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Australian Researchers Claim to Solve Revolutionary War Mystery Nearly 250 Years After Famous Ship Disappeared

  The search for the HMB Endeavor, James Cook’s famous ship, appears to have come to a close — depending on who you ask. There’s a bit of dr...

 The search for the HMB Endeavor, James Cook’s famous ship, appears to have come to a close — depending on who you ask.

There’s a bit of drama that has taken place between the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, which began with an announcement by the ANMM on Feb. 2.

“HMB Endeavour has been found!” the post began. “Mr Kevin Sumption, Director and CEO of Australian National Maritime Museum, announced today that the shipwreck of James Cook’s famous vessel, His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour, has been found.”

“Spanning 22 years of fieldwork and research has led Mr Sumption to conclude that the Newport Harbor, Rhode Island USA site known as RI 2394 is the location of remains of the HMB Endeavour. It was scuttled by the British 243 years ago and lay forgotten for over two centuries.”

ANMM chief executive Kevin Sumption said that this ship was “one of the most important vessels in Australia’s maritime history.”

“Since 1998, we have been investigating the site 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,” he continued. “Based on archival and archaeological evidence, I’m convinced it’s the Endeavour.

“It’s an important historical moment, as this vessel’s role in exploration, astronomy and science applies not just to Australia, but also Aotearoa New Zealand, the UK and the US.”

But RIMAP is calling foul, accusing the ANMM of a poor scientific process — being led by emotion and politics, breaching contract by posting about the potential find before all necessary work has been done and essentially sharing a discovery that has not yet been proven and was not theirs to share.

“The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) report that the Endeavour has been identified is premature,” Dr. Kathy Abbass, executive director of RIMAP wrote, according to a post by RIMAP.

“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: 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.”

Despite that scathing reprimand, the ANMM has appeared to plunge forward with its take on the discovery.

While there are many similarities between what researchers know of the Endeavor and wreck RI 2394, it’s also true that many defining features of the famous ship would have been lost to time or stripped before it was scuttled, leaving it without clearly identifying markers.

Rob Mundle — who is an Australian author, has done extensive research on Cook and is an expert on things maritime — said he had to side with Abbass until any truly unique characteristics are found.

“I think that if both sides don’t come out as one, then we ain’t got anything to be too excited about at the moment,” Mundle told ABC Radio National.

“There are certain elements there that would suggest that it’s Endeavour, and there’s nothing really to say that it’s not Endeavour,” he explained.

“But until we find something that says, ‘Yes there is no doubt whatsoever that this is Endeavour,’ then I think there is a question mark hanging over it.”

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