which says it’s not.
The museum has put much of its work online, with photographs and renderings of the site.2
Cook’s Log has provided periodic updates about this research,3 and will do so for the next report.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 60, volume 45, number 2 (2022).
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