Long-lost Captain Cook's Endeavour likely to remain U.S. property

Captain Cook who brought the British Empire to the Pacific sailing the Endeavour

Supplied Captain Cook who brought the British Empire to the Pacific sailing the Endeavour

Two hundred and fifty years after James Cook left England on a voyage of discovery that changed the world, marine archaeologists may have finally identified the final resting place of his ship, HMS Endeavour.

However, Jenny Phillips, of the Middlesbrough Museums Service in England, where the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum is based, insisted that Britain has a legitimate claim on the wreck because it was built and registered there.

The breakthrough is the culmination of a 25-year hunt for the historic ship off Newport, Rhode Island, on the north-eastern coast of the US.

The search for the Endeavour has been carried out as a joint project between RIMAP and the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM).

Chair of the ANMM, Peter Dexter, is travelling to the USA to attend the event along with Alastair Walton, Australia's consul-general.

"The American army was assembled on the mainland and the French sent a fleet to help", RIMAP executive director Kathy Abbass told CNN in 2014. "It is exciting, we are closing in".

Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and United Kingdom could also feasibly lay claim to the Endeavour on the grounds that it is historically significant to their country.

Several groups of scientists and archaeologists for over two centuries searched for the wreck of the famous English sailor James cook.

She said the identity of the ship will only be definitively proven after its excavation, which will require significant funding.

The Endeavour has entered popular lore thanks to Cook's voyages, which brought the British into contact with New Zealand and eastern Australia and foreshadowed the colonisation of the continent.

Cook was chosen as the commander and departed Plymouth in August the same year, travelling through the Pacific Islands before arriving in New Zealand in September 1769.

Cook's Endeavour was the first European vessel to reach the west coast of Australia, setting in motion events that culminated in the British colonization.

The ship was in bad condition but it was repaired and passed into the possession of the British Royal army with the new name of "Lord Sandwich".

The ship was scuttled in 1778 by the British Navy American War of Independence in 1778, but the remains have never been found.

The Australian Maritime Museum has participated intermittently in the Newport fieldwork since 1999 including the provision of grants to support RIMAP's studies.

On Sept. 18, RIMAP said it had "identified a possible site in Newport harbor that might be the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour", noting that "detailed work must begin to prove it".

Fundraising is ongoing for an artifact management facility needed to "process, store and display the artifacts", according to the statement.

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